Jack is a social worker (child protection specialising in drug and alcohol abuse) who graduated with a Diploma in Social Work and a degree in applied social studies and is currently completing his MSc in Social Work.
Intending to be a counsellor, I began by volunteering as a teenager with people affected by drugs. I soon became aware that a social work qualification offered more opportunities and better pay. I went into social work to help people, but stayed in it because it challenges and stimulates me. Also, I benefit from job security, a solid pension and access to key-worker loans, and am currently completing a work-funded MSc.
While completing my degree I got a job as a drugs worker in child services and ended up staying for six years. The role involved shaping the team, dealing with a wide range of cases and gaining vast expertise. In the first year, I was doing child protection case conferences, removing babies at birth. Fortunately, you do not remove many children. I quickly learned helping people is not always doing what they want.
I then moved into a one-year role focusing on drugs work and court attendance. It was less challenging and I missed direct child protection work and being part of a busy team, so I have recently returned to children and family services. I have also become an independent consultant social worker as there are only a few social workers skilled in dealing with children and drugs and alcohol issues.
I enjoy my work. I decide on rehabilitation funding or on a child's security, do consultancy assessments, head policy reviews, design assessment tools, attend drug reference groups, act as the county substance misuse developmental worker, make home visits and give occasional supervision. I offer local authorities consultations and can assess families for the courts to be used in part in making judgements on cases.
I do think about other careers and ways to build on this one. For example, there was recently a role to be a consultant social worker for the West End musical Billy Elliott, which would be a good way to diversify and explore another field. There are law conversion courses which relate to the court attendance attached to social work. I feel I could develop my career into family law, mediation and family therapy. I hope to move into lecturing part time. Management does not interest me, in part because the stress is higher for not much more pay.
The earlier you identify you would like to be a social worker the better. Get as much experience as possible through paid or voluntary work. Being willing to move to different regions will also help your career. You can work in a variety of settings and with a wide range of end-user so consider them all carefully. You need to expect that vulnerable people will have problems. It can be scary if a client has made a threat, and you often feel limited as to the effect you can have. Do not consider this role if you are bothered by criticism, especially by the press. People are not necessarily going to like you, or you them. It is possible to dislike someone, but respect them as a person.
This website is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with CSS enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets if you are able to do so.