Name: Amanda Beaufoy
Job title: Children and families social worker, Worcestershire County Council
What do you do? I work with children and families who have been identified as needing extra support including children in need, child protection, those who are looked after and those whose care plan is for adoption.
Why did you decide to become a social worker? I’m profoundly deaf and my own experiences of prejudice and discrimination have made me even more determined to advocate for those who cannot do so themselves. All too often, the voice of the child is drowned out by those of the parents. I know that I wouldn’t be who I am today without the people around me who supported me to thrive and achieve, and I want to be one of those people for every child I work with.
Why did you decide to work in the Midlands? There are so many cultural, social and economic groups within the population. No one family is ever the same – not even on paper! I really enjoy the challenge of working within such a diverse population.
What do you like the most about your job? I love meeting new people and finding out their life stories and then working with them to unpick the issues that are holding them back. A child once wrote me a thank you card which said that I had put her family back together and that makes all the stress and hard work worthwhile.
What do you like most about working in the Midlands? I like working in the area where I grew up because it helps me to relate to those children I work with. A lot of young people I work with think I’m very “cool” because I can talk about their hang-outs – they seem to think they were the first ever to discover these places!
What would surprise social workers about the Midlands? I think people would be surprised about how rural Worcestershire is. I often drive through lovely stretches of countryside to get to my various home and school visits. One minute you’re in the centre of town and the next you’re in the fields.
Has your job changed over the last year? If so how? It’s changed immensely. Worcestershire has gone through a huge service re-design and I now work in a small team linked to a specific area, which means I can develop stronger relationships with the schools, GP surgeries and health visitors in that area. I also work with a family right from the beginning of a referral through to the end of our involvement so families have just the one social worker throughout.
If you could change one thing about Social Work what would it be? It drives me mad how poorly social work is portrayed in popular TV dramas – yes EastEnders, I’m looking at you! – and how quick the media is to point the accusing finger at social workers whenever a case goes wrong. I also feel there needs to be a Department of Social Work rather than shoving it under the banner for education or health. Social work has its own legislation and deserves its own department and minister.
Name: Kate Beynon
Job title: Principal social worker and Approved Mental Health Professional, Northamptonshire County Council
What do you do? I work in a safeguarding adults team taking all the notifications and referrals of suspected harm against vulnerable adults. We make decisions on the level of risk and urgency, and I tend to work on the most serious and complex cases. I supervise the case, chair strategy meetings and case conferences, and prepare protection plans. Because this is a new and growing area I also prepare a lot of the policy documents on it for the council.
Why did you decide to become a social worker? I think it stemmed from a belief in fairness I had, even at school. I grew up in Corby, an industrial town here, and in those days there was very little aspiration for women. They were either secretaries or wives. It seemed wrong. This later expanded to the unfairness I saw around cultural issues, disability and vulnerability. By the time I moved to London to take a job as a computer programmer, I knew I wanted to be a social worker instead.
Why did you decide to work in the Midlands? I was born and grew up in Northamptonshire. After 10 years in London I missed it- the green spaces, the eclectic mix of people and cultures…and the affordable house prices!
What do you like most about your job? I love being a practitioner. I never went into management because it takes you away from working with people. I love being able to make a difference in people’s lives and the fact that every day is different. One day I could be in a police station determining if someone should be sectioned under the Mental Health Act, the next I could be giving evidence in the court of protection.
What do you like most about working in the Midlands? The location. It’s right in the middle and from the middle you can go anywhere. Also, despite the recession, industry is starting to come back here so it feels like a period of growth and investment in the Midlands.
What would surprise social workers about the Midlands? Northamptonshire is a beautiful shire. It’s called ‘the Rose of the Shires’ in fact.
Has your job changed over the last year (or is it about to change)? The move to adult safeguarding was a big change a few years ago and as a result my work is still changing and growing, as is my team. Unfortunately government cuts have also forced changes to our terms and conditions, which has impacted on morale.
If you could change one thing about social work what would it be? Social workers need to speak out more. There needs to be more value placed on our professional status and we should be named professionals for all statutory services, not just children’s services. If we can’t champion ourselves, how can we champion the rights of others?
Name: Lyndsey Hunt
Job title: Adoption social worker, Staffordshire County Council
What do you do? I train and assess prospective adoptive families and support them through the adoption process, including after a child has been placed with them.
Why did you decide to become a social worker? I always wanted to work with children. I thought about becoming a nursery nurse when I left school but I didn’t want to work with only young children. After a college course I woked in a residential children’s home and then I took my formal social work qualification in 1994.
Why did you decide to work in the Midlands? I was brought up in Staffordshire so have always lived and worked here.
