Jacquie Bell is a social worker at Liberton hospital for older people in Edinburgh. Her job involves setting up care placements and care at home packages for older people. She is also a practice teacher.
I came to social work following a degree in social administration at the University of Wales, Bangor. I graduated the year Margaret Thatcher came to power (1979) and soon found that getting a job as a trainee social worker was as rare as gold dust. So I gained experience by helping establish Lothian Victim Support and as a Citizens Advice Bureau volunteer. It was difficult getting a first job but I finally started as a mental handicap resource worker in 1987.
I’ve now been at Liberton for two and a half years after 16 years as a community care social worker with my previous employer, Midlothian Council. I had long wanted to be a hospital social worker. We are a very small team but very supportive. I much appreciated the flowers when my new car was broken into the day after I bought it – a stark contrast to my previous employer. We mostly cover Edinburgh but also Midlothian, so we have to be aware of the policies and procedures of two authorities.
I enjoy working as part of the multi-disciplinary team on the ward to which I am attached. There is a good respect for each of the professions involved and how they may benefit the care of the individual. There is a good sense of humour. Our goal is usually to see somebody making a successful return home and it’s a joy to see somebody doing well. However, it’s particularly sad when somebody on the ward passes away.
We have had a lot of students come in over the years and that is good. Students bring enthusiasm. It’s great to have contact with universities for new ideas, theories and developments. It is also excellent to hear they have recommended Liberton to their colleagues as a good placement.
Funding can be frustrating. The ethos of community care and enabling people to be at home as long as possible seems a long way away when budgets are tight and the funding panel says no to paying for an agency when local authority home care is not available.
Years in social work have led me to become politically active. Through my work I see areas where improvements are needed and services are limited. I develop policy ideas for my party, the Liberal Democrats. These include discussion of carers, elder abuse, social work registration, employment of people with disabilities, delayed discharge, equal pay and detention of children of asylum seekers.
I have recently been invited to be a member of the Scottish Liberal Democrats working group on health. Should I be elected as a politician in the future I would seek to promote health and social work and to give social workers a positive press.
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