“Men have a lot more to offer to this profession than they think they have,” says social worker Ciaran Traynor.
The former bouncer has just received a lifetime achievement award from the Northern Ireland Association of Social Workers (NIASW).
He says a lot of men are put off becoming social workers because it’s perceived as being only about caring, families and children.
“Social work is a much broader and more complex profession than that, you can get a lot of satisfaction in working with people and seeing change,” says Traynor, a learning and development programme manager at Extern, a charity working with child and adults affected by social exclusion.
“For a lot of young men I have worked with there is a dearth of positive male role models and having more male social workers and youth workers would change that,” he adds.
Traynor is critical of how social work is presented and wants to see the profession portray itself as a “more confident professional body”.
“To attract more men to the profession we need to present more diverse images of what social workers do, a lot of male social workers work in the criminal justice system for example,” he explains.
Traynor began his working life as a bouncer whilst trying to launch a career as a landscape gardener. But then a favour for a friend changed everything.
“I was asked to help out with a children’s summer play scheme. I enjoyed working with the children but was shocked by the social deprivation in the area and the challenges some of the families had to make ends meet. This made me stay on as a volunteer, then get a job as a childcare worker with the organisation and ultimately train as a social worker”.
“I have no idea what careers advice teenage boys are receiving at school but they are not choosing social work as a profession, it is still majority female and that needs to change,” he says.
The NIASW Lifetime Achievement Award was established in 2010 to recognise social workers who have worked to improve social work services or practice. To win, social workers have to demonstrate leadership or innovation over a period of 15 years or more.
NIASW chair Lesley McDowall says: “Ciaran has been a significant influence within the voluntary sector for many years and has worked tirelessly to promote the sector. With his enthusiasm and love for his work, he sets a great example for both his colleagues and services users.”
Pic credit: Mark Marlow