Emma Nicholls is a care manager in the older adults social services team at Ealing Council in west London
My mother inspired my interest in social care. She was a nurse caring for cancer patients at a hospital where we lived in Brighton. I’d visit her after school and watching her at work made up my mind to be a nurse or social worker.
My training – a diploma in social work at the University of Wales in Cardiff – helped me deal with all kinds of social care situations. My first placement was in south Wales, which has small, close-knit communities, although life could be lonely for my clients who had no support.
My job at Ealing involves assessing the care needs of people older than 65, undertaking client visits and working in partnership with other agencies.
There are many challenging cases. A positive aspect of working in Ealing is the ethnic diversity. Many communities give a lot of support to their older generation.
The job isn’t what I expected. During the training I’d imagined I’d be doing more individual work with clients. But there isn’t always the time to do that except with long-term cases. A lot of time is taken up with assessing new clients and the dreaded paperwork.
Our team is fantastic at Ealing. We have a real mix of backgrounds and ages and we all socialise together. In social work you have to disengage yourself from your work when you go home. If you didn’t you wouldn’t be effective next day.
The clients keep me motivated. A client’s smile when you have found them a place in a care home that’s right for them or seeing them use their bathroom easily because you arranged an adaptation is thanks enough for me.
Sometimes it can be disheartening. The only time I cried was when I heard a client’s son, her sole carer, had been diagnosed with terminal cancer.
My advice to anyone considering a social work career is to never make assumptions about people. They always surprise.