Social care staff on the joys of the profession
Clare Welsby is team manager for children with disabilities in community social services at Orkney Islands Council.
When asked to write this article, I paused. It was a very busy day shortly after I had returned to work after much needed annual leave and I knew we were heading for a period of change and uncertainty. But I agreed because I do love my job. What I try to do each day matters to me and the people I work with.
I began working with children with special needs in a direct care role in 1992. This was a change in career, having originally studied and worked in the arts. I was not sure what to expect initially and was apprehensive. But as I gained in confidence as part of a very supportive and motivated staff team, I found the work rewarding and the approach to supporting children and their families very satisfying.
I soon decided I wanted to pursue this as a career and began to study with the Open University alongside my work, first for the diploma in social work, then the OU’s managing care course.
In 1997 I was promoted to a management role and then in 2002 became team manager.
As a manager of resources for children with a wide range of needs in a small, rural and, some would say, isolated community, it sometimes feels like a juggling act. It’s managing the detail of complex day to day arrangements which enable us to offer a flexible and responsive service. We need to balance supervising the detail with wider organisational and strategic demands.
It is hard sometimes to leave at the end of the day and go home as there is always more you could do in a 24hour, seven days a week service.
The upside of this is that being based in the residential respite service I manage means that I can see the benefits to children of this attention to detail, of good teamwork and the positive ethos that creates. I can also be there to support staff when things are more difficult in what can be an inherently stressful role.
We have a purpose built and well-equipped building, but the main resource is the staff team. It is rewarding to receive positive feedback from children, families, staff and external inspections. This also provides the service and the team with a solid base from which to respond to criticism and challenges, as there are always things that can be done better and advice we can learn from.
Having developed my career through my own learning, I gain great satisfaction from being in a position to support staff doing the same, achieving qualifications and gaining confidence and skills. In turn this helps develop our service. This is why I do enjoy my job.