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  • 23 December 2017
  • 3 min read

Social Worker or parent at Christmas?

  • Diane Willis
    Probation Officer

Diane Wills details how her own family experiences have resulted in her becoming a Social Work professional.

Many years ago, before I qualified, I worked for a social services emergency duty team. I screened calls, gave advice, and gently but firmly acted as a gatekeeper to the actual social worker who was only expected to attend situations if there was a dire emergency.

This is where I learned the phrase, ‘benign neglect’; one which has subsequently become very useful in my role as a parent.

I only mention this because I am slightly more ‘bah humbug’ than a Christmas Elf, and I would always take the opportunity to work over the festive season, including Christmas Day itself.

It was generally pretty quiet. Combustible families do not usually blow until just after the big day itself when they realise why they do not tend to spend time together.

The issues were usually about family situations breaking down if a child doesn’t usually live there but has returned for Christmas, people with mental health conditions often experiencing crises points at this time of year, and older people whose care worker did not arrive as the Christmas rotas caused complete disarray.

Christmas was never a particularly happy time for me, growing up in a family where there were high levels of stress and tension.

This is a natural time of year for reflection, and because I’m also a Social Worker, I’m pretty good at that stuff. My own experiences are probably a large contributor to me becoming a social work professional.

My upbringing has given me an understanding of the complexities of family life.

I now have children and so Christmas has again become something different; a slightly calmer and more peaceful event, although my autistic child very much still struggles with it.

Being the parent I am, I struggle with allowing my children to experience the ‘magic’ of Christmas whilst being simultaneously extremely uncomfortable with its misogynistic origins (the Virgin Mary; what’s that all about?), it’s symbols (Father Christmas; having to be good for a creepy old man who enters your house at night and leaves presents), and its sheer blatant consumerism into which I feel utterly coerced into engaging.

These are perhaps the professional disadvantages in never being able to just accept a situation as it is; I have to unravel it.

Overall, I still think it’s a pretty miserable time of year unless you are blessed enough to lead a charmed life, free from financial difficulties, mental health problems, and problematic relationships.

For me, it still leaves me feeling jittery, but at least I am now in the fortunate position to tolerate it.

About the author

  • Diane Willis
    Probation Officer

By profession, I am a Probation Officer, qualifying in 2001. My years in the London Probation Office has moulded and influenced my entire career; I relished the fast-pace, the challenging training, the high risk, and the support of my colleagues. However, after moving to Scotland and discovering they have no probation service, I became a social worker. Now, I am an independent practitioner running a small company, delivering criminal justice and social work services.

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  • Diane Willis
    Probation Officer

About the author

  • Diane Willis
    Probation Officer

By profession, I am a Probation Officer, qualifying in 2001. My years in the London Probation Office has moulded and influenced my entire career; I relished the fast-pace, the challenging training, the high risk, and the support of my colleagues. However, after moving to Scotland and discovering they have no probation service, I became a social worker. Now, I am an independent practitioner running a small company, delivering criminal justice and social work services.