“This is something I’ve always wanted to do”

Karen Phillips on her journey from the home office to PND Specialist practitioner and how volunteering helped her achieve her dream.

Working with women in the perinatal period is something I’d always been drawn to. After my own experience with PND having my own children, I always thought I’d love to be able to go and help mums suffering with it because it’s support I never had. I worked in the home office for years and had a good job and a family. I was never in a position to just pack my job in and go to University to get into social work.

I thought I couldn’t just leave my job and the security it brings. Then like fate really, I got made redundant! So I thought well I can go and do some voluntary work for now and that was the start of it. I just threw myself in, I loved the work and everything that I got out of it.

After about a year of volunteering a paid role become available for a pilot of the PND service in Macclesfield. During my voluntary work I had completed all my training and my level 1 and level 2 counselling so I went for it… and it got it! The position was only for 12 weeks but it was right out of my comfort zone. I didn’t know anyone within the area, so again I just threw myself in to it and thought ‘right, I can do this!’ and I did everything I could working in the specialist practitioner role.

When I came back to the Liverpool team I felt like I had proved myself and PSS offered me a role here. It was just temporary at this stage (for as long as the budget allowed) so my contract was extended once or twice. Then this year a more permanent role came up so it’s all just led up to this.

I never take it for granted because I know so many people would love this role, and I know I don’t have the degree back ground. It’s basically life skills and personal experiences that make me a good specialist practitioner and feel like I can relate to these mums. I’m starting my level 3 counselling next month so it’s just getting better and better. I can’t see myself going anywhere now, I think you’d have to frog march me out of here to leave!

I feel lucky to be part of this team…

Firstly for this service in particular, the team are amazing. They are so supportive even if you’re having a wobble some days there’s always someone there. They give you advice or point you in the right direction but the main thing is they just make you feel like one of the team. I never felt lesser being a volunteer, I always felt I was on the same level. They welcomed me from the start. Without their support I don’t know if I’d have stuck at my role, I was intimidated to begin with but they put me at ease.

Now, if I hear of anyone wanting to do voluntary work I always suggest PSS because of the support I’ve had here. Even with Lesley Dixon, she’s always treated me as one of the workers and always goes out of her way to chat. I used to always say ‘I’m just a volunteer’ and I used to get told off for saying it because volunteers are viewed as important at PSS too. Whenever I say to People I work at PSS they say: ‘Oh how did you get in there??, lots of people want to work here.
I love coming into work…

I never thought volunteering would lead to a paid role so soon. I just know I’m meant to do this. The work makes me feel alive- I love coming to work! When a visit goes well I ring Jo in the office and say ‘I love this job!’ just because by doing it you’re making someone’s life better and that feels amazing. Equally it can be hard because some people don’t respond to what you’re doing and you have to try different approaches.

One of the mums I’ve been working with has just started doing voluntary work at a children’s centre after I encouraged her. It’s a different route into work especially if you can’t afford university. Plus, with my life experience I felt like I was half way there. When I was sick after having my babies all I wanted was for someone to sit with me and normalise it and say ‘look, you’re not mad, you’re just going through something’ It makes me so happy that I get to do that for other new mums now.

Feedback from some of the women Karen has supported:
‘I have just been for a walk and thought about everything that’s happened and I just wanted to tell you how blessed I feel to have met you. I will never be able to thank you enough for everything you have done for me and my boys- I truly believe you’ve been our angel.’

‘Every day I hear you telling me ‘you can do this’ and it helps me so much, thanks for all of your support’