A FORMER James Watt student has been named Scotland's social worker of the year.

Jean Ritchie, 60, who works in adult support and protection as well as advocacy for carers, has been recognised for her outstanding contribution to the profession.

She told the Tele that studying at James Watt, which is now West College Scotland, was life changing for her after leaving school at 16, working in various jobs and raising her three children. 

The turning point came in 1997 when Jean's mother sadly passed away suddenly, prompting her to reflect and seek a new direction.

Jean hopes she can inspire other people to take a chance at college. She enrolled in the Greenock campus for an HND in social sciences and was inspired to carry on into social work at university.

Jean said: "Further education is so important and without it I would not be doing a job I absolutely love. Social work is so rewarding.

"I would say to anyone do not let fears curb your ambition. If I can do it, you can too. Attending college can be life changing and so rewarding.

"Leaving school with no formal qualifications, I found support, guidance, and encouragement from my lecturer and it instilled a lifelong love for learning."

Now celebrating her 20th year as a qualified social worker, Jean won the title at the Scottish Social Services Awards.