Nicola Jane Denham

BSC Hons MSc (Social Work)
RSPCA Inspector

I came from Millais and studied AS Levels in General Studies and Sociology and A levels in Psychology, Art & Design and Modern History at Collyer’s from 1996 to 1998.

I remember the passion of the staff at Collyer’s in their teaching subjects and I enjoyed the social aspect of making new friends and connecting with old ones, that I knew from primary school. My eyes were opened up to the world of Sociology, which started my career path in terms of influencing my degree choice and I did utilise the library to look at future careers. I had considered Art Therapy, influenced by my Art teachers, but chose Sociology.

I went onto the University of Southampton where I obtained a 2:1 BSc Honours degree in Sociology and Social Policy, including a letter of commendation from the department’s head professor for consistent and high achievement. For my dissertation I gathered information from focus groups regarding the impact of dominant body ideals endorsed in consumer culture on the identity of males.

After leaving university I was employed as a social worker empowering the day-to-day lives of adults with various learning and physical disabilities for a housing association and then moved forward to Hampshire County Council, where I became a qualified social worker and care manager working with adults with physical disabilities. During this time, I completed my MSc degree in Social Work Studies where courses covered included anti-oppressive values and empowering practice. I also took some time out to work at an orphanage in Nepal and travel.

I then changed career and undertook an intensive training course with the RSPCA and became a qualified inspector and gained a City and Guilds Accreditation. I love my job as every day is different and helping animals, as well as their owners to improve the lives of the animals, is incredible. Removing an animal from an abusive or neglected situation and seeing them thrive and then being rehomed is the best feeling. There is no typical day as every day is different, but wildlife casualties and rescues and emergency complaints of animal cruelty take my priority. I interact with a number of other professional bodies including vets, the police, and local councils.

Throughout my careers I have made an enormous contribution to society. As an inspector I have been interviewed on Radio 2 and Heart Radio, the Dog Rescuers on Channel 5 and one of my cruelty cases has been published in a book. The ability to educate people through these channels is important for animal welfare.

If you are considering a career as an RSPCA Inspector, then the ability to work largely on your own is key as well as using other professions to secure positive outcomes. Resilience is important as you will need the ability to deal with abuse and confrontation from the owners of animals and maintain personal safety. There is a large practical element to the role too, especially when attending animal rescues. It is not for everyone as the things I have seen will haunt me forever and so it is important to maintain positive mental health. The rewards however are tremendous and there is no other job like it!

Looking back, the advice I would give to a younger me is believe in yourself as you can achieve what you are willing to put your all into.

What next Nikki? I am happy with the present and the future will look after itself.