Danielle Richardson from Hetton-le-Hole witnessed the positive difference social workers make to people’s lives after her beloved nana, Betty, suffered a fall in 2018. Now the mother-of-two is pursuing her own career in social work and has been reunited with the inspirational social worker who opened her eyes to this rewarding profession.

When Danielle embarked on an MA in Social Work at the University of Sunderland she had one clear goal in mind - to help people through their most difficult times. A few years previously, her nana, Mary Elizabeth Wiley, known as Betty to her friends and ‘Mother Hen’ to Danielle and her sister, had fallen down the stairs and spent many weeks recovering in hospital.  Fiercely independent and happiest when looking after others, Betty was desperate to return to the home she had lived in all of her life in Horden. She was worried that if she accepted support, her choice of living at home could be taken away from her, making it an upsetting time for her and her family.

Kathrine and Danielle.jpgThankfully, these worries were eased when Durham County Council social worker Kathrine Grant visited Betty in hospital and put together a care package that enabled her to return home.

“Kathrine’s manner was absolutely perfect – professional yet approachable – and her kindness was evident,” said Danielle. “My nana was born in her house and it was a source of comfort and pride for her. Seeing Kathrine empower my nana to live independently was incredibly inspirational and I knew it was something that I wanted to do too.

“When my nana passed away in 2019 our whole family was heartbroken. I decided it was a transformational moment and applied to do an MA in Social Work. “I was really specific when I made my request for my 100-day placement, as I really wanted be on a hospital discharge team. I couldn’t believe it when I was placed in the same team as Kathrine at Durham County Council. It was wonderful to have the opportunity to thank her for helping my nana and my family and for inspiring me to go into such a rewarding career.”

The reunion was equally emotional for Kathrine. “I was overwhelmed when I received an email from Danielle informing me she was a student with our team,” she says.

“I was saddened by the news her nana had passed away but overjoyed that her experience with myself and her nana had inspired her to become a social worker. I believe my strengths are being an empathic listener, understanding what clients like Danielle’s nana want to achieve and striving to promote independence.

“Seeing Kathrine empower my nana to live independently was incredibly inspirational”


“Danielle was also able to demonstrate this with her nana and I’m sure she will take these skills forward into practice with other clients. I am looking forward to working with Danielle during her placement and wish her every success in her future as a social worker.” We currently employ more than 180 social workers supporting adults across a range of specialisms, including mental health, learning disabilities, substance misuse and hospital discharge. The teams work closely with colleagues in the NHS as part of the county’s integrated approach to health and social care.

In 2020, the council supported 23 social work placements, providing opportunities for students like Danielle to get first hand experience.

Due to the pandemic and the vulnerabilities of many clients, processes have been adapted to help keep people safe, including offering more virtual and telephone appointments.

“Working in a pandemic is challenging to say the least, but it’s amazing how resilient and creative people are in the face of adversity,” said Danielle. “It’s hard not having face-to-face contact but having Teams calls and emails still makes me feel part of the team. Everyone has been incredibly supportive and I don’t feel like I’m missing any learning opportunities.”

“I would strongly recommend anyone who is thinking about a career in social work to go for it. You’ll never look back.”