A day in the life of Mary, a family caseworker

Mary Tear, a family accommodation caseworker in the City Hearts team, shares what a typical day looks like for her.

“My role supports those who have come into our family safe-house: normally couples, or survivors with children. When people have been trafficked and their freedom has been taken away, this can lead to immeasurable trauma and a myriad of other practical, medical and legal issues such as a lack of immigration status, theft of ID, a lack of medical attention, and many other issues.

My role is to try and right some of these wrongs. I help my clients to access counselling, assist them with obtaining ID, help them to report to the police if they wish to do so, help them to find and liaise with immigration lawyers, and register them with local medical assistance.

My aim is to ensure the safety and continued freedom of my clients. My paramount consideration whilst doing so, is to ensure that I am also empowering them. I want my clients to be able to continue their life in freedom and to live comfortably their new surroundings.

There’s no typical day as a caseworker: every client has different needs made up of many factors, however my days are always busy, interesting and I am always surprised at how fast the time passes.

Typically, I wake up around 7. When I feel up to it, I pop to the gym to clear my head for the day. Once I reach the office, I grab a tea and have a chat with my colleagues, then head to my desk. I usually spend my morning advocating for my clients; this can include writing reports, or contacting the relevant authorities to assist with any claims, or chase any decisions or updates.

Lunch is usually spent catching up with colleagues. It’s a big team and everybody takes lunch at different times, so I normally chat to somebody different every day. I try not to talk about work in this time, as it’s important to get some mental space away from this.

My afternoon is spent directly with clients, attending appointments, or registering them for support, however it’s often the spur of the moment contact with the clients which can be the most beneficial: for example offering to walk somewhere with them if they are upset. Recently, we threw a party for a child’s birthday, it was lovely to see the clients and staff join together to have fun. We brought different things to make the party special, including balloons and a disco ball, and we played games and listened to music. A local charity called Cakes for Kids supplied the birthday cake! They provide cakes to families who might not be able to afford one.

I also spend a lot of time teaching my client’s life-skills, such as how to open a bank account, use public transport or register for things like education or medical services. More significantly however, is encouraging and giving confidence to my clients to make their own choices, which can be extremely difficult for somebody whose choices have previously been taken away from them. Something simple, such as choosing whether to walk or take a bus to an appointment, can be the hardest choice for the client because they are not used to voicing their preference, or because they have too many other thoughts occupying their mind. It is important to be patient and give the client the space to make these small decisions.

After work, I either play Korfball, or I go to the pub quiz with my teammates! However, sometimes I stay at home with my housemates and do embroidery which is very therapeutic for me.

It’s incredible to be able to make a difference in the first few stages of somebody’s recovery. Often when clients arrive at our safe-house, they have come directly from their exploitation, so my privilege is to see how somebody has changed since their arrival until the day they move into their own accommodation.

I feel very lucky to work in the family accommodation, in particular as I get to spend time with children which make my job a lot more fun! Plus, my team are fantastic and together we make a great effort to celebrate the little wins.”