Podcast Episode: Freshly Squeezed: Viv Clelland
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
VC - Viv Clelland
You’re listening to Iriss.fm Scotland’s Social Services podcast.
Freshly Squeezed is an Iriss podcast which aims to ‘squeeze’ information and inspiration from key influencers in social services in Scotland, today I’m speaking to Viv Clelland. Viv is a support worker for looked after young people and families in East Ayrshire. She received the untold story award at the Scottish Social Services Awards 2019. Viv lived in a Kilmarnock children’s home from the age of 11 years until she was 17, she began her career doing a bit of everything, cleaning, working in bars, as well as volunteering for a horse-riding school for disabled young people. In 2000, she became a volunteer parent coach with Kilmarnock Harriers which led to her being approached to volunteer with the East Ayrshire Council. By 2006, she was employed as Sports Motivator, working in a variety of community coaching and children’s house sessions for the council. As Viv developed, the job developed and her role became more focused on working with looked after and accommodated young people based within the play and early intervention team. Her skills have also supported work in HMP Kilmarnock and with vulnerable families, in the words of a colleague, Viv is a very empathic, and caring individual with an extremely bubbly personality, she considers the young people she works with as part of her extended family and puts their needs and wishes at the heart of everything she does.
MD Viv, welcome to Freshly Squeezed.
MD It’s a total pleasure to meet you today and congratulations again on winning your award this year.
VC Thank you.
MD Fantastic achievement. So tell me first off, did you always want to work in social services?
VC No, well it’s not that I didn’t want to work in social services. I didn’t know what I wanted to do.
MD Like lots of people.
VC Yeah, yeah. So, you’re just starting off but the one thing that I did want to do was to help people. So, I knew my focus was on that and how people worked and what can you do to help them be better like how can you make the world go round, what input can you do, what footprint can you leave in life so, that’s where I started.
MD Why do you think you wanted to help people particularly?
VC I think that comes from my past, and the things that I had been through throughout my past and the things that I had to overcome and be positive about and finding that positive way forward.
MD So, your experiences in like, you lived in a children’s home …
VC Yeah, yeah.
MD … for a number of years.
VC Yeah, yeah.
MD I guess that was challenging but also brought you a lot of good learning and experiences.
VC Yes, definitely and the staff were brilliant. The key worker that I had, actually saw me and I know you’re saying, “What do you mean ‘saw me’?” but can actually see the person I was rather than the case study that was there and that’s very important to the young people because everybody’s always seeing the case study. I tend to, when I’m working with these children, I don’t look at their information or their background because I want to see them cos the minute I look at that information, I’ve already planned a book out about how they are and how I should deal with them but if I see them for themselves then I know where to best help them.
MD Uh huh so, your key worker then was quite instrumental maybe …
MD … in influencing your career?
VC Definitely, definitely and it’s one of the things that I say to the staff within the residential is that you might not get the recognition just now for all your hard work and the things that you’re actually installing in these children but I’m a product of one of these children.
MD Uh huh, uh huh.
VC I says that you will get it once their minds and their hormones and everything are all settled down so, once they’re maybe 26 or something, you start to get, “Oh my god, I remember being really bad to you and I’m really sorry for that.” Or, “You helped me get into this because you helped me move forward.” So, it’s really brilliant.
MD Fantastic. Tell me a little bit about your journey then into social services.
VC Well I started kind of working in the stable with disabilities, children with disability needs and I had a great time doing that and I thought, “Och, I’ll do a wee bit of the sports coaching.” So, I went to Uni to do my sports coaching.
MD So, you were into horses obviously and interested in lots of sports?
VC Yes, yes, yes although my figure doesn’t actually say … but I started there and moved on and I did do bar work, but I loved just the company people and how people would talk to you.
MD Uh huh.
VC Again, you were helping influence maybe decision that could go wrong for them, maybe just them listening to another side of a story, maybe help them decide a different path or a better path.
MD So, people you were meeting in bars then …
VC Yeah, yeah.
MD … even working in that sort of environment, you were actually able to, I suppose, use skills there.
