“I feel lucky to be able to help”: A ‘Week In the Life’ of a Family Support Worker

Julia Ruane

Every year, Children North East reaches thousands of babies, children, young people and families across the North East and beyond… Our ‘Week in the Life’ blog series shines a spotlight on some of the amazing people who help make that impact possible, from practitioners working in the heart of communities to teams behind the scenes keeping the lights on.

In this edition, we meet Julia Ruane, who joined us as a volunteer at the Cowgate Centre and last year took on the role of Family Support Worker. The work she does is wide-ranging, from delivering fun activities for the little ones to supporting families going through our specialist Domestic Abuse Recovery and Education programme (DARE). Let’s learn more…


What’s the first thing you’re doing on Monday morning?

The first thing I do is a run around of the centre. It’s a chance to catch up with everyone who’s in that day, get updates on their life and what’s happening… but also to tidy. When you have this many children coming through there is always a runaway puzzle piece or teddy and I like to find some order, even if it’s only for a moment. Then it’s getting started with emails and texts from the families I’m working with.


What does a typical day look like for you?

You have to plan but it never goes to plan! Some days I’ll be based in the centre supporting the families coming through, but often I’m focused on my casework.

I currently have two families I’m working closely with, who are faced with a number of challenges. The work is wide-ranging and you really have to respond to things as they come up. One day I might be supporting someone with limited English (after living away so long l seem to find it easy to communicate with people from different cultures and languages) to apply for a passport, sometimes it might be going with them to a meeting with the school or job centre or social services to ensure they’re supported through processes.

In the school holidays, my attention is on the DARE programme, working intensively with young people who have experienced domestic abuse. I work with the teens specifically, delivering sessions on subjects like feeling safe and managing negative emotions, but my main focus is getting them to open up about what they’ve experienced so they can start processing the trauma.


What most excites you about your role as a Family Support Worker?

That’s easy. When something clicks with support and you get to see families smiling and opening up. When you see the children smile, it means the world. Also, sometimes I can sense I’m the right person for a family, you find a way to communicate really well and often I get the impression they haven’t had that before from family services. Someone texted me the other day saying “Thank you for letting me be me”. I can’t explain what a fabulous feeling that was. I feel lucky to be able to help.


What did you do before you Children North East?

Where do I start? I was supposed to have retired ten years ago! I’ve had a life full of adventures. I lived in the Middle East for a long time when I was younger. I was a parent and worked different jobs. It was a great life. I’d always find myself in unexpected but interesting situations… I once ended up having dinner with Patrick Swayze!

I’ve also always had something going on to help people in my community. When I lived in an area with a lot of abandoned dogs it was rehoming them. Then there was a period where I was connecting young people and families to free furniture when they were in need. I can’t leave a problem alone if I see an opportunity to help!


What do enjoy outside of work?

Spending time with the family is always number one. When we can find the time in everyone’s busy lives, we come together to have a Sunday Lunch… those are the best moments. I also love meeting up with the girls I grew up with and travelling – but to faraway places, for example, I recently went to Japan. For my 50th I did Chicago with the girls, THAT was a good time!


Learn more about Julia’s work in our DARE Programme case study, which shares information about what happens on the DARE programme and insight from some of the team who deliver it (including Julia!).