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East Renfrewshire HSCP Adult Support & Protection Social Worker, 60-year-old Jean Ritchie, has been awarded the prestigious title of Scotland's Social Worker of the Year 2023. Recognising her outstanding contributions to Adult Protection and her advocacy for the importance of Carers, Jean said she is committed to ensuring “their voices are heard within the organisation's strategy and operations”.

Jean's journey to becoming a Social Worker is one marked by determination and personal growth. After leaving school at 16 with no formal qualifications, she pursued varying career paths as well as becoming a mum to her 3 children. The turning point came in 1997 when Jean's mother sadly passed away suddenly, prompting her to reflect on her path and seek a new, meaningful direction.

Enrolling at Reid Kerr College, now West College Scotland in 1998 to study an HNC Healthcare as a mature student, Jean initially considered a career in nursing. However, her interest in Social Policy, Psychology, and Law during the course steered her towards Social Work. She then enrolled at James Watt College, now West College Scotland in Greenock in 1999, completing a two-year HND course in Social Sciences.

Jean's commitment to her newfound path continued with a BA (Hons) in Social Work from the University of the West of Scotland. Now celebrating her 20th year as a qualified Social Work practitioner, Jean emphasizes the value of life experience in her career, something that she says “cannot be taught in a traditional classroom”.

Specialising in the care of the elderly and adult support & protection in recent years, Jean's dedication to her work was recognised as Social Worker of the Year 2023 at the Scottish Social Services Awards.

Reflecting on her college experience, Jean acknowledges the pivotal role of West College Scotland played in shaping her future, “Leaving school with no formal qualifications, I found support, guidance, and encouragement from my lecturers. Night classes in Higher English and Math provided essential support, instilling in a lifelong love for learning”.

Jean's story serves as an inspiration for those facing uncertainties about their future. She encourages individuals to follow their hearts and dreams;

“Do not let fears curb your ambition, if I can do it, you can too. Attending college can be life changing and so rewarding.”

In addition to her formal qualifications, Jean has pursued continuous learning throughout her career, earning postgraduate awards including the MSC Advanced Professional Studies at the University of Stirling. She self-funded an SVQ level 5 and the Registered Managers Award in Social Care, enhancing her insights into the specialist care needs and delivery for older adults in communities.

Julie Greer, Curriculum Quality Leader for Social Science at West College Scotland said,

“Jean's story is a testament to the transformative impact of education, resilience in the face of challenges, and the invaluable contributions of Social Workers to our communities. Her achievements stand as an inspiration to current and future students, highlighting the potential for personal and professional growth through education.”

To follow in Jean’s footsteps check out our Social Science course open now for August!