Amanda: “I feel very lucky to be doing what I’m doing”

Former nurse Amanda Horton is a social worker at Stoke-on-Trent City Council, where she works as part of the safeguarding team. With a passion for promoting the safety and wellbeing of young people and many transferable skills, it was her experience working alongside social care teams that finally led to take the plunge and change careers.

Here, Amanda gives us an insight into what her role involves and why empowering families to make positive changes can be so rewarding. 

How long have you been a social worker? 

For around 9 years I was a school nursing sister, supporting children aged between 5-19 years old. As part of my role, I was involved in multiagency safeguarding and so gained experience in supporting children who were being looked after by the local authority, or who were subject to child protection and child in need plans. 

It was this experience that first attracted me to becoming a social worker. I went on to do the step programme – a 14-month condensed degree that takes into account the experience and qualifications you’ve already got – and qualified in March 2019.

What does your job entail?

My role is to work with children, young people and their families to safeguard and support children who may be in need, or at risk of harm. It is about identifying risk and improving safety and protective factors around the children. To help the children feel safe and secure and, where possible, to remain with their family. 

My key responsibility is to remain child-focused at all times. I will work in collaboration with both professionals and family members to make decisions that are in the best interest of each child that I’m working with.

Most rewarding part of the job?

One of the most rewarding parts of my job is seeing positive change – for example, when you work with a family that has had a cycle of behaviour going on for a long time and you can see that you have helped empower them to break that cycle and change things for the better. I also love seeing the children growing in confidence and competence and understanding why we’re involved in keeping them safe. 

I feel very lucky to be doing what I’m doing.

Most challenging part of the job?

Conflict is the most challenging part of being a social worker. For me, that was particularly hard because when I was working a nurse everybody wanted to work with me, whereas it’s very different when you’re a social worker. 

I think there is a misconception among the public that we want to come and take the children away – when really, that’s the last thing that we want to do! We want to keep children with their families if it’s safe to do so.

As a social worker, you have to make really difficult decisions in the best interests of the children. These aren’t always popular, but you have to have faith in your own decision making and always be driven by what’s right for the child you’re supporting. 

What’s it like working at Stoke-on-Trent CC?

It’s great! It’s so important to have a supportive team to lean on when you’re under pressure and we all try and help each other. Sometimes just speaking out loud and hearing other people’s ideas really helps. 

The managers are also really good. They are always at the end of the phone and when we are all in the office, you can always grab five minutes with them and talk through any worries that you’ve got. 

Is there a success story you’re particularly proud of?

I had a case of a young boy whose parents were substance misusers and he had been told all his life not to speak to social workers because ‘family business is private’. I worked with him for a couple of years, during which time there were many changes in his family dynamics. When his mum’s habit took hold, he went to live with his dad and life improved massively. Then, unfortunately, his dad passed away.

Because we’d developed such a strong relationship over a period of time and I knew his family situation really well, I knew who could step up and care for him. That was really positive because his wish was not to go into care. We’ve done everything we can to prevent that happening and he’s now living with another relative. 

So, from a young boy that didn’t want to speak to me and that was never going to tell me anything, he is now very open and we have made decisions that have been in his best interests. He’s had a very difficult time, but his life is now the most stable it’s ever been. 

What about the future?

Stoke-on-Trent CC is a good employer. When I was a student social worker here, I got high quality placements and learning experiences and had really good support from my managers and team. I have seen lots of people within my wider team being supported with their career development and I know there are good opportunities for progression.

Moving forward I would like to stay within safeguarding. I like helping people to learn so I think eventually I’d like to do the Practise Educator Award and become a chairperson for child protection. 

Final words?

If you’re passionate about the safety and welfare of children and you’ve got skills that are relatable and transferrable, then give it a go. There were so many routes into social work – and if I can have a second career when I’m nearly 40, then anyone can. 

So, give it a go, because we need good social workers! 

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