Amy first experienced mental health services as a young carer when she was twelve years old. Her mental health social work career began in 2009; in 2011, she qualified as an approved mental health professional (AMHP) and best interest assessor after completing an MA in Advanced Mental Health Practice. In 2017, Amy founded S12 Solutions. Here, she reflects on what she’s learnt in the past year, the social worker’s identity, social work week’s theme and what’s next for the social work profession.
Amy, please share your reflections on what the past year has taught you.
The need to take better care of myself has been an important lesson for me. Like many of us, I have a lot of people to consider in my family life; when you’re a social worker and you spend your days supporting others too, it’s easy to find yourself prioritising other people’s needs above your own by default. You may not realise you’re doing this until you start to feel burnt out. A big part of social work’s remit is to amplify others’ voices, and so I think it’s important that we as social workers find our own voice and take our own needs seriously; I would encourage all social workers to make time to check in and see what’s happening in their own mind and body, even if it’s difficult.
Running is an important source of headspace for me. I never thought I would be able to take part in a marathon but I’m running the Brighton Marathon on 2nd April to raise money for Hospice in the Weald and Julia’s House. Training has been really tough at times, but I’ve found that if you break the job down into manageable tasks, and you’re determined to stick to your plan with help from the supportive people around you, you can do most things – another lesson in the power of determination!
Please share your reflections on the social worker’s identity.
I attended the Social Worker of the Year Awards last year, I’ve never been in a room with so many social workers! The experience really brought home to me how hopefulness and positivity are big parts of social work’s identity. It may not seem so because the worst cases tend to dominate the news; we rarely hear about the good stories.
Perhaps we perpetuate the tendency for good news to slip under the radar because modesty seems to be another aspect of social work’s identity. Social work is a values-based profession and we support people who are navigating profoundly difficult situations, so I understand that speaking up and feeling proud about our work can feel uncomfortable. It seems important that we find a way to celebrate social work though, to help make sure the profession retains its experienced social workers, as well as attracting new people to the job.
What are your thoughts on this year’s World Social Work Day theme: respecting diversity through joint social action.
It brings to mind the community-led fundraiser I was involved in to raise money for the DEC Ukraine Humanitarian Appeal. It was so powerful and heart-warming to see people from so many different backgrounds come together to raise money, and witness the positive knock-on impact this had on our community. For me, joint social action can make the biggest difference when the action, whatever it may be, has a clear purpose that people can connect with, as well as a clear way to help. I hear great examples of this kind of decisive social action taking place from the areas we work with across the country, and I’m sure we’ll see more as the year unfolds.
What’s next for the social work profession?
I think we’ll have to consider how we keep up with the changing world around us. Technology has brought a new level of transparency and with it a change in emphasis from ‘I can do these things for you’ to ‘I can do these things with you.’ While we have a long way to go in terms of equal access to technology, having technology as part of our toolkit should make it easier for us to empower people.
Any final thoughts?
Times are tough and it doesn’t seem as though this will change any time soon, but I’m confident our hopefulness and positivity will prevail.
I’m proud to be part of a profession that does so much good in the world.
Thank you Amy for sharing your thoughts with us.