Ben O’Farrell

My name is Ben O’Farrell and I’m a residential childcare worker. I am employed by Nether Johnstone House Childcare Services and work in Johnstone. I’m registered with the SSSC.

I got to know a social worker back in 2004 and through a process of osmosis I became interested in social care as a potential career. Before this I worked in engineering. My first role was as a volunteer helping people with alcohol issues in Easterhouse. This was all very different to the corporate world where the focus is always on profit, here I felt I was directly helping people which gave me enormous satisfaction. My career has changed a lot since then, now I’m very happy working in residential childcare.

At Nether Johnstone House I build and develop meaningful relationships with all the young people in my care. I make sure all their needs are being met and that their case files are up to date. I listen to them talking at length about their past as they come to terms with their traumatic experiences and I provide support as they make new meaning from them.

I enjoy taking them to the cinema, parks, football matches, other sports and swimming.

I’ve had (and continue to have!) many life experiences that help me relate to the young people in my care. Some of my experiences were hard or personally difficult, but I feel they help me prepare young people for the challenges that lie ahead once they leave care.

I love history, politics, reading and writing. These interests and skills help me inspire the kids and hopefully get them to realise the importance of continuous learning and personal development.

I’ve also started to use storytelling as a way to help young people make sense of their past and the important things that have happened.

When I began working in social care I had no qualifications in the field, though I did have a certificate in mechanical engineering. After a few years I went on to achieve an HNC Social Services and SVQ Social Services (Children and Young People) at SCQF level 7. These qualifications gave me an initial grounding that I found useful, especially knowledge concerning child protection legislation.

I am currently halfway through the master’s in advanced residential childcare. I love doing this course and I feel I’ve learned so much that enhances my practice on a daily basis. I think continuous learning is key to developing your practice in social care; the challenges become harder due to increasing societal pressures and all the recent literature points to relational based practice being the future of good social care.

I love seeing my relationships with the young people grow and develop over the years. This career gives you an opportunity to develop the kind of meaningful relationships that give us a real platform to encourage positive change in young people. Seeing them achieve different milestones along the way is a huge source of pleasure and pride for me.

There are many positives. A negative is that I feel the political landscape, in terms of the financial resources available to social care, is a barrier to achieving the sector’s full potential.

This job is perfect for those who love to be challenged both intellectually and physically. Working in residential childcare can be intense and no two days are the same. You learn exponentially if you embrace the idea that what you’re doing isn’t a job, but a vocation that places the needs of the kids above all else.

The rewards are many. If you care, and are committed to developing your craft, then I can’t think of a better role within social care that will enable you to achieve your professional goals.

I think continuous learning is key to developing your practice in social care; the challenges become harder due to increasing societal pressures and all the recent literature points to relational based practice being the future of good social care.

Ben O’Farrell Residential childcare worker