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Augusta McCabe

Augusta McCabe

Diploma in Social Work/CQSW 1973

Graduated: 1973

I was a mature student when I started my course at Edinburgh.  I started my working life as a bank clerk with the Bank of Ireland, then worked in the Banco di Roma, Rome, Italy for a year.  In 1961 I joined Aer Lingus as an air hostess.  During my time with Aer Lingus I studied and completed the B. Soc. Sc, degree in Unviersty College, Dublin (UCD) in 1971.  I worked for a year as a trainee social worker in the psychiatric service of the (then) Eastern Health Board and was very fortunate to secure a place on the Edinburgh Univeirsyt course for the Diploma in Social Work (CQSW) which I obtained in 1973.  I applied for the course in Edinburgh because at that time Edinburgh was at the forefront of psychiatric medicine and my choice was to work in psychiatric social work.  I was also aware that if I stayed in Dublin to do my course I would have the same lecturers as I had for my basic degree.  A change of culture would be (and indeed was) more enlightening.

The year I spent in Edinburgh was a very special year for me.  I was a mature student, in my thirties, and here I was in this wonderful city and a student all over again!  I shared a house with three other university from my own class and two from the school of nursing.  Within walking distance of College, the house was facing out onto the park, and looking out on Arthur's Seat.  I always visit the site when I am in Edinburgh as I have such good memories of my time there.  The placements during my course were in a local Social Service Department and the Andrew Duncan Clinic in the Royal Edinburgh Hospital.  Famous names like John (Kock) Sutherland, Sula Wolff and Henry Walten were in the air and in the college, Judith Brearley comes to mind, with my tutor being Prof. John Triseliotis.  Coming from what was quite a 'closed' environment in Ireland at that time, Edinburgh was like a breath of fresh air.  There was always a contingent of Irish girls on the social work course so it was an added bonus returning home, to continue to meet Edinburgh graduates in the work place.  I made great friends when in Edinburgh and while the numbers are dwindling now, I still have wonderful memories of my time during that year.

Following my year in Edinburgh, I was appointed to the Child and Family Psychiatric service in the Eastern Health Board when I returned to Ireland.  From there I moved in 1979 to Community Care as Head of the social work team for the County of Kildare.  My next move was to the single handed post of Social Work Adviser in the Department of Health (Government Ministry) in 1982.  In the latter years of the 1990s I was instrumental in setting up the new Social Services Inspectorate with which we received invaluable assistance from the Chief Inspector SSI, Northen Ireland.  I retired from the Department when my post as Adviser was subsumed into the newly established national Social Services Inspectorate in the year 2000.  Following my retirement, I returned to UCD and completed a Masters in Social Work and continued to work as a freelance consultant doing project work for a range of social services for a number of years.  During my time as a social worker I was very active in the Irish Association of Social Workers.  In 1978 I was elected President of the Irish Association of Social Workers and in 1979 to President of the EEC Liasion Committee of Social Workers.  In 1986 I was elected as President of the International Federation of Social Workers (1986-88).

If I had any advice for social work education in the future, it would be that social workers should be encouraged to take a course in philosophy.  With the complexity of the decisions now facing social workers, an understanding of philosophical concepts e.g. ethics, could be like a touchstone in helping to understand and deal with the difficult world we live in today.

Source: own contribution (20.10.2016)