‘It’s What Makes Social Work Worthwhile’

Twelve people with learning disabilities have recently moved into their own flats fulfilling their dreams of a much more independent life. For Iso Mullarkey, a social worker from Bishop’s Stortford, it is times like these that make her job worthwhile.

She told the Herald the move towards allowing individuals to have greater choice of how money is spent on them means “fulfilling dreams both they and their cares never thought possible.” For one of the 12 – a woman in her 30s – moving into her flat was the first time she had spent a night somewhere on her own.

“She can now choose what time she goes to bed,” says Iso. “It is small things like this which we all take for granted that makes such a big thing to the person involved. I very much see my job as empowering people by giving them opportunities.”

The 47-year-old, who works for the East Herts and Broxbourne’s community learning disability team, added: “There are so many different aspects to the job. We work with people who have learning disabilities to provide services to meet their needs or to empower them to meet their own needs.

“We try and support them and their families – making sure they receive the benefits they are entitled to. There have been huge, huge changes in social work in the last few years. Now it is very much making sure they have ‘ordinary lives’. People with learning disabilities want exactly the same things as the rest of us – they want a job, a home and to have good relationships.”

Bishop’s House, in Windhill, Bishop’s Stortford, is a multi-purpose day centre where Iso spends some of her time. About 70 people visit the centre each day for a whole host of reasons and not just people with learning difficulties.

According to Iso, people in Bishop’s Stortford tend to be much more tolerant towards those with learning disabilities than other areas. She said: “It is variable. Generally we are very lucky here because Bishop’s Stortford residents allow people to get on with their own lives. But you are always going to get people who target those with learning disabilities. We do have some problems on school buses for example.”

One way of trying to get a more understanding community is to get them more involved in the good work. “Many local secondary school children do work experience at Bishop’s House and many people volunteer here,” she said. She is also keen to improve the reputation of social work in general.

“There has always been a negative view of social work especially in the child care field because of the publicity we get because of the small number of occasions when something goes wrong. “Very rarely is the positive work we do highlighted and very often we cannot publicise the good parts because of confidentially issues.”

Budget restraints, too much paperwork, and negative press are the only downsides to the job which she has always done in some shape or form. She said: “I would recommend the job to anyone – I love what I do.