Senior practitioner

‘I always wanted to be a social worker,’ says Louise. ‘Something about it really appealed to me. I liked the idea of working with vulnerable people, supporting them to make it things better for themselves.’

But Louise’s dream career seemed unlikely to happen when she left school at 16. Instead she did a short course in care and then got a job as a care assistant.

Thanks to her hard work, that first step ended up leading to the career she really wanted.

Learning through work

While working in care, Louise did a part-time, assisted learning course in care, then studied for an HNC in Social Care, going to classes one night a week for two years. She also did an SVQ 2 in working as a carer.

'...just doing the one little course led to another...So never give up! There’s always a way around.'

Then she heard about someone going to uni to do social work, and was inspired to apply herself. Four years later, she had a Social Work degree from the University of Dundee.

‘It just shows what’s possible,’ says Louise. ‘When I left school I thought, “I’m not going to do that now”, but just doing the one little course led to another. So never give up! There’s always a way around.’

And she’s still learning now, working towards a professional qualification so she can teach and supervise the social work students who come to her team on placements.

What it’s like to be a social worker?

Louise is now a senior practitioner on the social work team at Fife Council working with adults aged under 65.

She works with people who may have a physical or learning disability, or have mental health problems, suffered a brain injury or are subject to Adult Protection Concerns. Assessments may also be undertaken alongside people in physically and emotionally demanding situations, such as being a carer for someone in their family.

Louise explains, ‘We’ll contact a person to do an assessment. We’ll speak to them, usually in their own home, get permission to speak to their family and gather information about their needs. Then we’ll put a care package in place and implement it.

'They may feel they are in a crisis but it could be that they just need a couple of hours of support - which we can organise. And then you can see what a difference that makes.’

‘Depending on what people need and the outcomes they have, we’d look at organising a personal assistant, addressing their social needs or providing 24-hour care.' 

Louise is focused on working out what would be a better way of life for each person, and finding ways to help them get to that situation.

‘Ultimately we want to help people to be able to manage for themselves. Sometimes it’s quite a short time that you work with them. With other people, you can be involved them for a long time.’

What other responsibilities are there?

A big part of Louise’s job is to help adults at risk of being harmed, perhaps physically or in other ways such as someone taking advantage of them.

‘We’ll make enquiries to identify if an adult is at risk of harm. And I’ll work with health services and the police, organising meetings to discuss concerns, undertaking adult protection interviews and working with the person and all the agencies to protect and safeguard.

‘It can be a bit harrowing but it’s good to work with other services,’ she says. ‘Then you know they are safe, thanks to the action that you’ve taken.’

She also mentors newly-qualified social workers so they have support as they start the job. And she assists the team manager and organises the rotas so someone from the team is available in case of an emergency.

‘I love my job! It’s very satisfying when you see people progress and move on in their lives,’ Louise says.