Georgia-Mae Riley wasn’t sure what she wanted to do after her A-Levels so signed up to a primary teaching degree because she thought she should follow the normal route onto university.
But the summer beforehand she took a job as a sessional worker helping young carers and ended up turning down her university place as she realised her true career direction.
Yet despite climbing the career ladder and co-running a pilot programme supporting young adult carers in Lancashire, Georgia-Mae still felt she lacked the qualifications held by some colleagues.
Georgia-Mae, from Rishton, said: “I work with a team of amazing people, but I always felt I didn’t have the qualifications to back up my experience like others did. So when my Chief Executive said she’d support me to study for a degree, whilst continuing to work, I thought why not.”
And that she did, gaining a First-Class Honours in Health and Social Wellbeing from Edge Hill.
She said: “Looking back, I never really knew what I wanted to do, so when I finished college and everyone was off to university I thought I should do the same. But once I started working for Carers Link Lancashire I loved it and knew it was what I wanted to do.”
She started working with young carers, supporting them in their difficult role of caring for a family member whilst managing school, house work and other tasks, and was asked to work on a Carers Trust pilot project.
The pilot brought young carers together so they could share experiences, form support networks and ultimately have a break from their caring role.
Now an assessment officer, Georgia-Mae finds herself visiting adults who are caring for their husband/wife or elderly relatives, many with dementia, to assess their needs and how they can be supported in their role with respite and other services.
Over the last three years Georgia-Mae has juggled work with full-time study and for her primary research dissertation assessed how community support services are perceived by carers of people with dementia in East Lancashire.
She said: “My degree has really deepened my understanding of social policy behind statutory services, the welfare state and also the role of private and third sector organisations in the community. I’ve been able to apply my knowledge directly into my professional practice and feel the knowledge I’ve gained about health inequalities has shaped the way I carry out my role.”
Georgia-Mae has also been able to feed back at work the findings from her dissertation showing differences in support services across the region in the hope changes can be made.
She added: “I’m so happy to have got a first class degree and definitely want to continue to study and work, maybe completing a Masters in Global Health.”
Edge Hill offers a range of courses in health and social care, visit the website for more information.