‘Rugby, mountains and rain’: Social workers tell us what it’s like to work in Wales

We asked four social workers to describe what they like about their roles and working in Wales – and what one thing they would change about social work if they could.

‘Rugby, mountains and rain’: Social workers tell us what it’s like to work in Wales

Credit: Photofusion/Rex Features
Tristan Donovan
Wednesday 18 September

Name: Sara Spray

Job title: Acting integrated manager, adult services, Vale of Glamorgan council

What do you do?

My service responds to mental health need on a rota basis. This could include providing a rapid response to both emergency and planned assessments, which can take place in hospital, the community or a place of safety.

Why did you become a social worker?

I have worked for Vale of Glamorgan for seven years and originally undertook a different role within social services; becoming a social worker was a natural progression and one that was supported and encouraged by my colleagues.

What do you like most about your job?

I enjoy the interaction with others and the fact that most days bring different challenges and new experiences.

What do you like most about living in Wales?

Rugby, mountains and rain.

If you could change one thing about social work what would it be?

If this was utopia there would be no budgetary constraints and services would be free to respond to individual assessed needs while promoting recovery.

Name: Sallie Arthur

Job title: Senior social worker, community resource team – south east, Pembrokeshire council

Gower peninsulaWhat do you do?

I work in the community resource team that covers the south east of Pembrokeshire. We’re a community based adults team and we work with anybody over the age of 18. We could be dealing one day with a 19-year-old who has had a brain injury as a result of a car accident and then in the next phone call we could be dealing with a 97-year-old man who needs meals on wheels and everyone in between.

Why did you decide to work in Wales?

From qualifying in 2001 I have always worked in Pembrokeshire. I was born and brought up here, so all my family are local – and it helps that the area is beautiful. You’ve got glorious beaches and lovely national coastal paths; tourists flock here every summer. That does impact on the work we do because a lot of people retire to the area, so a lot of the customers are people who moved away from their families and support networks and come into our service when they become ill or disabled.

How is your job changing?

We’ve integrated with health, so a lot of our work is more joined up. We meet regularly with district nurses, occupational therapists, physios and so on to discuss patients and customers who have quite complex needs. It means we can do more joint work, including joint visits, joint assessments and share information, which means the customer doesn’t have to duplicate things. It makes the service quicker for them, too.

What do you enjoy most about your job?

When you’re in the community you’ve got the opportunity to work with people for longer and see change from start to finish. You could be keeping an older married couple who’ve been married for 60 years together at home with care packages or adaptations or helping a younger disabled person into education or work and they are both equally rewarding.

Name: Alex Clapson

Job title: Freelance social worker trainer and British Association of Social Workers (BASW) Cymru committee member, living in Carmarthenshire

Cycling in walesWhat do you do and why do you like it?

I’m a freelance social work trainer and before that I was head of coaching and mentoring for the Welsh Government. I like the variety of being freelance.

How did you get into social work?

My father was a teacher and my mother worked as the manager of a care home. They were also foster carers. So I had grown up in that kind of environment and thought that teaching was the route for me, but the more time I spent in the classroom the more I realised that my heart was more in working with people on an individual basis. So I decided to retrain as a social worker.

What do you like most about living in Wales?

It’s the environment. I live right next to an estuary so after work, if I’ve had a tough day, I’ve got the freedom to go for a walk or cycle along the estuary and I’ve got mountains within an half hour drive away. Wales is also a friendly country.

What would surprise social workers about working in Wales?

The salaries are generally better in Wales than they are in England, which surprises a lot of people. They think it is the other way round and that you will earn more in London, but it’s not.

If you could change one thing about social work what would it be?

I would like to see more social workers recognise the importance of continuing professional development. Some social workers seem to park their learning the moment they qualify, but that’s just the beginning of the journey.

Name: Chris Frey Davies

Job title: Senior practitioner, Penderry Locality Team, Swansea council


Gower peninsulaWhat do you do?

I work with children and families in the Penderry area of Swansea.

Why did you go into social work?

I have always been driven by notions of equality and justice for all; working with those most vulnerable in our society allows me to promote these notions.

How long have you worked for Swansea council?

I have worked in Swansea for four and a half years. Before this I worked for the Metropolitan Police as a police constable in Tower Hamlets.

What attracted you to working in Swansea?

Swansea is, in my opinion, the gem of Wales – flanked by the beauty of the Gower Peninsular and Brecon Beacons national park. It is without a doubt one of the best places to unwind after a stressful day at work. That aside, from a practitioner’s perspective child and family services in Swansea have changed so much since I arrived in 2009 and I have been fortunate to be part of some positive and radical changes to service delivery.

What do you like most about your job?

The face-to-face interaction with children and families and the successes achieved by the families that go largely unreported and occur on a daily basis behind the constant curtain of criticism.

If you could change one thing about social work what would it be?

I would change the perception of social work across the public domain and elevate the profession up to and beyond those professions that seem to be regarded more highly.

What do you like most about living in Wales?

Being Welsh I am of course biased in my views. I’m also unable to capture what I most like about living in Wales as there is so much, so I borrow the words of the late Welsh painter and poet John Dyer: “Ever charming, ever new, when will the landscape tire the view?”

Pic credits
Pembroke beach -(David Evans / Flickr)
Cycling – (Alaster Tonge / Flickr)
Gower penisular – (Philip Rogers / Flickr)

Would you like to work in Wales? Find out more by reading our social work careers guide.

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