I am a 57 year old mother of two. I qualified as a social worker just as my first daughter was born in 1989, and balanced my career with her and her sisters upbringing ever since. Looking back now I’m very proud of this achievement. Also, very proud of my two beautiful grown up daughters. My passion for social work began when I started to do evening Youth Work in the early 1980s. After completing a youth workers certificate course in 1982 I worked in a number of youth clubs in London. In 1983 I secured a full time post working for the National Association for the Resettlement of Offenders (NACRO). I've never really looked back since then, going on to complete a degree in Sociology and Certificate of Qualification in Social Work at North East London Polytechnic (now University of East London).
I’ve done all the usual things social workers do in their careers working in a number of interesting and rewarding roles in child care teams, child protection, management and as an Indedendant Guardian-ad-Litem in child care procedings. I also experienced ‘burn out’. This was an awful period of my life and I thought that I would not be able to carry on in a career I loved. The experience had a very big negative impact on me initially, one that I denied for a over a year before I realised how it was taking its toll. But even though this was a very hard experience it was also an incredible learning curve. I had always been committed to critically reflective work and I began to really understand how important the 'human' side of being a social worker is for preserving our integrity. Once I recognised 'burn out' I developed even more of an interest in the creative, intuitive and relational side of social work. I completed a Drama, Dance and Voice therapy training which changed my perceptions of my profession. I also began to do lots more direct work with children and families. As an independant consultant I carried Life Story Work and Later Life work with children who were in long term foster care or who were being adopted. Finding an energetic and meaningful space for my work makes me continue to recognise the great privilege it is to be a social worker.
Its also an awesome and scary responsibility. When professionals work with families or individual family members, children and young people, we become a part of their network and this puts us in a position of trust and reliance. I’ve been grateful for all the wise and wonderful supervisors, mentors, leaders and teachers I’ve had over the years to support me. This has been so important to me and the reason I’ve become committed to understanding the part that ‘self’ plays and its role and relevance in current practice, which is the subject of my Masters and current PhD research.
As a tutor, lecturer, mentor and practice educator I have supported hundreds of student social workers and social work and care professionals in supervision, in consultation, professional mentor groups and in the use of creative and direct work techniques which you can read about on this site.
I developed a method of working creatively in supervision using the sandtray play therapy technique which I use regularly in seminars, one to one supervision sessions and mentor groups. I began developing this technique in mid 1990s and wrote about it in an article in 2007.
As a trainer I use a variety of different 'hands on' techniques which aim at providing an 'experience' for unique learning that can be absorbed and used by participants in their everyday practice. In the past I've run life story work training for Redbridge Council, child development and attachment workshops for Essex County Council, foster carer training for working with attachment for private agencies, multiprofessional workshops in child safeguarding for the London Safeguarding Board and unique 'Beat your burnout' days for social work teams, teachers and student groups. In 2007 some colleagues and myself were research funded to explore creative methods for learning about reflection and our personhood in the social work journey for social work students. The work is written up and was roled out at a number of conferences. You can read more about this work by exploring the website.
I recognise the need for a strong evidence base and robust sytems, but as I meet more and more professionals who use creative, intutive and critically reflective methods I have developed a committment to working in ways that support emotionally intelligent and good relational practice that I believe balances practice. This is so important in my view for ensuring we work ethically, empathically and sensitively in our relationships with those we work with to fulfill the principles and values of social work.
I am an experienced lecturer and Practice Educator. My most recent experiences of Practice Education has been with students on Step Up and on other Masters Programmes, as well as the BA(Hons) Social Work. I also supervised students in Australia as a Practice Educator and lectured on the Sociology degree at the University of Newcastle, New South Wales.
I am currently in a very exciting period of my life studying for a PhD in Social Work with an Australian University. My research is about how ‘use of self’ is perceived by social work professionals. I've returned from Australia to carry out my research. If you are interested in this research or in participating please click the following link to find out more.