Hi Paul! Tell us how you came to join Extern?

I was working as an outdoor pursuits instructor for a number of years, and one of the most rewarding parts of my job was coaching youth groups. I made the decision that I wanted to work with young people in a more holistic way, so I went back to college to study Youth and Community Work.

I started with Extern in a part-time position in 2008 during my final year in college and have worked here ever since, in a number of different roles.

What made you want to work for Extern?

I was very interested in Extern’s resiliency approach to working with young people and also because they targeted hard to reach young people who might not have the capacity to attend mainstream youth services.

What sort of work do you and your team do on a day-to-day basis?

I am currently the Service Manager with the East Coast Bray Janus and Independent Home Support Service (IHSS) teams. The projects’ aims are to work with young people and their families who have been identified to be at risk and referred to us by TUSLA.

They also help children to develop their sense of community and their social skills through different activities.

Our Janus team offers one-to-one informal counselling for the young people involved. This means that key workers come to the young person’s home and collect them, at a time that suits them, removing any traditional barriers which may arise from having to go to a centre. Our IHSS team work more closely with the parents and families.

The Extern teams will work alongside other community organisations and statutory bodies to make the services as holistic as possible. It is also introducing young people to activities and interests which they may not have previously known how to access, including specific sports, art and music.

What areas do you cover geographically – and is it a challenge to cover such a wide area?

We cover South Dublin and Wicklow, which is quite a large and densely populated geographic area, so there can be a lot of driving involved!

What kind of insight has working with Extern given you into the world of social care?

What I have found is that the mix of qualifications of staff members is one of its strengths. The majority of staff are trained in social care but we also have youth workers, teachers, therapists and many more. The mix of these different perspectives and expertise strengthens the service we can offer clients.

What are the particular challenges faced by the people you work with in your area?

These can range from lack of belief in self and low expectation in life, to negative cultures in communities, economically disadvantaged areas, and things like cannabis use.

What are the qualities you need to do your job?

Lots of patience, a non-judgmental outlook, enthusiasm, curiosity and a good sense of humour. Working with young people and families that are hard to engage with requires a certain amount of perseverance and the ability not to take rejection personally.

However, if you allow people time and space, mixed with good relationship-building skills to get them to engage in the very important ‘first session’, you have already achieved a lot.

It is important that each subsequent session has an objective; this objective might not be met, or have to be dropped or changed, but that’s okay.

What do you enjoy most about your job?

What I enjoy most is when change happens. This is when something switches or shifts in a young person’s view of a situation.

It might take a while for this to happen but when it does there is suddenly a fork in the road which presents and which hopefully, and with the right support, will lead to a better outcome.

Have you ever had any interesting or unusual stories you can share with us?

On my way to my first ever team meeting with Extern I drove down into an underground car park before realising that I was in the wrong place. I turned around and found that the gate was closed.

So I spent the first half of my first meeting with my new team trapped in an underground car park with no phone coverage. I thought to myself ‘I’m not going to last too long in this job’. That was nearly 15 years ago.

And what do you like to do when you’re not at work?

I like sailing, going to Leinster matches, kayaking, hiking and going on nice holidays. But most of all I love just spending time with my family