"I've worked with care experienced young people for over 20 years and they have taught me everything I know"
Katie Matthews shares what it felt like to be nominated by one of the young people she works with for Social Worker of the Year back in March, and reflects on 'falling' into the profession as a student...
It was a normal day in the office. I returned from annual leave and opened my laptop to the usual mass of emails that had accumulated in my absence. As I skimmed, my day instantly got brighter when I read, " Surprise - you've been nominated for Social Worker of the Year". I was completely overwhelmed. It was made even more special when I discovered it was one of my girls who had nominated me. I have had the privilege of knowing Simone for over 8 years - she is an amazing young person and has taken me along on her journey.
On the night, I received the Special Recognition from Users of Services Award. My daughter accompanied Simone and I to the awards ceremony in Edinburgh. Sometimes, she feels like I have 40 kids - and she has met most of them and continues to support me every single day. I'm still speechless and very humbled by the nomination. I meet a lot of professionals, children and young people every day and I know that there are many people out there doing what we do. I've worked with care experienced young people for over 20 years and they have taught me everything I know. I work in an organisation that promotes relationship based practice, and in a team that share my passion. I feel lucky - I know I have the best job in the world.
I felt the magic as a student and sort of fell into social work. I was studying applied social studies and had an option of completing the diploma in Social Work, along with the degree, and offered a short placment experience. I was catapulted into a very different world; residential childcare in the 90's. My first placement was in a residential school. I was scared, challenged, intimidated completely lacking in knowledge and only a few years older than the children and young people living there.. and I loved it! My passion for improving the world of care experienced young people and care leavers grew. The lack of options for children having to leave home aged 16 was alarming, and is the reason I applied to work in the Throughcare and Aftercare field. Over the years, I've seen a lot of positive changes in legislation and policy, as well as strong value bases and people striving to make a difference. I know that Simone is one of them, and that she will continue saving the world and being her brilliant self. Its fantastic that recognition is being given to a very specific group of young people and the challenges they face and I hope I have played a small part in that.