Before working in social work I worked as a youth and community worker for a voluntary sector project based in Tameside, which involved working with groups of young people delivering issue based projects, and setting up and managing various youth work projects using outdoor education to engage with young people.
We asked Julie a series of question to provide an overview of her social work journey so far...
Although I already worked with young people on a daily basis, I become frustrated that I was unable to help and support them more in all areas of their lives. I decided to become a social worker so that I could be in a position to advocate for young people, ensure that young peoples voices are heard in the decisions about their lives and to help young people stay safe through the challenging adolescence years.
I felt that my positive and energetic approach with young people, alongside my knowledge and experience of young people was needed in this area of social work.
I started off in the Aftercare team around 3 years ago and managing various cases at different levels of need.
From this work it became clear that as well as supporting the young people to keep safe, there were many young people who are looked after who were experiencing issues around isolation, loneliness, developing friendships, emotional wellbeing and struggling to make progress due to lack of confidence, self-esteem and self-worth.
So, as part of my everyday work, I began to bring young people together to firstly go for walks, meet for a brew and join in one off activities. Very quickly it became clear that these simple activities where the young people could have a laugh, talk to others and have some fun were making a massive difference to the young people. The young people began to ask when the next activity was and offered ideas of what they wanted to do. Surprisingly the young people often have no interest in expensive activities, but just wanted to do normal things such as go to the beach, go for a walk and paddle their feet in the stream, or watch a play.
It was clear that the young people enjoyed chatting about their lives with similar young people and had lots of good suggestions for improving the services they have received. Due to the positive impact of the work, it was agreed that my job role would consist of holding a small case load of complex cases and the further developing of the group work.
We now have an established Aftercare Youth Involvement project running regular activities for both Looked after Children and Care Leavers. So far, the project has supported around 40 young people to take part in many activities and has seen young people have their voices in the improvement of social care services. Activities have included, Thai Boxing sessions, beach trips, watching plays, dog walking and adventure walks, completing the Manchester 10k and lots more.
To ensure that as many young people as possible get the chance to take part in the project, I have worked hard to develop partnership with semi-independence unit and residential homes in the area.
My proudest moments are often when young people who have taken lots of encouragement and support attend an activity. To see these young people who often have quite serious lives, laughing loudly, having fun and smiling makes me so proud of the work that we do and the effort that we put in to make the project work.
Personally, I have been supported and encouraged to use my experience and enthusiasm to develop new ways of working to positively impact on young people. In an area of work which is often seen to be led by procedures and process, the local authority has enabled me to be creative and innovative in order to meet the young people needs.
Challenging, satisfying and inspiring!