Frontline champions: Anna Fischlmayr

Name: Anna Fischlmayr Job Title: Support Worker Place of Work: Sheffield Women's Aid Why did you choose to become...

Frontline champions: ‘My inadvertantly rude TV quotes broke the ice’

Name: Anna Fischlmayr

Job Title: Support Worker

Place of Work: Sheffield Women’s Aid

Why did you choose to become a social worker?

My desire to become a social worker was driven by a curiosity to discover the complexities of society. I love getting to know different people with their individual opinions, lifestyles, biographies, strengths, hopes and dreams. An additional reason to embrace social work was my struggle to decide between studying sociology, psychology, law, or public health. So I went for a course that included them all.

What has been your greatest achievement in social care?

As I am newly qualified, the majority of my experiences in social work have been at the University of Applied Sciences in Graz, in my birthplace Austria. The university offers language courses to students including French, Italian and Spanish, which are typically for diplomatic or travelling purposes. I requested the provision of the languages Bosnian-Serbian-Croatian and Turkish which are spoken by the two largest minority ethnic groups in Austria. The courses were set up and attended by many students.

Your greatest challenge?

I feel that every day is a challenge – usually in a positive way. In my current role as support worker, I have learned a great amount from women living in the refuge through listening attentively, being empathic, and providing encouragement and motivation.

At the same time, I adhere to boundaries in order to maintain a helpful outside perspective. I hope this ambivalence between receptiveness and self-protection will remain as my career progresses, as it enables me to understand and provide support.

Describe your most memorable service user or case

I fondly remember my time working with one service user, residing at a home for people with learning difficulties and challenging behaviour. This young, very intelligent, man with Asperger’s syndrome liked to communicate through quoting his favourite, sometimes funny, sometimes vulgar, lines from British TV shows. He then encouraged people to repeat his quotes.

With English not being my first language and British TV shows not being my favourite leisure activity, I obliviously repeated lines, including rather rude expressions which provided great amusement to both the service users and my colleagues. This experience definitely helped to build a positive rapport with the resident and to broaden my vocabulary!

What are your ambitions?

I am eager to learn more about the field I am currently working in with all its emotional, mental, physical, and legal aspects of domestic abuse. My current ambition is to gain familiarity with the system. Eventually I would like to use my organisational and managerial skills to move into a senior position. At the moment I am very happy where I am, exploring social work, its techniques, methods, controversies and developments.

If you could change one thing about your job what would it be?

I would like the funding for women’s refuges to increase in order to support women who have no recourse to public funds. This concerns women who have come to the UK on a Spouse Visa who are forced to leave their partner due to domestic abuse. Under the current system, they often have to wait up to a year to be eligible to claim benefits and public housing after their application for indefinite leave to remain.

Describe your best work night out

We had a team building day out in the peak district, which I was expecting to be a nice stroll around a picturesque village, followed by a joint lunch. This “stroll” evolved into a hike, which involved having to cross a stream in order to get to the top of a mountain. It turned out to be quite an adventure which definitely helped improve our flexibility, team spirit, optimism, as well as appetite for lunch.

What is the most useful or unusual tool at your disposal?

My colleague Julie introduced me to the magic of a “key work special”, a comforting hot chocolate topped up with cream and chocolate sprinkles, which she prepares for anyone in need of a good informal chat. It works!

How do you unwind after a stressful day?

Depending on my energy level and the weather I sometimes go for a run after work. As an alternative, I cook a nice meal, letting stress steam off and worries evaporate. Ideally, I have a friend join me for any of those activities, who I sometimes share the events of my working day with.

This article is published in the 24 June 2010 edition of Community Care magazine under the headline ‘My inadvertantly rude TV quotes broke the ice’

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