‘It was intolerable’

Liz McAteer has been an independent social worker and trainer since
last August. In a social care career spanning more than 20 years,
she believes it is one of the best decisions she ever made.

For two decades McAteer was employed by a local authority and for
the last five years she specialised in child protection and court
work. While there was a lot she enjoyed about her job, she prefers
her freelance career. “A year before I left things were becoming
intolerable. I was working with children and families with complex
needs and I became less able to manage that.” McAteer often had to
work evenings and write reports at the weekend: “It got to the
point when it wasn’t fun any longer.”

When she finished her full-time job she had no other work lined up.
However, she had joined a social work recruitment agency, had
business cards printed, and circulated her details stating she was
available for work. The one thing McAteer was clear about was that
she did not want to do front-line social work again.

Soon after becoming independent she won her first contract with a
neighbouring local authority to develop its post-qualifying
training policy over six months. Since then she has worked for
Liverpool John Moores University as a personal tutor for social
work students on a sessional contract. She has also been working as
a trainer.

These days McAteer works about 25 hours a week, in comparison with
the 35 – although usually more – she was supposed to do for her
local authority. Her previous income was £25,000 but she now
earns more than that for fewer hours. She says she would never
return to full-time statutory work and recommends the move to those
who feel like her about front-line work. She is aware that she is
only as good as her last piece of completed work but is happy that
she has constantly worked since going independent.

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