MD Use sports skills.
MD Uh huh.
VC Then as I say, I moved into doing the volunteering with the running club in which I was in the kind of teenage age group which was absolutely fantastic and I just wanted to make it as much fun but no as fun as the baby group but still fun but they could see themselves going through and moving up the ranks in the athletics and I could automatically tell whether they were sprinters or whether they were javelin throwers or whether … cos you start to kind of recognise certain things and certain attributes that they can bring.
MD Back to body types as well.
MD I mean body types can be applied to different types of sports.
VC That’s it so, going through that one of the girls had worked with it in East Ayrshire Council and she asked me to volunteer so, I did a lot of volunteering. So, I was through all the departments doing different things for everybody and then I end up on the bank register.
MD What’s the bank register?
VC So, the bank register is where they can phone you up and say, “Look, basically I’ve got a job for you, could you do this? Are you available?” so, I was doing more than 40 hours.
MD More than 40 hours?
VC Yes, because it was so easy for me to do the things that I was doing and I enjoyed them and I had a lot more fun doing it and a lot of the stuff was within the community and one of the initiatives was like street sports where we just taken a big van of equipment into the community and it was to try and stop them drinking or to try and encourage them to do something better and my way of thinking was, “If I could get them to play a couple of hours of sports, that shop might be shut that they have to go and get the drink.”
MD Right, okay. Yeah, yeah.
VC But doing it in such a subtle way that they’re having so much fun that they didn’t want to … and it did work, it did work.
MD Okay, they began to forget …
MD … that they would usually go and get drink.
VC Because they had that much fun so, yes they would leave but yes, they might leave and have their wee stash but they wouldn’t be drinking as much so, if you’re taking one bottle off them, one bottle is better than none.
MD Yeah, yeah.
VC And I think a lot of the kids there really had traumatic lives, a lot had a traumatic lifestyle. You could pick out more than a handful of these children that were in crisis in how they would do things so, I think my boss noticed how I was working with them and then I think the social work came along and said … I think my boss and the social work kind of mixed together and kind of created a new baby which was me. So, I think they wanted to take me and try me in the residential houses which because I think of the ability to connect with young people was kind of that kind of …
MD It was there.
VC Uh huh, it was a natural ability so …
MD So, tell me a little bit about the residential houses then.
VC There’s 3 residentials within East Ayrshire and the house I was in had 16 children but then they’ve kind of scaled it right down so they have 6 children in 2 of them and that can be 7 children, making one of the living areas into a bedroom for one so they can have the maximum of 7 children within the houses. Another one has 4 and can have a maximum of 5.
MD Uh huh.
VC They’re lovely, and the children have a lot of emotional problems …
VC … and attachment and trust, all those issues are there and I’ve just got to go in and do what I can and if that means I have to take 5 weeks to get to know a person, well 5 weeks I’ll take to get to know that person but I’m not staff within the residential …
VC … so, the children will see me differently so, I’m like the good aunty that goes in …
MD Nice, okay.
VC … and the staff are like the mums, mums and dads. So, they’re like the parents, setting down rules and things like that whereas I’m there to do the good things like taking them to community activities, if that means therapeutic play then it’s therapeutic play. The children decide what they want to do so, if I go in and the don’t want to do it, that’s not what we’re going to do. If they want to do something different then I’m quite versatile to do something different so, it’s not written in stone. I kind of move with them …
VC … cos it’s easier that way because then you’re actually still engaging in their attention …
VC … and they’re thinking, “Oh she’s not just there just to get me to do things or just to kind of make me do this.”
MD Yeah, yeah.
VC So, it becomes more enjoyable.
MD Sure it’s a bit easier.
VC As I say, my children, I love them. I really do, and I think they’re very quick. The one thing that they’ve got in their build up frame is they know what they don’t want in their life and they know if you’re real or not cos that’s a skill with these children and that is a skill with these children so, if you are going in there and kidding on to be something, they’re going to see right through you.
MD Yeah, totally transparent.
VC Uh huh.
MD Brilliant, okay thanks Viv. So, you won the Untold Story Award at the Scottish Social Services Awards …
VC Uh huh.
