Podcast Episode: Freshly Squeezed: Lorraine Ward
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
LW - Lorraine Ward
An interview with Lorraine Ward, a social worker awarded for Best Practice in Equality & Diversity at the SASW Awards 2019.
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 Lorraine Ward. Lorraine is a social worker who has worked with Children and Families social work department in Glasgow for over 25 years. She was recently awarded for best practice in equality and diversity at the SASW awards 2019. Lorraine started work with the Asylum and Roma Team of Glasgow City Health and Social Care Partnership in February 2017, and initiated the peer mentoring programme, New Young Peers Scotland, for unaccompanied asylum-seeking young people soon after. Lorraine enjoys developing new and innovative projects, working closely with partners, but most of all enjoys listening to and learning from young people and enabling them to find and share their voice and fulfil their aspirations. Lorraine, welcome to ‘Freshly Squeezed’.
LW Thank you.
MD And congratulations again on your award.
LW Thank you.
MD It’s such a fantastic achievement.
LW Thanks very much.
MD Great. And thank you also for coming in on what is the hottest day of the year I think so far, 26th of June.
MD Sort of roaster.
MD Tell me, did you always want to work in social services?
LW I don’t think I would have said that it was social services that I wanted to do, but it was always young people I wanted to work with. So from quite a young age I was someone that was involved in youth clubs myself. So actually I guess my route into social work is actually via youth and community work. So I did my original degree in Northern Ireland. I come from Belfast, and that was a youth and community work degree, and so from that point of view I decided at that age coming out of school that I couldn’t possibly be a social worker because, you know, I didn’t really understand what a social worker did, and I thought, “Well you might end up working with any age group, and I really don’t want to work with anyone other than young people.”
LW So and having been a member of a youth club and being involved in various leadership programmes and at the time doing kind of cross-community work, that whole involvement in communities and working with young people was something that was firmly what I wanted to do from quite young. So I guess from that, in my final placement I ended up in Glasgow and I worked in the Pearce Institute on my final placement.
LW So that was way back in 1986, and then I finished my degree and actually ended up back in Glasgow and have been here since. So at that time I got involved as a sessional group worker and my first job in social work was as a group worker. I did that for 20 years. So that’s my route in.
MD Right, okay. So you just went straight from qualifying in youth work to …
MD … then going into social work?
LW Yeah. So group work was what I did working with what would then have been described as quite challenging young people, predominantly teenagers, and I think that foundation of working with young people and alongside young people and quite often being an advocate for young people I guess, is kind of the foundation of what I have continued to do in social work, because I then subsequently became a Care Manager, and then I went back to through the Open University and did my social work degree.
LW So I did that through the Open University. So I continued to work as a Care Manager and then because it was online you were involved in work and learning at the same time, and interestingly again the route into this was through another final year placement, because I had my final placement at the Scottish Refugee Council.
MD Ah, I see. Okay.
LW So that was probably my first experience really of working with the asylum and refugee community. I guess from that, that experience and being a volunteer with the Guardianship Service, when the opportunity came up to move into the Asylum and Roma Team it seemed a natural fit. The asylum-seeking young people that I work with are looked after, so they’re all care experienced.
MD Right, okay.
LW They arrive under the age of 18 and they’re supported by our team in the same way that any other young person would be if they’re considered to be looked after and care experienced.
LW So yeah, it’s still working with young people.
LW Just a different group of young people.
MD Different young people.
LW The same rules apply. It’s about working with young people so that they kind of have the opportunity to tell us what it feels like, so that we actually have the opportunity to learn from some of their lived experience. So although the language has changed over that 30-year period, the essence of the importance of children’s rights and the importance of young people having a voice, and the importance of that kind of social development aspect of young people being empowered to then be in a position where they can help us shape services, has been something that I’ve worked with throughout that period, whether as a youth and community worker, a group worker, or now as a social worker.
MD Your award for best practice in Equality and Diversity at the Scottish Association of Social Work awards, tell me more about the work that achieved that.
LW Okay. That was an award that I was nominated for basically by a co-facilitator in the peer mentoring group that we’ve set up for unaccompanied asylum-seeking young people. The work around that is really a partnership between myself, education and the third sector, and very much centred around the views of the young people who’ve come forward and said they’d like to be a part of that. The young people have been asylum seekers themselves. Some of them now have refugee status, but it’s very much about looking at the value of us being able to learn from their lived experiences, people who’ve first-hand been through the experience of coming to a new country, whatever their route and journey to get here, but then having to undergo the asylum process. Having to find their feet in a place where language is a barrier, where you don’t have family to support you, and you may not have any social connections to start off with. So young people talk about the impact of loneliness, of loss, of really not knowing who to trust, and about some of those experiences being something that they found really challenging, and the idea of the peer mentoring that I initiated was really about looking at the fact that well actually these young people are the experts. They’re the people that we can look to, to say, “Well how can we help shape services that’ll mean that actually what you’re telling us is at the heart of the types of supports that we provide?”, because it helps us reduce the barriers that they’ve identified from their own experiences.
