My name is Angela, I have been married for 36 years and have two grown up children and a granddaughter. I have been a mental health service user since 1976. My life was blessed when I had my son in 1982 and then my daughter in 1983. I was also the main carer for both my elderly parents who lived with me during the period 1989 – 2002.
I have been involved with Goldsmiths since September 2004 when I joined a small group of service users and carers and we each spoke about our experiences of using services at workshops for the 1st year BA Social Work students. I was later filmed being interviewed by a carer for a DVD directed by two young care leavers. In September 2007 I became a member of the Service User and Carer Steering Group and I remain a member today. I have joined a senior lecturer and carer in a presentation to professionals outlining service user and carer involvement at Goldsmiths. Recently I have been involved in the recruitment and selection of new students and have had a place on the interview panel.
I expected to enjoy my involvement with Goldsmiths but unexpectedly it provided me with so much more, it became a therapeutic journey. I have felt really valued by the lecturers I have worked with and the students which has had an enormous affect on my self esteem. The overwhelming sense of failure and guilt that I experienced is in the past.
I am new to service user involvement at Goldsmiths but already I love the friendliness of the staff, atmosphere of professionalism and dedication to excellence. I became involved in social work education at Goldsmiths when Together began working with Goldsmiths to increase user involvement. Together is a mental health charity which supports mental health service users to develop skills and sustain their wellness. They also provide support to families and carers of people with mental health issues. Service user training and development is paramount for Together.
Personally, I have experienced mental health problems for a long time. Social work intervention was a part of my journey. Although, my experience was not positive, this has not been the experience for other service users I have
come into contact with. This knowledge has made me passionate about getting the right caliber of social workers in the field. I sincerely believe that social workers are in a powerful position to make a fundamental difference to the life of those they work with.
I love being involved because I want to be a part of the process which enables those who are genuinely passionate about doing something good and positive for people in need or distress, to get the opportunity to receive the best training and support to enable them to fulfill this potential.
I look forward to Together extending the work it does with Goldsmiths and hope to be a part of this future.
I have been involved with the program since October 2011. In 2011 I met with two groups of second year MA in Social Work students as part of a study unit on working in partnership and long-term planning for looked after children. This year I met with third year BA and second year MA Social Work students on the same study unit. I shared my experience of trans-racial adoption in the 1950s, my childhood and the impact adoption has had throughout my life. I shared with them my search for my birth family and the way I balance my relationships with my adopted siblings, birth mother and paternal birth family.
I am an independent member of two Adoption Panels in London and told the students about the make-up of the panels and a little of their work. I referred to the changes in adoption law over my life time, the current guidelines for adoption and the improvements in support services for adopted children and their families.
The students showed interest by listening quietly, asking a large number of questions, both about my own experience of adoption and about adoption practices today, and reflecting on their own views, the significance of 'race' and ethnicity, and social work practice.
I enjoy talking with social work students and hearing that my contribution is valuable to them. I hope to continue sharing my experience and knowledge of adoption with future social work students at Goldsmiths.
Becoming a member of the Step Up To Social Work programme has been an opportunity and an insight which most care leavers like me never get to experience. For me personally, the fact that a programme like this exist is evidence that social services are moving in a positive direction, allowing the next generation of social workers to gain an insight from individuals who have experienced some of the cases they might have dealt with.
I am particularly impressed with the level of training and knowledge the students receive at Goldsmiths. The students show an in depth understanding of how stressful and at times confusing child protection cases can be and are doing a very good job of maintaining a clear reason for action as well as always putting the young people's needs first. I hope that I have been and continue to be of good use on this programme.