Profile: Gretchen Precey

Careers in social care

Gretchen Precey is director of Gretchen Precey Social Work Services and is an independent social worker, trainer and consultant.Gretchen Precey

How long in the job? I’ve been self-employed since 1999.

Career hightlight: Being told that my training is so inspiring  I should give up the day job and develop a career as a motivational speaker.

Career lowpoint: When I realised the writing is on the wall for creative and innovative statutory social work practice and the emphasis on people and practice is being replaced by targets, paperwork and performance indicators. I knew I would not be able to manage my team on that basis and made the difficult decision to leave my local authority.

I didn’t get where I am today by: Attempting to ingratiate myself to the Department for Education and Skills.

Most inspiring person I’ve met: I look up to different people for different things. Bob Holman, former social work academic and now community worker in Glasgow, for his integrity and dedication to the humanity of the social work profession. Olive Stevenson, professor emeritus in social work at Nottingham University, for her compassion, sharp mind and academic rigour and Eileen Munro at the London School of Economics, who seems just as disillusioned as I am by many aspects of public policy but conveys her dismay with humour, wit and intelligence.

Most painful lesson I have learned at work: Don’t agree to run a training course or undertake an assessment in a field of work that is out of your range or experience.

Me and my career: What I like best about being an independent social worker is the variety of my working week and the challenge of only being as good as my last piece of work. A week could include training on assessment skills in Northern Ireland; a video interview with a severely disabled child in London where there are concerns of sexual abuse; working with probation officers in Brighton on child protection awareness; and consult ing with the social work team on the Isle of Man over the introduction of the Children Act.

The biggest challenge is keeping up to date with what is going on in the world of social policy as well as practice skills, without the benefit of being in the official government loop. I definitely could not do the job without the internet.

The most difficult aspect is the isolation of working on my own without a team to support , challenge and nourish me. But, then, life is a trade off.

1999-now Independent social worker
1996-9 Manager, child protection unit, Brighton and Hove Council
1992-6 Senior practitioner, child protection unit, Brighton and Hove Council
1989-91 Senior practitioner, Norfolk Council
1986-9 Social worker, Norfolk Council
1977-9 Social worker, Bradford child guidance clinic
1975-7 Unqualified social worker, St James hospital, Leeds, child and adolescent psychiatry unit

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