LW And a number of young people were consulted and we had about 40 young people in the initial consultations, and as a result of that, although we didn’t have a one-to-one mentoring service set up, what we now have is a participation group where young people are very clear they enjoyed being part of a group and feeling that their voice was listened to, and that they had an opportunity to give something back, ‘cause they say very strongly they want to have a sense of belonging in Glasgow, their new home. So they wanted to use their experiences to help newly arrived young people, whether that was about helping them to work out who they might trust or have some hope that things will get better, or be able to say first-hand, you know, “When I arrived here I didn’t have English and now I’m speaking in English and learning and writing and achieving things in English”, and I think that in itself is a real inspiration, and certainly I think the young people themselves are a huge inspiration in terms of their ability to come through that really difficult challenging journey to get here, and then the process itself, which can often be very difficult for young people. So having a platform that enables them to use their experience to help make it a little bit easier for other young people coming through the process I think is something that is really win, win, because they’ve had lots of sense of achievement and sense of contribution through that, but then also for the young people that they can perhaps help through the information and the tools and resources that they’ve created, maybe means that integration and life in Glasgow can be a little bit better and feel a little bit safer sooner.
LW So I think that that’s one of the biggest contributions I guess, is very much around the young people themselves and their desire to make a difference to other young people like them.
MD Mmmhmm. Yes, totally inspiring. Fantastic. So I know you said a little bit about being very motivated by youth and community work, and that’s where you sort of started. In terms of your motivations for getting out of bed in the morning and doing what you do, where does that sort of originate?
LW I mean I think I love the job I do. I think from that point of view I’ve always enjoyed working with young people, so I think that’s that sense of being someone that I think I probably just didn’t want to grow up either. I think at heart I’m still a young person, even though I’m certainly not in any other way! So I think having that opportunity to be in and alongside support, empower young people, is something that I don’t have any difficulties, because I actually love the work that I do and always have done.
MD Mmmhmm. Fantastic. And what does a typical day look like for you then?
LW I think one of the attractions of the work that I do is there probably is no typical day. Every day is busy and there will be bits of it that are probably the same in terms of assessments and working alongside other agencies and visiting young people, but I’m someone that kind of likes being out and about in the community, and so therefore actually now being in a situation where it’s more of a community social work model, you’re working in a local community, so therefore you can walk to many of the people that you have to work alongside, ‘cause it’s unaccompanied but also the Roma community.
LW So therefore from that point of view you build relationships with people in the local area, you get to know about the local services, and so therefore that’s always been something I think that I’ve been really interested in as well. So that partnership working. So the peer mentoring group that you mentioned earlier is something that I do alongside partners in education and the third sector. So again it’s about kind of looking at who’s best placed to be involved in that and who has a similar value base and ethos in terms of young people being at the heart of that. So yeah, no two days really look the same.
MD Right, okay. Brilliant. Sounds really exciting. Do you have a motto for life?
LW I think really it’s just about trying to be positive. I think kind of try and look for opportunities no matter how small, that kind of help you feel that there is a reason to be optimistic and there is a reason to be hopeful. Sometimes that’s more challenging than others, but I also think it’s something that’s really helpful in the work that we do with the people that we work alongside, because life can be difficult for all of us, and I think certainly with some of the young people that I work with, being able to maintain that sense of fun and a little bit of sense of kind of aspiration and moving forward and working towards goals, is something that I think continues to be really important no matter who you work with.
MD Mmmhmm. Mmmhmm. Fantastic. Lorraine, do you have a book or a blog that you’d recommend to listeners?
LW I’m afraid I’m old-school, so blog it’s not, but books yes. Lots of books, and I guess one of the books that I read really recently was actually a book by Malala, who obviously is an award winning young person who has changed the face of education and been a voice obviously for many asylum and refugee young people, and it’s about - ‘We Are Displaced’ is the name of the book, and again it’s about offering a voice to the young people who’ve actually come through the process. So it’s that first-hand opportunity to hear what people talk about in relation to what life has been like and the journeys that people have had to get here and the journeys since they’ve been here, and their aspirations and some of the losses, but obviously some of the hopes they have for the future. So I found it quite an inspiring book.
MD So anybody who’s maybe working with Roma and asylum communities would find that quite useful?
LW Yeah. I mean I think it’s like anything, we’ve all undertaken journeys in life. Many of us may not have made the journeys through the asylum process, but in terms of having that first-hand knowledge of what it’s like, even from a personal point of view, to be in another country and even having the advantage of speaking the same language, although when I first arrived in Glasgow I wasn’t convinced that was the case! I kind of think well, you know, to just have that ability to sort of think, “Well I remember how hard it was.”
