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Tagged In:  Social Work, Social Worker

Helen Pye is a Senior Mental Health Practitioner at South West Yorkshire’s NHS Trust’s Forensic CAMHS service in Wakefield. She was awarded ‘Mental Health Social Worker of the Year’ and ‘Overall Social Worker of the year’ in 2015 for championing the role of social work within a healthcare setting. We find out more about what continues to motivate Helen in bringing health and social care together.

My journey into social work

I fell into social work completely by accident. I have always been extremely interested in what triggers behaviours in people and so when it was suggested to me that I should study social work at the University of Lincoln, I was naturally attracted by the course.

My typical day

…is extremely varied. I work across three localities on behalf of South West Yorkshire’s NHS Trust; directly within the community, at a secure children’s home in Leeds and at a young offenders institute. My main focus is working with young offenders who have a history of harmful sexual behaviour, and who pose a risk.

There’s no set pattern to my day as I could be at one of those sites, but a lot of my work involves direct appointments with young people where I carry out assessments related to their offences and recommend appropriate interventions.

I also supervise another frontline social worker and hold responsibility for overseeing the wellbeing commitments of the team.

My proudest moments

Winning two awards at the Social Worker of the Year Awards 2015 will always be a personal highlight for me. I was nominated by a consultant Psychiatrist and Clinical Lead and it was extremely humbling to know that my work was recognised by a medic when there is generally a divide between health and social services.

Prior to my appointment in 2012, there hadn’t been a social worker within the Forensic CAMHS service, and so I’ve been able to actively encourage my health colleagues to open up referral pathways to social care.

It helped that I had worked in child protection in Wakefield Council prior to that. I knew that there were better ways health and social services could work together and I set about making that happen.

When I started, the team was completing lengthy reports, resulting in longer waiting times for young people. My first step was to lead on the introduction of shorter, more specialist risk assessments.

Social work is now integral to the Forensic CAMHS service. With the support of the rest of the team, we are now seeing a much faster throughput of cases with young people gaining access to the specialist help they need within 48 hours of being referred to our service.

Lessons I’ve learnt

Although you never stop learning, most of the lessons I learnt were in my first couple of years as a NQSW. After graduating I worked in a child protection team for three years, which gave me an incredible grounding. In such an intense role, you learn very early on about the things that work and what you should have done differently. Every difficult meeting or discussion I had back then has made me the practitioner today.

The most challenging part of my job

…is finding ways of overcoming some of the organisational challenges that we all face. Services are under increasing pressure, which means there are restrictions on resources.
I also work with a variety of young people, each with their own unique set of challenges. It’s very difficult to cater for their individual needs, let alone with depleted resources, but when you find an intervention that works for that person and know that you’ve contributed to their lives, it’s incredibly rewarding.

After work

I believe it’s really important to try and keep to a set working pattern that enables you to have a good work-life balance. There are occasions where it’s not possible, but I do try to keep to my hours of 9 to 5.

I also use my annual leave wisely. I have one main holiday and I make time for the occasional long weekend; enough time off to recharge without having to come back to a mountain of work!

Personally, I love being out in the fresh air after a day’s work; I have a crazy but adorable little jack russell shih-tzu cross called Elvis who joins me on my walks!

For more interesting articles such as Helen’s story, check out the latest issue of Sanctuary Social Work News!

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