Social Work student, Michelle Riddall, is now the BASW Student Ambassador. Here, she talks about her role and what she's been up to. 

Social work student Michelle Riddall isn’t one to hide away from a challenge. With a background in the NHS and HM Prison Service, she has always been drawn to helping others. As a mum of three, her naturally selfless and caring demeanour has drawn Michelle to a career in social work.

Not only is she loving the course itself, but Michelle is now the Student Ambassador for the British Association of Social Workers (BASW), (which is surprisingly pronounced as baz-waar).

A busy schedule for the BASW Student Ambassador

We virtually caught up with Michelle to find out about her new role. Michelle told us that BASW are a huge organisation with multiple roles. Not only do they strive for social change and promote innovation in practice, but they are real advocates for inclusivity and support for all social workers. Whether you’re a student, newly qualified, or you’ve been in the industry for decades, BASW encourage all professionals to join together to educate and drive real change both within and outside of the system.

Michelle plays a key part in advocating for other students and getting involved in key areas for improvement.

“I’ve been so busy since I first joined. I’ve only been doing this role for six months, so I’m fairly new to it. I’m already involved in a support mentoring group for students and newly qualified social workers. So, we all come together and support students through a range of issues that they might have such as anxieties, placement issues, and finances.

“A big area that we’re focusing on is ensuring that the industry as a whole is inclusive. There’s a huge focus, particularly, on the cost-of-living crisis for students and racism within the workplace. I’ve signed up to the anti-racism campaign, and we attend conferences and regular meetings to discuss how we can change the culture. Our aim is to educate people, which will really drive a positive shift in the sector.

Focusing on neurodiversity in social work

“Another big area is neurodiversity in social work. As much as there are lots of things in place around neurodiversity, there are a lot of students and social workers that meet a lot of barriers because there aren’t things put in place for them. There needs to be a shift in understanding that there isn’t one way to do something. Accessible adjustments need to be made.

“For example, one social worker couldn’t get any of her work done because she struggled with the background noise due to her ADHD. When she asked for somewhere else to work, she was initially told no. But with the help and support of others, she managed to get an area which was nice and quiet so she could get her work done.”

Just a small example of change amongst a huge sector, real needs are being met and change is slowly but surely happening. Other benefits of becoming a member of BASW is the wealth of information for best practice that’s shared.

“The membership includes everything. From financial support and help with the social work bursary to legal support if something goes wrong, BASW are always there for you.

“And it's only a fiver a month. I receive journals each month, which keeps me up to date with what’s happening in social care. I also have access to professional development. Guidance and legislation change so frequently, it’s important to stay informed.

“Not only do we stay informed with BASW, but we promote these legislations and policies as well. Whilst we can’t make the policies, we’re there to try and help change them so both professionals and service users are protected and included.

“This is the key thing in social work: you must stay up to date and be innovative in your practice. That sounds like a huge responsibility, but it’s so easy when you’re a member of BASW because of all the resources that you have access to.

“Another excellent thing that BASW do is give ex-service users a platform to talk about their personal experiences with social services. They speak about their various encounters with social workers, good or bad, which gives us the opportunity to reflect on what best practice should look like from the eyes of the service user. The fact that experts by experience can share their thoughts is amazing because this doesn’t usually happen.”

The future looks bright

When asked what her future plans were after her degree, Michelle didn’t hesitate to answer. “I think I would like to specialise in mothers and babies. I’d definitely like to work with children: maybe safeguarding, child protection. A big passion of mine is mental health, and I want to support mothers from pregnancy up until their baby’s one.

“I’m also going to continue being a part of BASW. I love supporting students and social workers and would like to continue getting involved in projects that promote positive change and transformation.

“I guess I’m a radical social worker. I want to be able to challenge the status quo and eradicate social injustice, a big challenge I know. But we need to keep challenging ourselves, or we’re not going to be effectively helping our service users. I want all of society to take advantage of opportunity, regardless of barriers like poverty or the colour of your skin for example.”

It’s no surprise that Michelle has now dedicated her time to completing a degree in social work and become Student Ambassador for BASW. Her passion and determination for change shines through when she talks about her drive to increase social mobility and help both her fellow students and service users through her role.

Social work isn’t easy. It takes dedication and real passion. Michelle certainly has all of the qualities to succeed in her role, and we wish her all the best in her future endeavours.

If you’re keen to find out more about joining BASW, find out everything you need to know about their membership.

Michelle is also available if you have any questions or need further information. She also offers one-to-one meetings. So, if you’re a social work student and you have any issues regarding placements, studying or anything else, feel free to email Michelle Riddall at