Hi Raje! Can you tell us a bit about yourself?
Hi, I am Raje, wife and mother of one teenager. I live in Crawley and have done for most of my life. I have recently lost my dad and I am the main support for my mum and of my aunty. My hobbies are shopping and keeping fit.
So, what inspired you to become an adults’ social worker?
Growing up, my dad inspired me to want to make a difference to vulnerable people’s lives. He was an ethnic minority officer for West Sussex County Council (WSCC) and worked very closely with social workers. I always saw him being so proud of what he did, and I was so proud seeing him support people in whatever capacity he could.
My sister followed in his footsteps and did a social work degree and although I didn’t initially choose social care as a career, I think social work was my calling too! I did my first degree in tourism management. However, when I completed it, I needed a job straight away to travel so I took up my first full-time job as an administrator for WSCC in home care. I absolutely loved this role and it was my first introduction to adult social care and social work.
The opportunity to become an assistant care manager (ACM) was then offered to me and I was thrilled! Working in this role gave me an opportunity to positively transform people's lives; support independence and the fulfilment of people's aspirations (sometimes in the most difficult of circumstances) and ensure their voice and wishes were heard. I was able to build meaningful relationships. So, to sum it up I was inspired by many: my dad and then my colleagues, wonderful managers, and ultimately the customers I work for.
That’s fantastic! And why do you choose to work for West Sussex?
I have worked for WSCC for almost 15 years now. Ten years ago I did take an opportunity to go and work elsewhere and although I thoroughly enjoyed my role, I sorely missed the culture I was accustomed to with WSCC where I felt so supported, appreciated for my skills and encouraged to develop myself further.
I also missed the friendly, flexible, and understanding environment of WSCC, hence I decided to re-join WSCC with an opportunity to work in a busy hospital social work team. I always say to everyone now that you don't realise what you have till you go somewhere else - I can’t see myself leaving WSCC again.
What would you say is the best thing about being a social worker at West Sussex?
I think it’s the constant opportunities to develop further in a very supportive and friendly environment where your colleagues, seniors and managers lift you up, cheer your success and guide you on the right path. When I have questions or feel I have not done something right.
I am never made to feel like a failure but made to see it as a learning opportunity - I love working here!
What do you particularly enjoy about working in the Crawley Hospital Team?
I absolutely love and respect my team and my manager, to the point I call them my second family! We lift each other up and support each other wherever possible, looking after our mental health and wellbeing. Last year when I lost my dad, who played a vital role in my life, if it was not the support of my team, I am not sure how I would have been able to continue working.
This last year has also been challenging working in a busy hospital social work team where impacts of COVID-19 were seen first-hand. My manager constantly made sure we were OK, provided us with required personal protective equipment (PPE) as soon as possible and kept us up to date with the ever-changing working environment, which was key for me to continue to perform and adapt to the new ways of working.
How does West Sussex support you to develop and progress?
WSCC has provided me with an opportunity to become a qualified social worker. I was happy and kind of settled in my role as an ACM but with my senior and manager’s encouragement, I embarked on the social work traineeship, which I am not going to lie was very tough but I was totally supported with my studies and work. I have since completed my assessed and supported year in employment (ASYE), and now near completing my senior portfolio. I am also thinking about doing a practice educator or adult mental health professional (AMPH) training in future.
Is there a case or something about your work here that makes you feel proud?
I am proud of my learning and progression at WSCC. I am also proud of lots of cases where I’ve helped get a person’s voice heard and advocated for them to achieve positive outcomes. Social work is so critical because we advocate for vulnerable people and when there is a positive outcome, I take personal pride in that.
I must also mention how we’ve worked though the COVID-19 pandemic within a busy hospital setting, as it has been one of the most challenging yet most rewarding periods for me. COVID-19 has changed life as we know it for hospital social workers. As a social worker I value the role of relationship-based practice and not being able to visit the wards and interact with customers face to face was challenging at the beginning of the crisis. However, I found that my role as a social worker has never been more critical in a hospital, as I found new ways of working by continuing to support multidisciplinary teams and relatives to facilitate safe and speedy discharge. I feel health and social care becoming better integrated during this crisis, patient/customer care has become more person-centred and led to less restrictive outcomes.
That’s so positive! Aside from COVID-19, what would you say are the challenges of being a social worker generally?
As a local authority we must work within limited budgets so it’s often challenging getting resources and meeting expectations.
If there is one myth you could bust about social work, what would it be?
I think there is often this expectation that we can solve everything - things that shouldn’t fall to social workers to pick up. We have to be honest and clear about what our roles are at the outset and how we can best support people. A big part of our role is giving information to our customers to help direct them to where they can get support for things that fall outside of our parameters.
What would you say to somebody considering joining us?
If you want to make a difference to people’s lives and work in a supportive and encouraging environment then they should join us, without any hesitation! I wake up every morning and look forward to doing the job I love and not everyone can say that!