Leaving school over 40 years ago with, like so many of us, little idea what she really wanted to do, other than an innate belief that whatever it was it would probably involve children, Christine Jones’s early career saw her take the somewhat predictable, traditional route of entry into the world of teaching.
A safe, dependable and infinitely respectable career by any standards, but fortunately now, perhaps more so than then, not by any means the only game in town if a career in “children’s services” is your calling.
Fortunately for Christine, and for the countless families and children she has assisted over the decades, Christine knew that teaching was not for her – that rather she was destined for a different type of work that would see her trade the predictable world of teaching for the unpredictable world of social care. A world where no two days are the same, where the highs and lows and spectrum of emotions experienced on any given day are frequently off the scale, and where there are constantly new faces to meet and new problems to solve.
It’s a challenging, demanding environment and not for the faint-hearted, but it’s an environment Christine and many like her thrive within. She can’t imagine any more worthwhile way to earn a living.
“From the moment I started I knew it was for me,” Christine said.
“I love the variety of workload, the deep sense of satisfaction you get from knowing you’ve made a real tangible difference to someone’s life. The responsibility sometimes can feel daunting; we are dealing with real people and potentially life changing issues in the here and now, and that takes courage, grit and stamina, but the rewards for getting it right are immense. I wouldn’t trade it for any other profession, even though there are many that are better paid.”
Over the years social work and social care hasn’t typically enjoyed the same sort of reputation for professionalism, integrity and value that some of the more traditional careers of working with children enjoy – teaching being a case in point. It has also earned a reputation of being a profession that is overly concerned with box ticking and bureaucracy and doing the right thing, as opposed to doing what’s right. When combined with a reputation for not being particularly well-paid, it is not difficult to see why it has struggled to attract high calibre new entrants, and why the sector is constantly in a recruitment deficit.
However, all this is changing. Covid-19, for all the misery it has brought in abundance, has if nothing else served to elevate the role of our key workers and bring about a Damascene moment amongst our communities at large about the vitally important roles people who work in our “human foundational economies” play, and the extent to which we are all unequivocally dependent upon them for the provision of services we have all just come to take for granted.
At last we are seeing due recognition for the collective hard work and care that goes on across the whole spectrum of occupations within the health and social care sector; and with the sector employing 1 in every 17 adults in Wales, that is whole lot of recognition on the table and for the taking.
“It is heartening to see perceptions changing,” said Christine,
“Social care is such a worthwhile profession, with such a varied spectrum of roles capable of challenging and fulfilling the best of us. Covid has brought with it new ways of working which will further modernise and streamline the industry but bring with them new challenges.
“For example, in my own line of work this is most notable in the online assessment processes for potential foster carers. It can be so easy to form an incorrect impression over a bad laptop camera angle or poor technology connections, so the burden of responsibility that places on us to get it right is even higher in a virtual world than a face to face world.
“If it’s a challenging, highly skilled, stimulating career you’re after then look no further. We have it in abundance.”
For anyone out there considering a career change into social care – maybe you’ve been made redundant and are looking at what options are open to you, or if you work in a different industry sector in a service role and think you might have transferrable skills, or if you are just starting out in your career and looking at this sector as a potential future employer – then let the words of Christine inspire and motivate you.
“I would urge anyone, despite whatever perceptions you might have about the world of social care, not to prejudge but to just give it a go. It can offer you a rich, rewarding career where your sense of self-worth and personal value will transcend that typically experienced in more mainstream roles.
“If you throw yourself into it, give it 100%, do whatever it takes, you’ll more than reap the rewards in the doors it will open for you and the satisfaction you will gain.”