"A career that helps change lives for the better" - Ben, Sheffield
Published Wed 8th Mar, 2023

Ben Egginton, Senior Social Worker at Sheffield Council’s Vulnerable Adolescent Team

From a young age my journey into children’s social work has been inextricably linked to that of a close family member who received help and support from their social workers. It was as a direct result of this support that my relative was able to turn their life around and go on to achieve a successful career in children’s social work themselves. Just as this has helped to shape their life, this too has helped to shape mine.

As a teenager I volunteered at a charity in South Africa. Much of this involved visiting families in deprived areas, so the work was very much focussed around meeting families’ basic needs, such as making sure they had access to food and medication. Almost always the families would run up to the entrance of the village – sometimes 100 of them - to greet us warmly. I remember being in awe of these people and found it extremely humbling and eye opening to be helping so many who were facing extreme hardship on a daily basis.

This experience changed my entire career path. I’d gone from being set to become a PE teacher to applying for a BA (Hons) degree in social work. At university I felt academically challenged for the first time and I didn’t always find it easy. But my Mum persuaded me to stick with it and I’m so grateful she did because it’s 100% been worth it.

I began my career at Sheffield Council’s Children Looked After service in 2017, which at the time felt like a dream come true.. The ages and circumstances of the young people I worked with was incredibly broad but many had experienced abuse or neglect during their early years, or had been around domestic abuse, drug or alcohol misuse. My role involved supporting these young people, both on a practical level when accessing local services, or as a listening ear to ensure they were being supported emotionally.

I then went on to become a senior children’s social worker before joining Sheffield Council’s “Edge of Care” service 14 months ago, where I’ve since remained. This is focussed around offering the same kind of support, but on a more intensive level and specifically to older children and their families, rather than looked-after children.

I was recently able to help a family who, despite their best efforts, were struggling to cope with a child who had experienced a lot of trauma during their early years and was also presenting with challenging, often volatile behaviour. I was able to get an Autism and ADHD diagnosis, which meant I was able to help them access the right support from the relevant local services and do some intensive, one-to-one intervention work to help the child manage and navigate their emotions. The transformation was dramatic and as a result, the child was able to stay with the family. Removing children from the family home is always a last resort and in particular with adolescents as it can be both counterproductive and further traumatising to a family who are already struggling to cope, which was very much the case here.

I’m really well supported in my role by my manager, which helps both me and the families I work with. How you approach the job is also really important. As someone who is quite laid back, I find that a bit of humour or being honest and open about what brought me to the role, can go a long way in helping to break down barriers. But it’s also about doing what you say you’re going to do so a child knows you can be counted on.

I think I’d be hard pressed to find anyone who couldn’t help or add something to someone else’s life and children’s social work is the perfect profession to do that. Social work is something that’s really important to me because in helping to shape my life, I’m hoping it is helping to shape the lives of many others.