Podcast Episode: Freshly Squeezed Calum Glasgow
Category: Freshly Squeezed
What follows is a transcription of the audio recording. Due to differences between spoken and written English, the transcript may contain quirks of grammar and syntax.
MD - Michelle Drumm
CG - Calum Glasgow
MD Hello and welcome to ‘Freshly Squeezed’, an Iriss podcast which aims to squeeze information and inspiration from key influencers in social services in Scotland. Today I’m speaking to Calum Glasgow. Calum is currently studying social work at the University of Strathclyde, and received an award for student social worker of the year at the SASW Social Work Awards 2019. His previous social care experience involves working with children and young adults with additional support needs. Calum’s placement was with the British Red Cross, based in their psychosocial team, which provides holistic support for refugees and asylum seekers. The work ranged from completing initial assessments, providing emotional support, accompanying people to legal and another appointments, and helping alleviate their levels of destitution. In his words, he describes the experience as a real eye-opener. Calum, welcome to ‘Freshly Squeezed’, and congratulations again on your award this year. It’s quite an achievement.
CG Yeah, thanks a lot.
MD Tell me, did you always want to work in social services?
CG No, not originally. I guess when I left school I wanted to be a lawyer …
CG … but then I got a job working in yeah, a short breaks home for children and young people with additional support needs. I guess yeah, I saw how invaluable the work was that we did, and really helped their lives, but I also saw that it was social workers that were assessing the children and the family’s needs and putting in place the relevant support. So I guess I saw that as the sort of logical next step.
MD Okay. So being involved and having some experience working with young people?
MD You decided to change from law to social work?
CG Yeah, yeah.
MD Okay. So tell me about your journey so far in social work.
CG Yeah, so I guess the first few years of my work, my studying, was mainly based at the university. A lot of really important theoretical work, and then third year was my first placement with the Red Cross, working with asylum seekers and refugees. I found that a really challenging experience, but also really rewarding. So I thought it was really good.
MD And how has it been challenging for you?
CG I think I guess it was thrown into a totally different environment that I’d never experienced before. The people we were supporting had experienced the most sort of horrendous things you could imagine, or not even able to imagine. So in that way was a real sort of eye-opener and yeah, quite difficult emotionally at times. Yeah, but at the same time it was also really rewarding.
MD Mmmhmm. And do you think your studies in social work are preparing you for working in such environments?
CG Yeah I think so. I think it’s hard because nothing can really prepare you fully for it, apart from going out and experiencing it and finding your own sort of coping strategies, but yeah, there was also you had your practice teacher and link worker you could speak to, and your tutor at university as well. So yeah, I think so.
MD Mmm, so there’s quite a lot of support around you as well?
CG Yeah, definitely. Yeah.
MD And you’re in your third year of studying?
CG Yeah I just finished third year.
MD So you’ve got one more year to do?
CG Yeah, last year. Yeah.
MD And getting there now!
MD Fantastic, okay. So Calum, what gets you out of bed in the morning? What is it that motivates you?
CG I don’t know if it necessarily gets me out of bed every morning but I guess what motivates me is my sort of desire to try and make a difference in people’s lives and have a positive impact, and to sort of I guess fight against inequality and oppression.
MD And do you have a typical day at the moment? I know you’re studying, so it’s probably quite varied?
CG Yeah, right now, ‘cause of I’m off on the summer holidays.
CG So quite a relaxed typical day, yeah.
MD So not so busy then?
CG Yeah, yeah, ‘cause I work. I’m employed through Self-Directed Support.
CG So it means it’s great during university time because it’s quite flexible around my studying, but the families don’t have like extra budget for the summer obviously, so it’s the same amount of hours I’m doing in the summer.
CG So it means I’m not working too much.
MD Okay, and in terms of a typical day at the British Red Cross, what was that like?
CG Yeah, going in about nine in the morning and yeah, it varies I guess between carrying out assessments with people, attending different appointments, trying to email, emailing a lot of people, trying to chase up things and not always getting responses.
MD Right, okay.
CG But yeah, chasing up a lot of people I guess.
MD Okay. Was there a lot of the desk-based work you were doing or were you out and about in the field quite a bit?
CG It was a good combination of the two. It was sort of it was based in an office in the city centre. I think that everyone that received a service came to the office for appointments but then yeah, we were going out to sort of legal appointments and attending Home Office reporting appointments as well for support.
MD Mmmhmm. So lots of learning?
CG Yeah, definitely. Yeah.
MD Mmmhmm, good stuff. And do you have a motto for life?
CG I don’t know if I’ve got a motto as such. I guess it’s yeah, again about trying to fight inequality and oppression and I guess also it’s cliche, but doing whatever sort of makes me happy sort of things that, trying to yeah, do something that’s making me happy in life. Yeah.
MD Mmmhmm. Mmmhmm. Focus on the positives?