MD … which is again brilliant, tell me what is that untold story? What is the work that you think you’ve achieved the award from?
VC I think my children put a wee bit into this, so I found out.
MD Right, okay. Good, yeah.
VC So, they actually …
MD Nominated you as a sort of …
VC Uh huh, as well as the staff and social work so, I think it was kind of mixture of everybody’s input that got me this award. I didn’t know this was happening.
MD All behind closed doors.
VC Yeah and I think it’s just the fact that I am so versatile, the staff love the fact that I move with the children. If they think, “Oh Viv, this child’s just come in.” and the first thing they’ll do is maybe call me and say, “What can you sort out for them? How can we go about getting this child to interact and different things?” and I think it’s more the versatility. I mean I’ve taken a wee boy through his dynamic youth, now his dynamic youth has just actually gone through. The programme he worked on was about 7 months so, he could have done a youth award if he was older. So, this wee boy was only 10 and he wanted to make a show, to thank the staff for being there for them because he was moving into foster care and he wanted to do this show for them so, we worked on the show and it started off it was going to be this small thing and then it ended up taking legs …
MD As things do.
VC He had about 7 songs and we had all these backgrounds to make, big poster backgrounds but all the children within that house helped make these backgrounds.
MD Right, okay.
VC so, everybody was involved in this and then on the night, 2 of my young people were actually human curtains so, they were standing there with big sheets. And then one of the other girls, she did the music and made sure that the right song was on and it was just so did because everybody was actually involved in the full …
MD Sure and in a way you’re creating space for these young people to have their place.
MD And to use their talents.
MD And I think you said it already but I think maybe well I look at it as maybe some of the reasons you got this award is because you see young people.
MD You see them and they know that you’re true.
VC Yeah definitely.
MD And as you say, they can tell very easily if you’re not being, you know, honest.
VC Yeah, it was just a fantastic journey, the fact is he’s got this award.
MD Fantastic. Tell me Viv, what motivates you to do what you do?
VC I probably say, the children motivate me, life motivates me, I’m very motivated and if you think, “Eh uh.” Everybody has off days, we can’t say they don’t, the fact that my employers gave me this job motivates me. I love doing it, I’m not doing anything tasking in my work or tasking in my area or field. I’m not walking into a job and thinking, “Oh my god, how am I going to do this.”
MD Uh huh.
VC It’s this is home.
MD Right, uh huh.
VC so, it’s as if I’m just coming to another virtual world of home within that my family is the children within the house. My children know that they’re my family as well and they would quite happily say that.
MD Do you think your past experiences as well would also motivate you?
VC Yes, yes, yes. Definitely because I think everything has a purpose in life and it doesn’t matter how hard it is or how bad it is, there are positive things you can take away from it and if that might not help you at the time, it’ll help you later on and also it helps others and if you give a wee … how can I put it? A visualisation for the world to see about you, then I think it could help them have another perspective, you understand? If they see, “Oh my god, I think I’ve been through something similar to her. Oh, is that how she dealt … maybe I could try that way and see if that works for me.” It might, it might not …
VC … but just giving that and helping others is giving them the empowerment …
VC … to move forward.
VC Uh huh.
MD And what does a typical day look like for you?
VC A typical day could be, I could go to the house and one of the children are saying, “I’m not doing it today.”, “Okay.” Or it could be, “Oh, can I do this and can you plan to take me here next week?” so, I’ll go in the morning, I’ll get into my work and I’ll do all the kind of …
MD Do you have emails to check or anything like that?
MD You do have?
VC All the kind of worky things.
MD Uh huh.
VC That’s the side I don’t like, anyway …
MD Not many of us do.
VC So, I’ll go in and I’ll do that and then maybe about 1 o’clock I’ll go to the houses depending on what I’m doing with whatever child so, it can start from 1 but it can finish up at 9 o’clock at night although I’m not meant to be …
VC … but it’s just the way it works. A lot of my kids, some of them go to school so, for the ones that go to school then I can’t do anything with them until after they come back so, and that might be taking 2 or 3 kids to the gym, to a football session, to whatever they need at that point, swimming, and then … or maybe doing some therapeutic play because one of the smaller ones have finished early or maybe doing something else with some of the other kids who are not at school so, your day can be quite …
MD You never really know what’s going to come at you each day.
