Between the rather unusual taste in bright coloured outfits and rather boisterous presence, the high demand regarding Cathie Long, independent social worker, could appear contrived. However, she is somewhat a subtle Casanova in her own field of work. The 57-year-old business owner has achieved in a plethora of industries and has more strings to her bow than initially meets the eye…
The Portsmouth born businesswoman currently works as a trainer, consultant and independent social worker whilst also in her third year of training to become a psychotherapist. However, being considered highly renowned in her field of work, Cathie’s career path wasn’t initially clear.
When talking about her school experiences she said “I really really hated it, I just felt like I didn’t fit in. I didn’t know how to relate to people, I just couldn’t do it. I was miserable”.
After leaving school, Cathie considered different career options, even contemplating a singing career after winning 3rd place at the Southampton Music Festival 1980. It was only after deciding to quit sixth for college, where six weeks into her studies, she felt a total misfit, that she sought advice for a careers advisor.
“The careers advisor suggested I went and looked at a place on the dental nurse course which was at a college of further education. And I went and did it, and I absolutely loved it. At the end of the year I was awarded the student of the Year Award from the British Dental Association for my very high exam results”.
She is surprisingly candid for somebody with an impressive array of awards and achievements. However, despite thriving in her role as dental nurse, Cathie quickly decided to change career paths.
“I don’t like being stuck indoors all the time I like to be in and out”, she continued. “I just needed that sort of stimulus and that variation”.
This need for change led to Cathie leaving her job at age 20 when she decided to return to college part-time to study A and O Levels, whilst working part-time as a Community Services Volunteer with young offenders and at a day centre for older people.
“I didn’t actually go to university to train as a the social worker until I was 28, because I started doing different kinds of social care jobs and just sort of build up my experience which led to me getting a place on the course. So that was it really”.
After the birth of her fourth child, Cathie and her family relocated to West-Wales where she continued working as a local authority social worker in a learning disability team and latterly as a Senior Practitioner in a Community Mental Health Team.
When asked how Cathie decided to become an independent social worker, she said:
“11 years ago, when we had a situation where our boiler had broken down and couldn’t afford to get a new boiler. So, I thought I’ll have to do something, so I did a piece of independent work, with an autistic person. And, it sort of started from that followed by me enrolling and studying for an MA in Autism at the University of South Wales. Initially, I was only doing independent assessments one day a week and then nearly seven years ago, I decided to leave the local authority and started working completely independently”.
Cathie has spent the last seven years growing her business working as a trainer, consultant and social worker but still persists with her love of learning and expanding her capabilities.
“I think one of the most poignant things for me was last year when I was 56, at the beginning of lockdown, I had finally had my face to face, assessment which is online and it transpired I am autistic. The year before I was assessed by and ADHD consultant and to my surprise I was diagnosed with ADHD. So, I’d lived 56 years of my life, not realising that I was autistic with ADHD, but knowing that I really struggled with some things struggled to understand some things that others can easily achieve. My diagnoses have enabled me to excel professionally and explains why the feedback I get from parents, and solicitors from barristers is that I really understand autism and when I write a report, I convey the essence of who the person is I am assessing of who they are”.
Cathie is continuing to grow her business, having recently taken on two new social workers. The question is; what will she do next?