LW “So if I feel like that, how much more difficult is it and what can we do to actually reduce some of those barriers?”
MD Yeah. Yeah.
LW So I think whatever the barriers are it’s important to kind of try to learn from the people who may have been there before you, or can offer a hand in terms of making life a little better along the way.
MD Yeah, absolutely. Sounds like a really intriguing book. I don’t know if you like music Lorraine, but do you have a sort of music that you’d use for motivation?
LW I think again I’m probably someone that enjoys music from the 80s I guess.
LW Yeah. So I would be somebody that still loves dancing and still, from my point of view, you know, if I really needed to be doing something, whatever it was, that I guess I would still be looking for something that you can play loud, whether it’s The Jam or whether it’s The Clash or whether it’s Blondie or that, that sort of stuff.
MD Okay. That’s quite sophisticated.
LW Yeah. It’s that sort of era.
MD I was thinking more of Wham!
LW Oh I can’t beat a bit of Wham! as well, but yeah, I like all of that. Cheesy pop I guess.
MD Cheesy pop, yeah.
LW Cheesy pop.
MD Uplifting music.
LW Yeah, definitely.
MD Fantastic. And do you have inspirations in your career, people or projects or things you’ve experienced?
LW I think it would be kind of hard to say. I mean obviously there’ve been different people along the way that you feel have kind of helped shape you. I guess thinking back in terms of the decision to even get involved in youth work from the very beginning, was on the strength of what we might now call that one good adult, and that was a youth worker at the time when I was living in Belfast, who was involved in a lot of really quite creative work and bringing people together and bringing people from different communities together, and I guess probably a lot of that has kind of shaped the direction of some of the work that I’ve done along the way, in terms of recognising the importance of the fact that it’s very easy if there’s a them and us, but actually what you need to do is you need to get to know the them, because actually what we recognise is that we’re all the same.
LW We may have small differences, but there’s more that brings us together.
LW So I guess some of that, some of those influences are kind of people that I feel have been able to do that on the ground, whether they’re young people who’ve been influenced into whatever their chosen career is because of youth workers, or because of some group workers that I’ve worked alongside, or even some of the people that I now work alongside, where you see that they’re just really committed to the work that they do …
LW … and will usually go the extra mile, because it’s about the people at the end of the day.
MD Mmmhmm. And as you say, it is amazing how really one person can make such a difference to someone else’s life.
LW Yeah. Yeah and the thing is, I think in the job that we do, you very often don’t know that. You don’t know the next conversation that you have with someone will be the one that makes the difference.
LW So I think that that’s why it’s always really important to try and be optimistic, because sometimes you may have the luxury of finding out at some later point, but I would know that I would never have had the conversation with the youth worker that I still hold in such high regard.
MD Yep. Yeah.
LW So I think that sometimes we just don’t recognise that actually someone might be at the right time or place where the information or the conversation that you have maybe makes them reflect or think and maybe step into something they might not have considered before.
MD Mmmhmm. Mmmhmm. That’s some of the amazing sort of effects I suppose of social work on people as well.
LW Yeah. Yeah, exactly.
MD So you’re a very experienced social worker as well Lorraine, and if you were to offer one piece of advice to those who are working or considering working in social work, what would that be?
LW I love the job I do and I think it’s really important. There are lots of challenges. There are lots of things that you’ll find difficult along the way, but I think taking opportunities that come along in terms of learning, but I think also recognising the value of sometimes stepping outside the box and trying to be a little bit creative. So I think that it can be a difficult job but I think having something that helps sustain you, where you feel that you’re making a contribution, is something that we should all perhaps look for opportunities to develop, and in my experience I’ve been very fortunate. I’ve been supported by managers who have been happy to engage in those discussions. So I think keep hopeful.
LW And try and take opportunities that come your way.
MD And if you were to choose one thing that you couldn’t live without, if you were a castaway on a desert island or something, a thing rather than a person, what would that be?
LW A cup of tea.
MD A good old cup of char.
LW A good old cup of tea.
LW I mean I’d probably miss my phone, but actually if I’m honest I would really struggle without a cup of tea.
MD Okay, well thanks so much Lorraine. That’s been brilliant and hugely insightful. This podcast is called ‘Freshly Squeezed’ as you know, and at the end of the interview I ask each of my interviewees, your juice, how do you like it? It’s not tea, it’s juice.
LW Mmmhmm, yeah.
MD How do you like it? Do you like it smooth or with juicy bits?
LW Oh I like the juicy bits.
MD Juicy bits it is. I’ll give you juicy bits. Lorraine, you’ve been ‘Freshly Squeezed’ today. Thanks so much for coming in and sharing your insights with us.
LW Thank you very much.
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