David Clarke, BA Social Work

I was delighted to win the Bright Spark category at the Scottish Social Services Awards, which celebrate people who work in social services in this country, and the UNISON Branch Top Male Social Worker Award.

It’s amazing to be recognised, especially as I never intended to become a social worker – it was actually my passion for supporting young people in care that motivated me to study a BA Social Work.

I ran a business but never enjoyed it. When I sold it I thought I’d retire and, with my wife, foster young people full time as we wanted to commit to helping people. It was challenging to switch off though, so to inform my fostering practice, I looked into studying.

The programme attracts very different people but we are all motivated by wanting to help the most vulnerable in society. The programme is excellent and extremely challenging and it’s backed by crucial placements. One of my placements was with East Ayrshire Council and I discovered there is nothing more intimate than sitting in a family’s living room helping them though a crisis. That kind of experience got me hooked. So, despite my initial plans, I’m delighted to now be working with the council in such a worthwhile role that has an impact on people’s lives. My goal is to do a PhD but the draw of social work is just too great for the moment.

My wife and I now have two children of our own, aged three and two, and have fostered a number of children while I have been studying. We are currently fostering a teenager so it’s a busy home life. It’s mega challenging but the rewards of fostering are so great.

I couldn’t have done it without my wife’s support but family or other caring commitments shouldn’t be a barrier to studying. Yes it will be hard but if you have a burning desire then you will be supported at GCU. Support is always there – from lecturers to the first-class Learning Development Centre. GCU genuinely wants you to succeed.