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Social services and healthcare

Margaret Butler

My name is Margaret Butler and I’m a substance misuse recovery worker with Addaction. I’m also a support worker at Waverley Care Home, providing all aspects of care to people living with dementia.

I find people endlessly fascinating and developed a strong sense of social justice through doing a degree in social policy. I have a caring nature, integrity and I’m good with words. I’ve always been a bookworm and apparently a love of books helps you be more empathic as you are so used to putting yourself in different characters’ shoes!

I got started by doing voluntary work with young people who had offended. This helped me gain a place on a social work course. I worked as a qualified and registered social worker for a number of years in a range of settings in adult social care and criminal justice. My training and experience as a social worker has helped me develop good assessment and report writing skills; this is useful if I’m asked to write something for a Children’s Hearing.

There is no doubt that having a qualification in social work and being registered with the SSSC opens up many career pathways, including my current role in a care home. I’d like other social workers to know that there are so many varied roles to choose from outside the standard statutory sector role. I’ve loved the jobs I’ve done and have developed a good work/life balance.

My role at Addaction draws on my experience from criminal justice social work where I used motivational interviewing when supervising offenders who had drug or alcohol problems. At Addaction I also get to use the holistic, person-centred care model that I learned as an adult social worker (and continue to practice at the care home). I’m passionate about supporting people to overcome issues with drugs and alcohol; when I did my social work training I didn’t think it was an area I’d be interested in but I couldn’t have been more wrong! This career also opens up a range of continuous learning opportunities and I’m looking forward to training with Counselling and Psychotherapy in Scotland (COSCA) this year.

I live with dyscalculia which means there are certain tasks involving numbers which I require a little more time to complete. It can take me longer to process time if it’s in 24hr format, and I get lost easily. I have developed a set of strategies and tools which help me such as carrying a map of the care home to help me find room numbers, and I use timers on my smartphone to make sure I don’t lose track of time.

The best thing about my career is the human relationship building. Everybody’s story is different and there is always hope. The feeling you get when someone opens up to you is amazing. It’s humbling and rewarding to see people overcome adversity and start to recover in front of your eyes. They are the ones doing the hard work, and I support and guide them on their journey. However it is very upsetting when someone you have worked with dies from a drug overdose, and the stigma our service users experience from society makes me angry. I would also like more funding for mental health.

My words of advice for someone who wants a career like mine? Do some voluntary work in the field you are interested in. This will help you see if it’s definitely what you want to do. I’m glad I did my social work training but you can have a great career in social care without it as there are so many other courses available (SVQs and HNCs for example).

Image of Margaret. There are posters on the wall talking about risks of drug use including hepatitis C.

There is no doubt that having a qualification in social work and being registered with the SSSC opens up many career pathways.

Margaret Butler Addaction