My cereal bowl


Colette Ham

Your Experience and involvement with Social Work

I qualified as a social worker in 1999 and joined the London Borough of Havering as a Newly Qualified Social Worker in a Children in Need /Child Protection Team. I progressed to Senior Practitioner and then Team Manager, managing 2 Teams for 6 years. Then followed my involvement in the training and development of Social Workers in both Children’s and Adults Services, from pre-qualifying to advanced stage. I project manage various Government initiatives – Frontline, Step up to Social Work, Think Ahead, Social Work Apprenticeships to name a few.

Write briefly why you chose this object and what it means to you

An empty cereal bowl sits on my desk every morning. Looking at it I have feelings of satisfaction having eaten its contents and dispelling those feelings of hunger. I chose this item for 2 reasons

1) it is my daughter’s , a Service User herself – I like the pattern and it reminds me of her

2) Social worker desks are frequently ‘littered’ with evidence of food having been eaten. Cereal probably being high on the list during the course of the early morning.: Social Workers too hard pressed to eat in more pleasant surroundings.

An empty bowl brings to mind my years of child protection social work, dealing with cases where neglect was a risk to children. I remember the uncomfortable feeling of conducting a home visit and asking the parents to check their food cupboards – check deeper into cereal boxes which were there for show with no cereal in them. An empty bowl can bring to mind the empty feelings of service users who feel their future has little for them. Those living below at the line of poverty, those who have suffered loss, the homeless, those who feel oppressed by statutory intervention, much as we try to exercise ADP.

How much is our work non oppressive – Statutory intervention, unannounced visits, our western values imposed on those from minority groups etc.

The busy bright pattern on the bowl – reminds me of the wealth of activities for children and young people provided by our youth services. The fun activities in our day centres. The increasing successes for our Looked After Children who attain in Education and sometimes complete a degree course at University. But there are also paper clips that form part of this lovely pattern and that brings me back to ‘the desk’ and the need to get on with my busy schedule.