Opportunities in social services

One of our Ambassadors for Careers in Care, Hazel Brannigan, a lecturer in health and social care at Fife College, tells us about how the role helps raise the profile of the many opportunities in social services.

Hazel Brannigan

I currently work as a college lecturer in our health and social care department. I have also been involved with the delivery of vocational SVQ qualifications for over 10 years, assessing those working in a wide range of employment settings.

We are at the time of year when interviews for next year’s courses are almost finished. Interviewing students interested in coming on a social care course gives you an insight into how people perceive the social service sector.

Our students come from a variety of backgrounds, some directly from schools, some adult returners or some who are working in the sector and want to gain more knowledge and qualifications. They often come with a set plan to ultimately be a nurse or midwife; often backed up with personal experiences or family members who work in the profession recommending these routes. However in some cases it’s what they have seen on television: Casualty, Holby City, One Born Every Minute or Call the Midwife.

Many don’t realise the broad range of jobs that social services have to offer. Sadly many also see working with older people as a role that has little opportunities. Is this because in the main all we hear, from the media in particular, is failures in these types of services?

Part of my role as an Ambassador for Careers in Care is to change this perception and show just how many opportunities and varied jobs there are in social services. As a lecturer, I do not need to be registered with the SSSC but I stay connected to the organisation through the ambassador role. I have an ambassador badge that I wear at work and I explain to prospective students, other colleagues from different areas and those in my own area that careers in social care are valued, professional and have a code of professional values that are shared by all of those on the register. I explain that the job of being a social care worker is not simple or “just common sense” but is a career that has real substance with career prospects and is rewarding. I also relate this to joint working legislation explaining that the future of integration of services will mean that those in social care have a wealth of opportunity to potentially allow them to work in a variety of settings.

Using the SSSC careers resources to allow students to investigate the range of opportunities and different roles can change attitudes. We use them during our induction process and I have also seen organisations using them as part of their interview process. Many students change their minds during the course of their time at college and decide to work in social services as they now see a role for themselves having found out more through placements and learning.

I previously carried out the role of SVQ coordinator when we had groups of home carers from our local authority come to do their awards. I always tried to have a worker who had recently completed come and talk to the new ‘terrified’ group to say it will be ok: ‘I felt like you did and I managed it’. I had a lovely moment when one of them told how she had asked her daughter to proof read her reflective accounts and her daughter told her that she never realised her mum had such a challenging job and knew so much. She was so thrilled, having thought for years she was just a carer.  There are so many workers out there who think ‘I am just a carer’ and we need to make sure they and society don’t see them like this.

We need schools, guidance teachers and employment advisors to be able to let those thinking of a career in care know about the broad range of opportunities it offers. And also to show that if university is not for you the vocational route can allow someone to climb up the ladder of qualifications as high as those attending university.

Use our resources to promote life changing careers

A Career in Social Services [a job like no other] is our careers booklet with practical advice about getting started in a career.

Our new career pathways show the qualifications available for social service workers.

Our interactive quiz called A Question of Care tests values and attitudes, and can help people prepare for interviews.

Invite an ambassador to tell their story

You can invite a social service careers ambassador like Hazel to speak to your students or clients about working in social services.

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