VC Uh huh, uh huh and it’s really just going on what the child want’s, it’s not what I want, it’s what they want and if that means giving them a cuddle, it’s a cuddle. If it means making them laugh, then I’m making them laugh because that will maybe just relax them for that few minutes that they’ve maybe had a quite a tense day …
MD Yeah, yeah and like you must try and look after yourself in that too, I’m sure there’s days where you go in there and you think, “I do not want to run around an …”
MD “… obstacle course today.”
MD You know?
MD So, do you just have to go with it mostly?
VC I go with it and I enjoy what I do and it seems as if, no, no there’s lies behind that, no I do, I do and if that means I have to run, I’ll run, if it means I have to jump, I’ll jump, it doesn’t matter. The purpose of me, is getting them to realise the importance of their footprints in this world because that’s …
MD It’s a big impact you’re making.
VC Uh huh, that’s more important in life than me.
MD What about you though, you are important in life.
MD You need to look after yourself.
MD Do you have strategies in place to look after yourself?
VC I like to listen to music.
VC But most of my music I can listen to with the kids.
MD Uh huh.
VC So, the young people all like my music, I’m very hyper as you can see and I’m very upbeat so, yes I’ll zoom about like a boy racer going at 20/25 miles an hour with the music turned up loud, a wee bit of clubland going on and folk are looking going, “What’s going on there?”
MD Yeah, yeah, they’ll love that as well, I’m sure.
VC Yeah, yeah.
MD And do you have a motto for life?
VC Live, love and laugh. Live life to the fullest, love others the way you love yourself.
MD Cos it is important to love yourself, isn’t it?
VC Yeah, yeah and laugh, laughter for me makes the world go round.
VC It’s one of the things that can take the tension away from everything, you need to live … I mean it’s 3 l’s isn’t it?
MD Yeah, yeah.
VC You’ve got to have the 3 l’s.
MD The 3 l’s. So, that’s to live, love and laughter.
VC Uh huh.
MD And Viv, do you have a book or blog that you’d recommend to listeners?
VC I don’t have a book, I don’t have a blog but I have a song, The Greatest Love of All, is yourself.
VC Because if you don’t love yourself, how can you love others? And it’s learning to respect how you feel and how your personal private, in the whole as a one …
MD Uh huh.
VC … you’ve got to learn to love yourself and that’s what I want to teach my young people to do.
MD Now when you say The Greatest Love of All, is that that Whitney Houston song?
VC It’s the Whitney Houston song but I learnt it with George Benson.
MD Oh right, different take then.
VC Yeah but I did like Whitney … it was the same version …
MD Uh huh.
VC … they didn’t edit anything out of it, it was just it was her voice instead of his but that’s what got me through my troubles when I was young because I used to listen to that. I could totally understand every word.
VC Children are the future, they are our future, every child is your future because it’s so important for them so …
MD It’s amazing to think how a song like that can have such an impact.
MD On your whole life.
VC Definitely because it’s a reality check because if you don’t … see if you don’t have all this inside, how are you going to teach somebody to love if you can’t love yourself, how are you going to help them see their footprints are so important if you can’t love yourself.
MD Sure, amazing that will be your motivating, your big song, I suppose of your life?
VC Yeah, definitely.
MD You’ve also said you like Clubland music …
MD … do you find that really motivating?
VC Yes because that’s more motivating, that’s my hyper … if I want to go to aerobics, if I want to just blast out the world, it’s all hyper music so it keeps me smiling and singing along, destressing myself.
MD Do you like Cream classics at all?
MD I love the Cream classics.
VC Yes, I do have … I like rock, I like all types of music so, if I feel down, there will be a certain type of music I’ll play when I’m feeling just that wee bit down or if I’m in the middle, they’re a wee bit and then you’ve got the karaoke song, Meatloaf, Paradise at the Dashboard Lights.
