Children’s services could be just the job for young people - Niall Kelly

What choices do our young people have in finding a job when many of their traditional routes in retail and hospitality have been closed down due to lockdowns and the economic recession?

Niall Kelly, CEO, Young Foundations, member of the Scottish Children’s Services Coalition

I believe that working in children’s services is a great option for those seeking a rewarding and fulfilling career, it certainly has been for me.

The Covid-19 pandemic has impacted upon Scottish society in every way and the national efforts to prevent the spread of infection have succeeded in limiting the number of families who have lost a loved one. Everyone should be proud of our individual and collective work and self-sacrifice to halt the spread of the disease. So as case numbers and hospitalisations due to the virus fall, we have every right to feel confident that we are nearing the end of this awful period.

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However, our efforts have had consequences on our health and well-being in other ways. In April the Scottish Government’s Chief Economist, Gary Gillespie, published his State of The Economy Report. In it he said that the Scottish economy could shrink by 33 per cent as a result of the economic impact of Covid-19. The industries that have been hardest hit are hospitality and retail, and it is the youngest members of the workforce who have suffered most. Unite, the largest union representing hospitality workers in Scotland, estimated that 50,000 jobs have be lost in this sector as a result of the pandemic.

So, with all the job losses in hospitality and retail, what are the alternatives for young people looking to start a career? If I were advising a young person on what to do next, I would strongly urge them to consider a role in children’s services. I started my career as a support worker in 1993, working in a residential children’s home. The work was extremely challenging both physically and emotionally, but it was also rewarding. I felt like I was making a difference in the children’s lives and helping them to have a better future. Many of the young people I supported then have remained in touch with me and I continue to get feedback from them on the importance of our experiences together on their lives today.

Unlike, retail and hospitality, the numbers of jobs in children’s services has remained stable throughout the pandemic and successive lockdowns. People working with children are now rightly identified as key workers and their work is seen as essential to society which has helped to considerably raise the profile and status of their work.

The Scottish Government is also playing a major role in professionalising the workforce and increasing the qualification levels of all those who work with children. The establishment of the Scottish Social Services Council, and the subsequent register for all those working in social care, has seen a greater emphasis on qualifications and professional conduct for those working in the sector.

I never believed that my colleagues and I who worked in children’s services were unskilled, but these recent moves towards professional status has helped the sector throw off its Cinderella image when compared with other career options.

Niall Kelly CEO, Young Foundations, member of the Scottish Children’s Services Coalition

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