Helen TiptonPlease tell us a little about yourself. What makes you laugh? What makes you angry?

I’m a mother of two children; one aged five and one aged eight. I don’t get a lot of spare time but do enjoy crafting and knitting. I also like to read and write creatively! I have about 4 novels in my head – I just need time to get them onto paper! I also spend time supporting people suffering with Canda Equina Syndrome, which I also have. I tend to find humour in everyday life. I enjoy being cheerful.

It takes a lot to make me angry but things that really push me are injustice to anyone or myself. I get angry if people, my children or myself are treated unfairly or very rudely. I’m a very strong and confident person, so tend to stand up for things in as positive and calm way as possible, but if necessary I can focus anger in a more positive and controlled way! 

Helen  "I think the website is looking great so far! Really pleased to be involved and to see how important the University of Birmingham thinks involving service users and carers in the social work programme is"

How long have you been involved with the Social Work programmes at the university and why did you want to be involved?

I have been marking assignments since 2005 but last year, September 2011, I was lucky enough to pass the test to be involved in all sorts of ways! I have been a role-player and on the panel for Readiness for Practice to help prepare students for placement. I have been involved in support teaching with BA, MA and post-qualified social work students. I have also been on the panel for interviewing prospective students.

I wanted to get involved as although I enjoyed the marking, after being suddenly left physically disabled the opportunity to be more involved in the social work programme was opened to me! I love working at the university as I enjoy getting to know the staff, students and other service users and carers. It’s been fantastic being able to be useful and helpful again, doing work which is worthwhile and to feel you are a part of society again!

Everyone is so friendly and helpful and welcoming – it’s one of the best jobs I’ve ever had, in fact it doesn’t feel like work at times as the role is so diverse and interesting you never know what exciting part you’ll be involved with next!

Which areas of the BA and Social Work programmes have you worked on?

I have worked on marking BA Social Work Identity and Reflective Learning Journals, assignments, BA and MA Readiness for Practice role-player, panel member and meet and greeter, admissions interviewing, support teaching, various workshops for post-qualified social workers, teaching by explaining own experiences, working with vulnerable people, disabilities.

I took park in a session for prospective students and have acted as a panel member on a question and answer session with post-qualified social workers.

What do you enjoy most about working with the students at the University of Birmingham?

I love working with the students as it is very exciting to see them grow and develop at each level, whether it’s BA, MA or PQ. I really enjoy debating or discussing subjects with them and hearing their opinions and ideas. I love to see almost a “light bulb” go on as they realise or get an idea about the subject being discussed. I like to be able to be open and available to answer questions they have and encourage the students to feel free to ask me anything! I love their positive feedback about having “live” service users who can help and support them as they develop into social workers of the future. 

What qualities do you look for in social work applicants at interview? What makes a good social work student?

I look for prospective students who have experience of “life” or work which they can then utilise to reflect on going forward into a social work role. I look for a person who has anti-oppressive values and who values people as individuals. Although being friendly and confident is a plus, I try to put prospective students at ease who are very nervous, as I’m very keen to really listen to what they have to offer a career in social work.

What would be your message to social workers of the future?

Although we are living in very tough times financially, do not become so obsessed by the cuts and tight budgets that you lose sight of the service users and carers. Try to treat each service user and carer as an individual, who has hopes, fears and feelings, just like you have.

Try to show active listening to them and where you cannot perhaps sort everything or anything you may be the sign post to help the service user or carer help themselves.