Skip to main content

A little goes a long way

Sometimes I think it was almost inevitable that I ended up in social work. I started off my career as a civil servant, working for the Department of Health and Social Security with short and long-term benefits. I then undertook nurse training at Fife College of Nursing (now Dundee University) where I qualified as a registered general nurse, working within Scotland and the Middle East. My time as a nurse made me very much aware of the impact of health on social welfare; my patients would often be admitted to hospital due to health conditions directly related to, or exacerbated by, poverty and poor living conditions, such as asthma and COPD. 

It was coming to realise the close interface between health and social wellbeing, as well as how vulnerable the people in receipt of state benefits are, that drove my passion to study social work. In 1994 I attended Stevenson College in Edinburgh to undertake my formal training. My specialism during this time was child protection; I gained extensive front line experience within this area, as well as in child and adult mental health services. I completed a postgraduate certificate in child protection studies and forensic interviewing at Dundee University, which continues to impact on my interventions with individuals, families and communities to this day. 

In 2003 I started working in Criminal Justice social work, based in Falkirk Criminal Justice Team. My areas of interest are working with female offenders and addictions. I completed the postgrad certificate in criminal justice at Stirling University and Motivational Interviewing in Addictions at Glasgow University. 

My social work practice throughout the years has been heavily influenced by the work of two theorists; Chris Trotter and David Howe. Trotter, in his book 'Working with Involuntary Clients', highlights the importance of promoting prosocial values and clarifying roles, as well as dealing with issues of authority and goal-setting in practice when working with reluctant clients. Ultimately, he emphasises the importance of treating clients with openness, honesty and respect. Similarly, David Howe writes about the vitalness of relationships and the part they play in our psychological development, social competence and personal wellbeing; building a relationship with clients, having a laugh and ensuring someone feels respected and listened to goes a long way. 

Criminal justice social workers are often perceived to tread a fine line between 'care' and 'control'. The clients I work with respond well to being given clear boundaries and expectations and having a constructive professional relationship, but also knowing I am there for them and always here to listen. Community supervision is about moving forward and making positive change, and that's what I try to do - support all my clients to move forward in their lives, to achieve their individual potential. 

I am fortunate to work in Falkirk Criminal Justice Team, which over the years has evolved and developed, and works collaboratively with other agencies, including Cyrenians and Forth Valley College. Our clients are supported to access education and learn employability skills. We also hold women's drop ins and peer mentoring services to help them develop social skills and give back to their communities, helping their self-esteem and confidence. 

A few months back, I used the Self Directed Support fund to access £50, which I used to buy a young client a second-hand bike. He lives in a rural area and there was no bus from his accommodation to his place of work in the local factory. Having a bike enabled him to access work, improved his physical and mental wellbeing, increased his income and allowed his to pay off his rent arrears and access social housing. It's so important in this climate to be creative with the resources that are available to you - a little goes a long way and can have an immeasurable change on someone's life. 

Four years ago, I was influenced by a social work colleague to join the SASW Committee. I came along to the annual meeting to scope it out, and from there I was nominated and voted in. Since joining committee, I have been an activist for change, and a lot of the work we have done has been very interesting to me as a practitioner. Named person, GDPR, asylum seekers, refugees, adoption enquiry, cross-party activist group on substance misuse as well as being involved in the policy, ethics and human rights group include a few of the areas I have been involved with and learnt more about. I decided to become Convener of the Scotland Commitee, and to represent Scotland at BASW Council, because I believe that it's important that front-line social workers have a voice in the development of practice, policies and legislation. Change impacts immensely upon our clients, and our ability to deliver services to them, and its so important that we influence this wherever we can. We, as social workers, have a duty to ensure that the services we deliver are tailored to the needs of our clients, and the communities within which they live. I look forward to a new challenge and influencing change where it's needed. 

If you have anything in terms of your practice, policy or guidance you want to share, or want us to advocate on your behalf, get in touch!