Why I Love My Job
Leo Bishop joined Essex Council as a social worker in 1975 and is still there today.
He is head of learning difficulty services at Essex, and lead commissioner for learning difficulties at the council and eleven local primary care trusts.
“I came into social work 30 years ago because I believed I could make a difference. Service users have consistently reminded me this is not a misconception.
I have served in many roles since: team leader, area manager, assistant and group director, chair of adult and child protection committees and head of service.
In all of them I have never ceased to be amazed at the way people let you into their lives and allow you to walk alongside them. In return, they look to you for honesty and transparency.
The job brings its own intrinsic rewards: a child you have supported in care sharing with you their joy in going to university or their pride in starting a family. It is likewise very emotional when you see people with learning difficulties getting a job or tenancy, or going to college. The smile is enough; you don’t need the words to know you have succeeded in making a difference.
Listening is a vital skill for social workers. Many people have a way forward, they just need support to discover that for themselves.
When I took my current job in 1996 there was no clarity about where the learning difficulties service was heading. So we undertook a year-long consultation with people who used our services, and those who supported them, to figure out the way forward. Our resulting strategy was called The Way Ahead.
More than 3,500 people took part. The fact that we enabled people to share their hopes and aspirations with us still gives me a buzz because I know they are at the centre of the service today.
I sometimes have sleepless nights thinking how I will balance the budget. It is becoming more difficult with changing demographics – more children with learning difficulties are surviving and thriving and adults are living longer, yet the budget does not automatically increase.
Conditions have improved greatly since I started out as a social worker, especially training opportunities.
Social work has on the whole been very rewarding. Inevitably, it has also had its painful moments. You can’t work with people and not experience those.
My advice to anyone coming into social work is simply this: keep your values and your integrity. If you do that, you will get as much pleasure out of the job as I do.”