Newly Qualified: If I can do it, anybody can

Debbie Coppock is a social worker in the duty and assessment team of Manchester Council's children's services. She qualified at Keele University in June last year.

What were you doing before your social work degree?

I have 10 years' experience in social care, working within a teenage pregnancy unit. I worked for the NHS, going into schools and promoting physical and emotional wellbeing.

Within the teenage pregnancy unit, there was child protection involved, but I was on the periphery of it, watching other people doing the work. I wanted to be much more a part of it.

How does your role differ from your expectations?

In the amount of direct work. Social workers are more about managing services to improve outcomes for children and less about direct work with families.

I know a lot of people that go into social work who are frustrated by that. Support workers tend to do the direct work. Around 80 per cent of the time is spent on admin.

What are the most rewarding moments in your job?

When you come into contact with families who are at crisis point, but very willing to take support on board. I worked with one mum who really embraced what we were trying to do, and she looked at her parenting in a different way. She changed from a woman who was quite isolated and struggling into the mum that she always had the potential to be.

A lot of the time, people struggle to look at themselves and their parenting ability.

What skills do you want to build on?

We have students in from time to time. We have duty and locality work as well, so the breadth of knowledge is vast. That makes it quite appealing to students. Once I've been on the job for two years, I can be considered for the practice teacher award, which involves supporting students on placements and working with them on their portfolios. I'm really keen on developing my knowledge and I think working with students is a great opportunity to keep up to date with both new practice and research.

What encouragement would you give to people considering going into the profession, given the bad press it has had in recent years?

It's a challenging time to be a social worker. We're demonised not only by the press, but by other professionals. A lot of people tend to believe what they read in the papers, even people who work with children. But I'd say that there are so many more positives than negatives. We're working with hundreds and hundreds of children and families and the positives outweigh the sensational media stories. We're working all the time to improve. We spend a lot of time reading serious case reviews and applying them to our own practice, so we're always learning. And we need more people to join children's services to continue to improve. - You have four children of your own. How easy was it to embark on your training and achieve a work-life balance in this new role? My children are aged from two to 15. This is a job you can still do with a family, but you need motivation and have to really want it. I had a baby half way through my degree and I went straight back to it. I had him at the beginning of the summer holidays and I went back in September. If I can do it, anybody can; it's achievable. It's just a matter of being organised and planning as far in advance as you can. Social work is the kind of job that can completely consume you. But when you have children, they don't allow that to happen. So there is a cut-off point, where I draw a line. I've achieved what I've achieved because of them.

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