Billie-Jo McDowell is a qualified social worker, having recently graduated from Queen’s University Belfast. Billie-Jo’s passion is ensuring education is accessible for all, regardless of the barriers they may face, in particular those who are care-experienced.
Having grown up in foster care and residential care, Billie-Jo has a deep understanding of the factors that impact educational attainment for Looked After Children and Care-Experienced people.
Given individual influences and the support of a range of people, Billie-Jo was able to attain top grades in school and is a two-time graduate of Queen’s University Belfast, having graduated in 2016 with B.Sc. Geography and in 2019 with BSW Social Work.
Billie-Jo aims to promote change to allow other care-experienced people the same educational opportunities she had. With support and encouragement from key players, Billie-Jo has been able to create a platform that has promoted discussion and policy developments regarding care-experienced young people and education over the past five years. This has led to developments in resource allocation for care-experienced young people attending further and higher education at governmental and organisational levels and has raised awareness of the needs of those who are care-experienced.
Billie-Jo continues to use her experience to promote the experience of care-experienced people in a range of settings and helps to deliver training to a range of professionals primarily regarding safeguarding and service user experience.
In the past few years, Billie-Jo has been involved in a range of regional and international opportunities, ranging from advocational to leadership development. She was part of the Washington Ireland Programme for Service and Leadership Class of 2018 and spent two months in Washington DC, interning with the Brady Campaign for Prevention of Gun Violence and engaging in a range of service activities and professional development activities. Billie-Jo also sits on several panels and boards regarding service evaluation and development as well as a number of charitable organisations.
Now a qualified social worker, Billie-Jo hopes to continue her work in promoting positive futures for all through advocation, campaigning and service development.