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Careers interview: residential social care worker
CareerWave Ltd spoke to practitioner Jess about her role within the social care sector, and about her motivations to work in this challenging yet highly rewarding job.
Tell us about your job, and what are your main responsibilities?
I have recently started a new job role working within a children’s residential unit as a support worker. My responsibilities will include general day-to-day duties of looking after children, like helping with personal care and keeping them fed and watered, as well as keeping the home clean. I will also work alongside other professionals such as social workers, youth offending teams and family support as an aim to improve the life of each individual child, by putting them in the centre of their care and helping them to achieve the life they would like. This will involve building positive and trusting relationships, supporting them to build independence and equip them with skills to use in their future. Helping with education and homework, protecting them and keeping them safe, always looking out for their welfare and advocating on their behalf – to name just a few.
I have also been asked to be the therapeutic lead in the home. That means, as well as doing the responsibilities of a support worker, I will have the added duty of working alongside child psychologists to carry out early help assessments to see what interventions and treatments may be needed to help each child through their journey. For example therapies, counselling, drug and alcohol programmes.
What was the path you took to get into the role?
My path to get into this role has been a long one. I studied Psychology at university and have always known I'd like to work with people, preferably children but had no idea as to what specific sector and how I was going to get into it.
After university, I worked in a couple of bars and although it may have seemed pointless at the time, you do learn a lot of people skills from working in that kind of setting. I then went to work for the citizens advice bureau, first on the advice line dealing with debt, benefits, housing and employment and then the witness service, speaking to witnesses and victims of crime.
These jobs allowed me to gain an immense amount of knowledge about the world, and also helped me gain skills to help me in my own future. It also made me more compassionate and helped me gain a better understanding of the issues people in our society face on a day-to-day basis and how one problem can spiral into multiple.
I also became more familiar with things such as the criminal justice system and social welfare laws. I worked with a range of people, many vulnerable, and learnt the skills to communicate with these people, as well as learning of many different organisations I never knew existed but were there to offer support and help too.
I then went to work as a support worker for adults with learning disabilities where I supported people to have as independent a life as possible, and access services they may not be able to access on their own. Similar to my job now, it was my duty to keep them safe from harm and report any safeguarding concerns, but to also help improve their quality of life through engaging in the community and taking part in activities they loved to do.
Why did you choose to pursue a career within the social care sector?
From a young age I have always loved people, I am a very sociable person, and I am very empathetic to people who fall on hard times. I personally have been very lucky and have had a very fortunate upbringing, but I understand that is not the case for everyone. I have always wanted to be able to give something back and believe the jobs I have been in so far, although difficult, have been immensely rewarding. I hope I can continue to work in roles where I can help to benefit others' lives, even in the smallest of ways.
What would you say are the essential qualities you need to be successful within this role?
Empathy and understanding. You don’t need to have been through the same things in life but if you have a genuine interest in helping people, then I think social care would be something to look into. You don’t necessarily need to do anything big to fix an issue, sometimes just being that person for someone to talk to and support them through a time in their life, can be immensely beneficial, as well as having a good laugh too.
What do you like about your job?
I love the people – you come across so many different characters in this job. It is never boring! And it is so rewarding when you do click with someone, and you can see relationships of trust building.
What about the aspects of your job you dislike?
There can be some very sensitive and upsetting topics discussed. Children have come from many different backgrounds, some from abusive ones. In an ideal world this wouldn’t be the case, but we don’t live in an ideal world and it’s a case of learning to deal with these topics and finding a way to help each individual child with whatever trauma they’ve been through.
What kind of progression opportunities are there within your field of work?
As I mentioned, I have been asked to be a therapeutic lead, something I didn’t expect when I originally took the position. This could mean I could progress in areas such as early intervention worker, assistant psychologist or family support. Working with families to prevent children being taking into care, preventing crime and addiction and so on.
What is the recruitment procedure for your role?
For this job, I sent my CV off on the Indeed website. I was then contacted by my company and asked to complete an actual application form and then invited to an interview. Then I was told I had got the job two days afterwards.
What is the one piece of advice you would give someone going into, or hoping to get into the social care field?
My advice is, don’t be scared to shop around. Hardly anyone gets their ideal job the first time around. Try as many different jobs as possible until you find the right one for you. Each job will give you skills you can transfer to the next without you even realising. It’s taken me seven years from finishing university to finally get in a position to be working with children and using my degree properly, but that doesn’t mean I haven’t loved all the other jobs I have worked in before. It’s all just a learning curve. Don’t put too much pressure on yourself.
If you’ve got time, volunteer. It looks amazing to employers. I volunteer with two organisations now, children at risk of offending and working with families in crisis. It will also help you get a feel for different roles and sometimes these companies decide to keep you on as an employee.