‘There’s no greater feeling than seeing people’s lives enhanced’

Jamie McEwan, winner of the 2016 award for NQSW of the year in adults' services, reflects on why he joined the social work profession

Photo: AjF/fotolia

By Jamie McEwan, Newly Qualified Adults’ Social Worker of the Year 2016

Why social work? It’s a question I haven’t revisited since my MA social work application.

During my early school life, I thought I had a basic idea of what most professionals did. In the playground, children aspired to be police officers, firefighters or nurses, to name but a few. While I also remember people playing doctors, I never came across anyone playing social workers. Nobody at that age knew who they were or what they did – and if the stereotypical public perception was to prevail, then all the children would either be taken away or put in a care home, which wouldn’t make for a very fun playground game at all.

It was when I studied psychology at undergraduate level that I really became interested in people. I was intrigued by human behaviour and the underlying reasons for people’s actions. I left university with the desire to work with people with mental health difficulties and/or learning disabilities. I was fortunate enough to be given the opportunity, despite the absence of any experience, to work as a carer for adults with complex learning disabilities at a small care agency in the Black Country. It was a job that I loved and cherished. I was supporting people to make changes to their lives and the positive outcomes were visible and rewarding. This experience was pivotal. From this role, I knew I wanted to work in the sector; to support the most vulnerable in society and to tackle discrimination, but on a broader scale.

Social Worker of the Year Awards 2017
The awards celebrate the achievements of individual social workers and social work teams practising in England, with 17 different categories across children’s and adults’ services. The entry deadline for this year’s event is 5pm on Friday 21 July. Visit the website for more information and to download an entry form.

My manager at the care agency asked if I had ever considered social work. I hadn’t up until that time, and it was a combination of uncertainty, curiosity and excitement that resulted in my application for an MA social work course. I had never been all that certain about what I wanted to do in my working life but at that time I was a young person trying to establish myself and I was willing to consider anything! My passion for social work, I feel, came much later than those I had met on my MA social work course. I was initially taken aback by the wealth of experience and knowledge of others and at times I was reluctant to engage in the discussions that took place. However, I had very positive social work placements as part of the course and this boosted my confidence and confirmed that this was what I wanted to do.

I think all social workers are attracted to the idea of helping others. I was fortunate to have what I would call a “good” upbringing, but it’s not something I take for granted. I was provided with opportunities to achieve my goals and I want to devote my time to those who need additional help to achieve theirs. There is no greater feeling than seeing the lives of those you have worked with enhanced, or getting kind feedback from service users.

The need to make a positive difference is what attracted me to social work. What keeps me in it now is seeing how beneficial social workers can be to the most vulnerable in society – and how far away we still are from addressing the power and wealth inequalities that exist.

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