UCLan graduate, Karen Livesey, reflects on starting her youth work business

PGCert Leadership and Management in Social Work and Social Care

Karen chose to study PGCert Leadership and Management in Social Work and Social Care at the University of Central Lancashire to extend her knowledge whilst she was employed as an Advanced Practitioner at Lancashire County Council’s Wellbeing, Prevention and Early Help Service.

During this time, Karen was responsible for staff teams who worked with children, young people and families with vulnerabilities and complex needs. These individuals needed early interventions to help them towards achieving positive personal, social and educational outcomes with an aim of improved health and wellbeing for all.

Karen’s desire to undertake further study addressed her aim to enhance her future professional development and challenge her personal expectations. She found studying difficult at times due to balancing full-time work with personal commitments and bringing up two children. Karen said: “When I finished University I smiled with relief then watched the dramas and documentaries I had missed due to extensive reading and research.”

Karen started her professional career as a Primary School Teacher before taking up a post at Lancashire Youth and Community Service as a Senior Youth Worker. From this she got involved in further training related to abuse with Lancashire County Council and specialist organisations including, Safe and Sound Child Sexual Exploitation (CSE) and Parents against Child Exploitation (PACE). Speaking about the importance of this subject, Karen said: “Over the years the number of CSE cases have increased significantly and the need to address grooming and abuse via social media is dramatically evident.”

Karen Livesey
Karen Livesey

After finishing her studies in 2018, Karen set up her own business as an independent trainer called C.A.T. (Child Sexual Exploitation Awareness Training). Part of Karen’s motivation to create her own business came from a UCLan competition entitled ‘The Big Idea’ where students put their entrepreneurial skills to the test in a live challenge aimed at enhancing graduate enterprise and employability. Karen’s team won the ‘Most Innovative Business Idea’ and this outcome gave her the push to set up C.A.T.

The University helped Karen to grow her business. UCLan’s Digital First assisted with Karen’s website and a Business Mentor from UCLan’s Business Start-up team, Propeller, gave her advice and guidance. Karen also won a Propeller Enterprise Award with funding that helped with one of her business projects. Since launching her business, Karen was nominated for the Enterprise Vision Award 2019 under the inspirational women category.

In recent years, Karen set up a Community Interest Company called No Whispers, which is related to training in child abuse and safeguarding. Karen is also an Associate Trainer for two national organisations: Barnardo’s and Talking life.

Looking back on her time at UCLan, Karen commented: “My course provided a multitude of interactive activities that were stimulating and thought-provoking as well as lots of fun! I have enjoyed meeting the vast array of visiting lecturers and engaging in dynamic and challenging discussions. I discovered new resources and research in the library, found

ways to critique work and ideas and begin to relate my own professional experience to wider academic studies.”

Karen continued: “I have been given opportunities, contacts, learning experiences and numerous challenges that have shaped my academic skills, personal ambitions and quality of life.”

When Karen was asked what advice she would give to those wanting to take up similar study, she said: “Do it and don’t be afraid to face your demons. Sometimes you need to push yourself and raise your own expectations, but with a realisation that progress can be made with a ‘stepping-stone’ approach.”