‘Fantastic weather, friendly people and manageable workloads’: Social workers give the low down on living and working in the South West

We asked four social workers to tell us about living and working in the South West

Picture credit: Baz Richardson on Flickr

Picture credit: Baz Richardson on Flickr

Name: Gareth Benjamin
Job Title: Social worker, adult social care, Plymouth City Council

Gareth PlymWhy did you become a social worker? I wanted to do something that I cared about and I realised this would be working with people for me. After doing a bit of exploration I discovered social work would allow me to do that and also allow me to choose from a lot of different roles and settings during my career.

Why did you decide to work in Plymouth? I grew up in Bristol but moved to Plymouth for university and then stayed down here following that. I stayed in Plymouth because my final placement is where I am now. I really enjoyed my placement and so thought I would enjoy working here.

What do you enjoy most about your job? I like meeting people and finding out their stories. I like being able to be there when they are going through difficulties and being thanked afterwards – that’s a really great feeling.
I work in a generic team which means I’m working with anyone over the age of 18 and I really enjoy the variation.

What do you think would surprise people most about Plymouth? What surprised me the most about Plymouth is that people are really friendly and people would talk to me while waiting for a bus or strike up a conservation in a shop. I found that quite surprising. I once had a long weekend where I went to London and then back to Bristol and then back to Plymouth. As I moved downcountry people were getting friendlier at every stop.

Name: Carly Jenkins

Job Title: Senior social worker, South Gloucestershire Council

What do you do? I work in a locality children’s team. Most of the work is child protection but we also work with families in need of support under section 17 of the Children Act.

Why did you become a social worker?
Lots of reasons really, I learnt about what social workers do when I was a child and a social worker became involved with a cousin of mine who was eventually adopted. This had an impact on me and made me consider the job from quite an early age.
I had been working in a variety of related fields, such as being a support worker and youth worker, before I started social work training and I was always more interested in what the social workers were doing than what I was doing so decided to apply to do a MSc in social work.

Why did you decide to work in South Gloucestershire? When I was working as a locum for 2 years, I had worked for a different team in South Gloucestershire and liked the management support that I got. I decided I wanted a permanent job and applied for my current job whilst I was on maternity leave.

What do you like most about working in South Gloucestershire? I have had really good support from my managers. You feel that they want to support you to develop your career. For example, I have recently been trained on completing PAMS assessments (specialist parenting assessment), therefore I will be developing a specialist skill in this area which I feel will be really good for my career development.

What do you think would surprise social workers most about working in South Gloucestershire? There is a perception that being a social worker within child protection is extremely stressful, with extremely high case loads and having to work long hours. I have had this experience in other teams and I know that it can certainly be like this. However, my experience in this team has not been like that at all. We have manageable workloads and I rarely have to leave the office after 5pm, I have a good work life balance and don’t feel stressed very often at all!

Name: Harry Mullen

Job Title: Social Worker, Wiltshire Council

harrymullenwiltshireWhat do you do? I work for the community team for people with a learning disability. My team supports people with a learning disability whose situation has a degree of complexity such as unmanaged challenging behaviour, complex health needs, people under a mental health section, and people in the criminal justice system. Over a period of a few weeks I will typically conduct safeguarding investigations, complete mental capacity assessments, needs assessments and reviews.

Why did you decide to become a social worker? I first became involved in ‘care’ work in 1982 when, bored with my job, I volunteered at a holiday centre for disabled people. I went on to have a number of paid jobs working with people with a learning disability, which I enjoyed. So then I decided to train as a social worker to increase my career prospects. I qualified in 1990.

Why did you decide to work in Wiltshire? I have worked for Wiltshire Council since January this year. Prior to this I was working in a similar role in a different county but I felt the job did not challenge me and I needed a change. For personal reasons I looked for a post in the South West.

What do you like most about living in Wiltshire? It’s very rural.

What do you think would surprise social workers about Wiltshire? I think people would be most surprised by the progressive nature of the council and how attractive Wiltshire is.

If you could change one thing about social work, what would it be? More social workers, but having to choose just one thing is a bit mean.

Name: Stephanie

Job Title: Child protection social worker, Cornwall County Council

StephanieWhy did you become a social worker? When I was young I wasn’t entirely sure what I wanted to do so I met with a few social workers in the North West of England, which is where I was from, and asked them about their jobs. I was always interested in issues relating to child protection, poverty and deprivation so I met and shadowed some child protection social workers and decided it was something I was really, really interested in.

How did you end up in Cornwall? I worked in an independent domestic violence service in the North West and then I moved to Birmingham where I worked as a referral and assessment social worker. Then I moved to work in child protection in Cornwall.

Why did you want to do social work in Cornwall? The job opportunities. As well as being such a beautiful place to live, I’m helping to address the problems of poverty and deprivation and helping to deal with issues like this is why I wanted to be a social worker.

Why do you like living in Cornwall? The weather for one, which is fantastic. I absolutely love being so close to the sea no matter where you are in Cornwall. It’s also the most unbelievable place to bring up children.

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