Please tell us something about yourself

Paul RobertsI am an older person but young at heart. I believe in “enjoying it while you can” and “making the most of every moment”. I have two beautiful daughters, one who recently graduated from a respected university with a combined degree in English and French. The other is in her first year at university doing Music and Spanish. They make me feel very proud. I live in Bromsgrove but am a Brummie at heart. My great passion is music of all sorts. I play with a band of service-users called “Kakophony”. I go to a lot of summer festivals working with Birmingham Friends of the Earth.

I have learnt to the play drums in the last few years as well as keyboards and blues harmonica.

Paul  "I find working with staff and students within IASS immensely satisfying. I have always been treated with respect and appreciated for my contribution as a person with lived experience of mental health distress and services. Service user and carer involvement are an essential part of a social work student’s development in their journey to become the professionals of the future."

What makes me laugh?

Frasier, Dylan Moran, Mighty Boosh, Have I Got News For You, Father Ted

What makes me angry?

Inequality and exploitation caused by capitalism.

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

I got involved first in 1986 when Dawn River of Admissions attended a Suresearch Meeting inviting members to get involved in assessing students applying for the BA/MA Social Work courses through observing group discussion and how they interact. I was motivated to make a difference in improving services. My work was part of the process of making a full recovery from chronic depression which I suffered from for a number of years.

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

  • Teaching sessions
  • Recruitment / Selection panels 
  • Preparation for Placement
  • Readiness for Practice
  • Portfolio assessments
  • International Exchange

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

I get great satisfaction from communicating my lived experience as a mental health service user to students in the hope of making a difference to the professionals of the future, I raise their awareness of the complexities of their work, telling it as it really it is, essential qualities they require to become a good social worker. From the feedback we receive the students fully appreciate service user and carer involvement.

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

I am not looking for the finished product at interview. The qualities I look for are:

  • Open mindedness
  • Sensitivity and listening skills
  • A people person / engaging / caring
  • Resilience
  • Non-Judgemental
  • Flexibility of though / creativity
  • Enthusiasm
  • Desire to make a change

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

Social workers have an essential role to play in the future in empowering vulnerable people to achieve their goals of recovery.

It is a tough profession made even tougher by financial cuts. They need to be grounded, show emotional resilience, be a pillar of strength and hope to their clients. They need to be able to connect to clients in engaging in a therapeutic relationship. With this connection progress can be made based by honesty, trust and working together in a joint project to achieve the client’s aspirations.