Social Worker

What do you do for a living?

I am a qualified social worker with about 20 years experience. I have worked within residential care, including secure and close support facilities. I have worked in a busy practice team, specialising in child welfare and protection, have been in the voluntary sector, worked
within Youth Justice and now work with families.

How did you get interested in what you do?

I became interested in social work after working as a volunteer in a psychiatric hospital when I was an undergraduate student studying Fine Art. I organised  art classes for some of the residents which culminated in us gaining sponsorship to exhibit their work in a gallery. I have to be honest that I am also very inquisitive about people. I think you have to be intersted in people to want to do this job. You have to make some really tough decisions and work under extreme pressure at times. I knew nothing at all about social work when I firsted started out, but it all just seemed to fit when I started working with young people and their families.

What was your journey to reach the role you are in today?

I had a great experience of school, studying O Levels and A Levels which led me to University to study a BA Hons in Fine Art. A fabulous experience - but one that didn't really open up many job opportunities. I toyed with the idea of becoming a teacher but chose instead to do a Masters Degree in Social Work. This was a 2 year post grad but can also be done as an undergraduate course too over 4 years. You have a variety of placements to help you decide what area you would like to specialise in. I have also followed this up with a further qualifiaction from Stirling University in child protection and welfare. I am now working for the Family Decision Making Team which looks at bringing in the wider family network to support their families where there are concerns about the child.

Talk us through a day in your life

I work fulltime - but with very flexible hours to suit the needs of the families I work with. My minimum week is about 36 hours although it is often more than this. Sometimes I will spend all day out of the office travelling up and down the country meeting with family members helping them to become involved with family they may  not have been in contact with for many years so they can contribute to the planning. It can be emotional and really tough, but can be incredibly rewarding too. Sometimes we have to do a bit of detective work to trace family members. I will meet with a variety of professionals involved with the young person - social workers. teachers, doctors, health visitors etc. I oraganise a Family Meeting and invite everyone to attend and support the family to come up with a plan that will meet the needs of the young person. We also have responsibilities for areas development and one of my key areas of interest is domestic violence.

Was this your planned career when you were 18?

Absolutely not! I had  visions of owning my own gallery - being a famous painter and living a very lavish and cultured life. However what I would say about Social Work is that  I am NEVER bored and from time to time meet families and young people I have worked with in the past and am  overwhelmed when they remember me and speak positively about the role I had in their life. That kind of feedback is priceless.

What did your parents want you to do?

My father was a police officer and my mother was a teacher. Both of them were very supportive of my choices and very focused on my education. Neither of them went to university and were extremely keen that I should have that opportunity - as I hope my children will.

What advice would you give to someone interested in your career?

Get some life experience first. Go travelling if you can. Do some volunteer work too. Be clear that Social Work is an extremely demanding job and a very emotional one at times. You have to be confident and a good communicator. You have to be interested in people, but have a desire to see strengths in people and want to make a difference in peoples' lives.

What other career directions could you go in?  

To be honest I dont really know. I am very happy in my current post. Sometimes things happen for a reason and opportunities present themselves - when they do grab them.

Anything you have not covered about your area of expertise?

Not that I can think of. There are loads of different opportunities in social work - adults, criminal justice, Substance misuse, disabilities, older people, hospitals, courts etc etc. Lots of potential to learn new skills.