My name is Gary Dewar and I’m a service manager for Children 1st. I’m registered as a social worker with the SSSC. I manage the Edinburgh Family Wellbeing Service which provides practical, emotional and social support to children and families.
Arriving at a career in social work wasn’t a straight path. I graduated as an illustrator from Edinburgh College of Art in 2004 and loved using art as an enabling process for others. A chance phone call from a friend led to volunteering with young people moving into supported accommodation or who were homeless. This continued into all manner of work with children, young people and families who were facing challenges.
I became passionate about developing skills in listening and building relationships. I aspired to help people have control and choice in their own lives.
The Edinburgh Family Wellbeing Service is a busy city support team, so no two days are alike. As manager I lead the service and make sure we’re putting the voice of children and families at the centre of everything. I also supervise staff, arrange support from other agencies and even contribute to some of the more strategic decisions that the third sector help make around the city on issues of poverty or supporting children with additional needs.
I studied social work by distance learning at Robert Gordon University which enriched how I work with people by deepening my understanding of theory and practice. I already had a BA (Hons) in Visual Communication and a Postgraduate Diploma in Community Education. Community education and social work have commonalities and differences and I think both give me a good set of skills for working in a third sector (voluntary) setting, such as understanding the socio-political and structural issues that impact on people we work with.
I enjoy learning. It’s an enabling force that provides people with skills to control their own lives. Juggling work, family and part time learning is a challenge and shouldn’t be taken lightly but it gives back an ability to immediately apply theory to practice. Robert Gordon University and the staff developed a great course that was really supportive of students.
My past experiences help me as a social worker. Families come in all shapes and sizes and from all walks of life so every job and interest is relevant – be it bar work, factory work, shop assistant, youth worker or even bingo caller! I think sometimes ‘experience’ is framed as ‘professional experience’ but actually I learned as much from other roles as from children and families work. While you can’t have experience in everything I’ve always found it really helpful for those we support to know that I have life experience.
I love my job. It requires me to be creative, responsive, organised and a strong leader and communicator. I love working for an organisation with such clear aims and values, and with a team of experienced and dedicated individuals. They spend their days busy working around the city, in living rooms, in nurseries and schools, and with families making what I call ‘a million tiny miracles’ happen.
If you’re considering this career the first thing you should answer is ‘why do I want this job?’
You need to be clear about your own strengths, weaknesses and what you believe in. For example, what’s your opinion on the world, child poverty or inequality and discrimination?
The job is a privilege. To be part of someone’s life and in their home is a privilege. Even when challenging this should be treated respectfully.
Just like your own life, it’s a long process so remember you’re always learning. Keep studying, keep putting your learning into practice, be prepared to make mistakes and learn from them: learn from colleagues and from children and families.
Finally, always keep hope that things can change and that people have the skills to change – sometimes with your help.
I love working for an organisation with such clear aims and values, and with a team of experienced and dedicated individuals. They spend their days busy working around the city, in living rooms, in nurseries and schools making what I call ‘a million tiny miracles’ happen.Gary Dewar Service Manager, Children 1st