What do you like most about your job? The families I get to know and the satisfaction of finding a suitable placement and seeing the families prosper after the child has been placed. I’m still in contact with families whose adoptive children are now teenagers, which is really nice.
Has your job changed over the last year? Yes. There’s obviously now a big drive to speed up the adoption process and provide a larger selection of placements. We are constantly juggling the now very prescriptive timescales the government has put in place against ensuring a high-quality assessment and preparation of adopters.
What do you like most about working in the Midlands? Staffordshire is very pretty and I’ve been working in the same team with the same people for a long time, which is nice. It provides continuity both for me and for the families as well.
What would surprise social workers about the Midlands? Its sheer size and cultural diversity. Staffordshire is a massive county but you don’t have to travel very far to come across a very different culture.
If you could change one thing about social work what would it be? Social work needs a better profile across both adults and children’s services. We’ll always get noticed for things we haven’t done but not enough notice is taken of the good things we’ve done, which is very frustrating.
Name: Chikeong Lok
Job title: Social worker (case manager), START Team-Community, Coventry City Council
What do you do? I work within the Promoting Independence function of the START Team, determining the eligibility of people over the age of 18 for services and examining if there are ways they could be managing more independently, for example, by working with occupational therapists.
Why did you decide to become a social worker? I studied sociology at university but was then at a bit of a loss as to what career I might do. I decided I would quite like to live in London for a while, so I took jobs with various voluntary organisations as a support worker/carer because accommodation was provided amidst the bright lights and delights of the capital. It led me to take up a career in social work as I enjoyed helping people live as independently as possible and do things that I myself took for granted.
Why did you decide to work in the Midlands? Although I was born in Wales I completed both my degrees in the Midlands (at the University of Leicester and the University of Nottingham) so feel very at home in the region. This made it an obvious choice when I started applying for jobs. An opportunity arose in Coventry and the rest, as they say, is history!
What do you like most about your job? The people I work with. Without these people (too many to mention – past and present) coming to work would be a far less enjoyable experience.
What do you like most about working in the Midlands? Being in the centre of the country, which means that I’m never more than a couple of hours away from family and friends in various parts of the country.
What would surprise social workers about the Midlands? Having studied, lived and worked in three Midlands cities – Leicester, Nottingham and Coventry – I can vouch for the culturally rich and diverse qualities of the region. The excellent transport links also mean you can easily escape the hustle and bustle of city life…even if it’s only for a few days as a social worker’s wage may not be enough to escape forever!
Has your job changed over the last year (or is it about to change)? Whilst the fundamental principles remain the same the emphasis of the work is constantly shifting, to consider different ways of meeting people’s needs, not necessarily through statutory services. There will also be a major changes for social workers in Coventry within the next three years with a proposed move to new accommodation and changing ways of working, i.e. more mobile working and increased use of technology as part of everyday working life.
If you could change one thing about social work what would it be? To have enough resources – both in terms of staffing and services so they can be offered without the need to consider budgets. Idealistic and unrealistic perhaps, but you did ask!
Name: Matthew Davies
Job title: Looked-after children permanency social worker, Worcestershire County Council
What do you do? Once a child has been taken into care it’s my job to make sure that child feels happy, secure and that they belong somewhere.
How long have you done it for? I’ve worked in the permanency team since March this year. Before social workers would have both a looked-after children and child protection caseload, but the council has decided to split the two departments to make sure looked-after children are given the priority and attention they need.
Why did you decide to become a social worker? It sounds really corny but I just wanted to help. It’s an innate desire to help people and help them change their lives for the better.
Why did you decide to work in the Midlands? I was born and brought up here. I started working in Worcestershire and then moved to Jersey for two years but decided to come back. It really felt like I was coming home.
What do you like most about your job? Spending time with children and young people. They’re so honest, especially the younger ones and I find it really refreshing. They see the world through new eyes and as adults we lose that and become very cynical so its a nice escapism to spend time with them.
What do you like most about working in the Midlands? I like the fact Worcestershire is quite a small county so I feel like I know everyone and that’s so helpful when forming relationships across schools, for example.
What would surprise social workers about the Midlands? Even though Worcestershire is a small county it actually feels quite diverse and each area has a very distinct identity, which I like. So when you go to the Malverns they consider themselves very different to those who live in Redditch.
Has your job changed over the last year and if so how? I think social work is generally a land of change at the moment. Possibly it always will be as our understanding of children and their development grows and changes and is challenged. But for me particularly I’ve gone from a mostly child protection background, where you are trying to achieve change for children through the parents, to the permanency team where you are helping children achieve change for themselves.
If you could change one thing about social work what would it be? That there were more of us. It would mean we could all spend more time with families and children and do the kind of work we always aspire to do as social workers.
Would you like to work in the Midlands? Find out more by reading our social work careers guide.