CG Yeah, definitely.
MD Okay, great. And do you have a book or blog that you’d recommend to listeners?
CG I think for a book … I know everyone’s talking about it right now, but I think ‘Poverty Safari’ by Darren McGarvey.
MD Okay, tell me a bit about it.
CG Yeah, there’s a lot he says in it that’s perhaps a bit challenging of the left-wing perspective at times. He considers himself left-wing and a socialist, but he’s critical of perhaps some of the left-wing voices now which yeah, I find interesting, and I think as well it’s really important, a lot of time poverty and deprivation is talked about by people who’ve never experienced it.
CG So I think it’s really important that this is a book written by someone who’s grown up surrounded in it. I think it’s his own experience of it. So I think it’s really important.
MD Why would you think that other people might want to read this book?
CG I think yeah, well I think first and foremost because it is written by someone that’s got experience of poverty and the effects of it. I think as well there’s so much to learn about it. I think one of maybe the most important things that I took away from it was he was talking about how he grew up in Pollock and …
MD So he’s a Scottish writer?
CG Yeah, yeah. Scottish author, grew up in Pollock. I think he was talking about during a time when they were closing down his local primary school. I think as well they were building the motorway through Pollock Park. I think all the local residents had their own ideas of what they wanted to happen in their community, and that was never listened to. It was always sort of an official outside of their community that had no experience in what they’d been through, dictating what should happen. I think yeah, that’s still, even though that was based talking about his childhood experiences, I think that’s still really relevant today.
MD Sure, absolutely. Okay, I don’t know if you like music Calum, but do you have sort of music for motivation?
CG Yeah. I think something I like to listen to that I find really motivating is Kate Tempest.
MD Oh yes. Yeah, yeah. She’s great.
CG Yeah. Yeah.
MD Kind of poet rapper, isn’t she?
CG Poet rapper and yeah, I guess she talks a lot about inequality, poverty, oppression, corruption, but she also has got a really beautiful way of talking about relationships and the connection that everyone has with each other. I think it’s really uplifting at the same time as being, and making you sort of angry and frustrated as well.
MD Have you seen her perform?
CG Yeah, once actually at the Glasgow Art School. Yeah, it was really good.
MD Mmm, yeah she’s quite a powerful performer I think.
CG Yeah, definitely.
MD Brilliant. Have you read some of her poetry as well as seen her perform musically?
CG Yeah, yeah, yeah. I like it. It’s good, yeah.
MD Yeah. She’s got quite a few books, hasn’t she?
CG Yeah, she does. Yeah.
MD Okay, excellent. So who or what would be your inspirations in your career?
CG I think probably yeah, I guess after my first placement the person who was sort of overseeing me during that placement, he was I guess yeah, a bit inspirational in terms of he taught me so much during that placement, and taught me really invaluable sort of engagement skills and he just had such a good rapport with everyone, whether that was other colleagues and people who were using services as well. So yeah, probably him, and again I think as well the people who are using the services were a real inspiration, and particularly in that setting it was people who had totally lost trust maybe in everyone in society because of what they’d been through, and for them to then come to the Red Cross and they’re managing to begin to place trust in you, it’s a real responsibility I guess, because you’re one of the first people they’re beginning to trust again and you need to uphold that trust.
CG But yeah, I guess they’re sort of an inspiration as well.
MD Hmm, yeah. They show quite a lot of bravery, don’t they? They’re having to trust people that …
MD … are brand new into their lives as well …
CG Yeah, totally.
MD … to support them. Yeah, fantastic. And what one piece of advice would you give to those working or considering working in social services?
CG Yeah, that’s a tricky one.
CG I’m not really big on giving too much advice.
MD If there was some piece of advice that you would offer, as a student?
CG Yeah, well yeah I guess it would be then just to put relationships first with people that are using the services, trying to build really strong relationships and not judging anyone based on their previous actions or yeah, anything. Just seeing people as people I guess, instead of as labels.
MD Okay. And what’s the one thing you couldn’t live without? The thing rather than person.
CG A thing? I think I’d say hope. I can’t live without hope.
CG I think, yeah. To me that’s what’s probably so dangerous about the sort of government policies, whether it’s like austerity or their asylum and immigration policies, it’s that it can be taking away people’s hope. I think that’s really a dangerous thing to do, to not have hope.
MD Mmmhmm. Mmmhmm. Great, okay. Hope. That’s quite a powerful …
MD … place to end the interview with. As you know Calum, this podcast is called ‘Freshly Squeezed’. So I just ask one question of all interviewees at the end of the interview. Your juice, how do you like it? Do you like it smooth or with juicy bits?
CG Definitely with juicy bits.
MD Definitely with juicy bits. I’ll give you juicy bits. Calum, you’ve been ‘Freshly Squeezed’ today. Thank you for your time.
CG Thanks a lot for having me.
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