Social care staff on the joys of the profession
Carmel O’Hara is a review and support worker with the mental health team for older adults at Solihull Council.
My job involves supporting service users, working closely with social workers and undertaking reviews of care packages.
Coming from a housing and nursing background, social services was completely new territory and I was unsure of what to expect.
It was my interest in mental health, having trained as a psychiatric nurse, that first attracted me to the post. I worked for eight years in an adult psychiatric ward for North Birmingham health authority, then in housing for Dudley and Solihull Councils for several years. I have been on the mental health team for 14 months.
My initial expectations were that my role would consist of carrying out routine reviews of care packages. However I soon discovered that on this specialist team social workers carry out many of their own reviews as cases are often very complex. As a result my role is working with service users to gain their trust and to build up good relationships with a view to contributing to the holistic assessment. I also work with families and carers and feed back my observations to the responsible social worker.
As I have developed my skills and knowledge I now manage my own caseload with support and supervision from colleagues and my line manager.
I went from being a lone worker in housing to part of a small team, but still with the autonomy to manage my own caseload. The plus side of working in the team is that everyone is very supportive and we all work well together. When we are under stress and pressure, because of the complex nature of the work we do, we find a balance by sharing skills, knowledge and of course humour.
I would describe my job as challenging and rewarding, with lots of ongoing learning. I enjoy the challenges the job puts before me. I find my work quite intensive, very interesting and varied. But resources are restricted. Frustration is usually the result of limited resources, but a big challenge is looking at meeting needs creatively. The to-do list on my desk just rolls on.
I get the chance to do a lot of training and enjoy putting training into practice.
The job can be a rollercoaster of emotions, a bitter sweet experience of success and failures, of feeling de-skilled and yet reaching heights of confidence.
For someone new to this post I would advise consult, consult and consult again at every opportunity. Build your knowledge base and skills and ask for guidance. I have been offered the opportunity of further training for a social worker qualification, which has always been my ambition. I now feel that I am on the right path for my personal and professional development, having a clear idea of the social worker’s role through my current post.