‘Even though you’re not here anymore, you still influence my passion for social work’

An independent reviewing officer celebrates the memory of her mentor, who died a few years ago but still inspires her in her role

Smiling colleagues conversing.
Photo by Daniel Laflor/peopleimages.com/ AdobeStock

In Community Care’s new series, My Brilliant Colleague, we’ve asked social workers to celebrate the excellent practice and achievements of their fellow practitioners.

In the series’ latest entry, Purna Patel, an independent reviewing officer (IRO) at Leicester City Council, talks about her late mentor, Janice Brien, who to this day continues to inspire her during difficult times.

Janice used to be my mentor and coach eight years ago, when I first got my dream job and became an independent reviewing officer.

She believed I could do the job even though I didn’t believe in myself at times.

Janice Brien

Janice Brien was often called the “Dancing Queen” by her team.

As a new social worker, I would often go to her meetings feeling a mixture of fear and excitement, knowing she would make the right decisions for children. Ultimately, she made you feel safe – she cared for, not just the children she worked with, but also people and social workers.

She taught me how to be the best version of myself as an IRO, how to make a difference, keep children safe and manage people and conflict well. I was lucky to be mentored by her.

She used to refer to me by the name of someone who managed her in her earlier years in social work, Margaret. Janice was “Big M” because, when she was new, she aspired to be just like Margaret, and I was “Little M”.

Sadly, after a short battle with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease – a group of lung conditions that make breathing difficult – Janice passed away.

Recently, I lost a bit of my sparkle and confidence and, despite their efforts, my manager and peers couldn’t reignite it in me.

But then, I thought, ‘what would Janice say to me right now?’. You’d tell me you believe in me. And to go for it. And to stop being a fluff.

Thank you, Janice, you are hugely missed.

Even though you’re not with us anymore, you still influence my confidence, my passion for social work and, hopefully now, my next step in management.

Check out our previous My Brilliant Colleague entry and find out how to nominate someone by reading our nominations form.

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