What people say

IPE and Me

I would like to share a few thoughts about why and how I became an Associate of IPE.

I have spent most of my career working in local authorities – initially as a social worker and then as a senior social worker.  In 2005, I took a year out to travel and live overseas; this gave me the opportunity to evaluate my career to date and how it might be in the future.  Increasingly I had been struggling with the bureaucracy, restrictive policies and red tape – all of which seemed to stifle common sense and creativity.  There was an ever increasing feeling by many of being overwhelmed by never ending mountains of work, often due to excessive demands for lengthy assessments and care plans (feeding performance management requirements).  This seldom seemed useful for service users themselves.  Early intervention, a focussed, time limited piece of work with outcomes agreed with service users would I feel, often have been the most effective course of action both for individuals/families as well as for the resources of council departments.

Taking a break from social work and involving myself in other activities (including counting dolphins at sea and raising native plants in a community nursery) was very relaxing and enabled me to re-charge my batteries. I took a long hard look at how I wanted to spend my working time and in doing so considered a whole range of career options, many of which I found quite exciting.  However, at the end of the day I still felt drawn to social work: I think it must be in my blood or my bones. For all the difficulties a social work practitioner can experience, it can still be very satisfying and rewarding work. Being allowed into people’s lives to help contribute towards an improvement in their well- being and quality of life is, I consider, a privilege.  Oh, and I like a challenge!

So I decided to continue with social work, but to practice it in a different way. I had worked with Andrew Lane in a previous team when he was an interim manager, so I decided to give him a call to discuss working as an independent social worker.  One thing led to another and through IPE Andrew helped me find my first piece of work as an independent social worker. It took me out of my comfort zone and to a part of the country and I hadn’t been to before but that was great, just what I needed.  Since then I have become an Associate of IPE, obtaining work through contacts I have found for myself or through the links that other Associates have.  I have enjoyed short term contracts and project work which is time limited and with clear goals.  In this capacity I have been welcomed into teams who are short of staff and need an experienced social worker to hit the ground running. Working as an Independent  has also allowed me to achieve the flexibility I wanted and I have been able to work variable hours – sometimes just 2, 3 or 4 days a week – leaving time for other interests and areas of work: for example my role as a Support Broker. This has also enabled me to plan breaks from work to fit around family life.

I have never regretted my decision to ‘break free’. When I start a new piece of work it is always with energy, motivation and enthusiasm and that is something that is so valuable to the people that hire me, the colleagues that I work with, but most of all for the service users with and for whom I am working.

Helen Jackson Brown