MD An eclectic mix, yeah.
VC So, yes, and that’s something that I’ve passed down to my children so, they’ll quite like it.
MD They’re Clubland fans as well.
MD Brilliant and Viv, what are your inspirations in your career then?
VC The inspiration in my career, I think is all my team, they’ll all have different attributes to give, they’re all strong people, they’re all hard workers, we all love our job, that’s something we do have in common. I’ve got a manager who’s just like a mum, but I don’t mean a mum to be but that whole loving thing …
VC … so, if you’re kind of feeling … “Are you alright?” and she wouldn’t think twice of cuddling you or making you feel better.
MD In a way, you’re kind of explaining that people that bring love to work in ways …
VC Yeah, yeah.
MD … like hugely valuable and inspirational.
VC Oh it is so, because when they’re putting things out, they’re putting things out that are true in this world it’s not that I’m doing this because this is my job, it’s that feeling of, “No, I’m doing this to make a difference in people’s life.” And it’s so important to do that and be able to do that and just lucky that my manager allows us to develop in that way because it could be very closed off but it’s not so, my inspiration is definitely …
MD the way your team functions?
VC Yeah, definitely.
MD Fantastic, thank you. And what one piece of advice would you give to those working or considering working in social services?
VC If you’ve got a chance and you’re going into likes of the houses, try not to look at the book first, now that’s different depending on the type of job you’re going to go, if you’re going to be working as a residential worker as one of the staff then you need all that advise, but as somebody that was stepping into my post, I want them to go and see the people before they even think about reading the background. I’ve never read any of my children’s backgrounds because I think you do put your own judgement on it.
VC And that means you’re not actually seeing the children. If you let them be open to you, they’ll talk to you and it’s not always hearing what they’ve said, it’s actually listening to what they’ve said. There’s a difference and it’s not always about me saying, “Oh, but this is the way I did it.” As well, it’s all about how can you make a difference, how can you change that? Whatever the situation is, it’s always about the child and the only think I would say is, likes of for the staff, they’ve been great because if there’re any safety issues, that’s the one thing they will follow down to me because to keep the child safe, to keep others safe, then that’s important.
VC so, they’ll give me what I need to know but the rest, they’ll let me find out for myself.
MD Okay, that’s a really interesting way to work.
VC Uh huh, uh huh.
MD Yeah, yeah cos as you say it leaves out any room for pre-judgement …
VC Yeah, definitely.
MD … of the child. So, you would advise that then that people really try and just see …
VC The child, yeah.
MD … the child in front of them rather than think about their past …
VC The case …
MD … and their case.
VC Uh huh, uh huh because you start presuming, you start presuming like … you start to think, “Oh, that child … no, I’m not going to do that because that might have …” no, just go with the flow, go with the flow, just see them as people because that’s all they want to be, they want to be seen, they want to be seen for the capability and yes, they’ve got an influx of hormones going through their body so, they are irrational but then what teenager isn’t?
MD Yeah, exactly. Fantastic, good advice. Thank you. And what’s the one thing you couldn’t live without, Viv?
VC Hope. Now that was my first answer, right, that was always my first answer. My boss asked me this, and when I said hope, she thought I would have said family. Things will happen within life and you’ve got your family and my family support, I’m really close to my family and it’s really a big part of me is family but if something, touch wood, happened to one of my family, I need to have hope to go forward or else I’m going to let down the rest of the family. If I could pass a word on for my young people, it’s hope, because see without hope, you’re not going to live, you pull back on yourself, you don’t experience life. Hope’s a big strong word and it’s … I’ll still stick with hope.
MD Hope is a very positive place to finish as well. Viv, as you know this podcast is called Freshly Squeezed …
VC Uh huh.
MD … and at the end of each of my interviews, I ask my interviewees how do you like your juice? Do you like it smooth or with juicy bits?
VC Juicy bits.
MD You like it (… unclear) Viv, you’ve been freshly squeezed today, thank you so much for you time, it’s been an absolute pleasure.
VC Okay, thank you.
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