Paul is an experienced social worker having spent the last ten years working in social work roles for a range of local authorities across the UK. After a year in an interim role with South Gloucestershire Council, he has now taken up a position directly with the council, heading up the Access and Response Teams. We asked him what encouraged him to switch from agency to permanent.
I’ve worked in social work for ten years, the last five in management level positions. In that time I’ve worked in a range of permanent and most recently contract roles for a mix of large and small unitary authorities, in both inner city and rural areas. I joined South Glos Council last June, when I took another interim position as Team Manager for Access.
The council’s ambition was clear from my very first days in the job. I’ve found there to be a culture here where individuals’ skills, knowledge and experiences are recognised and developed. For example, even though it was outside of my direct remit, having worked at a number of authorities with an established MASH, I was encouraged to take a leading role in developing the South Gloucestershire safeguarding hub.
With this experience under my belt, when an opportunity arose earlier this year as Service Manager for the Access and Response teams, I felt I was ready to take the next step up in my career. Also, with South Glos having shown such faith in me and invested in my development, it felt right for me to commit to them and switch from interim.
In this new role I have strategic responsibility for developing the service. I’m responsible for our systems and processes. I’m responsible for building relationships with partners to further integrate multi-agency working into our practice. I’m responsible for building a truly first class front door service we can be proud of.
The council has continued to show their commitment to the service, supporting my requests to strengthen the service by making significant new investments in our staffing budget. We’ve established a number of new posts and so currently top of my to-do list is to find the right people for seven new social worker posts.
So why do I think you should join me at South Gloucestershire Council?
It’s a role which offers challenge – when I was first looking at the role, I had assumed South Gloucestershire was a very quiet, rural area, but in fact it also encompasses the Bristol fringes and we support a very varied service user group, providing a real breadth and depth to our work.
If you’re looking to develop, I can personally vouch for what South Glos can offer. I’ve tried to ensure my team have similar opportunities as I’ve benefited from. Staff within Access and Response have opportunity to move around the different teams within the department to learn new skills and gain experience – individuals build a greater understanding of the challenges and pressures each function faces and at the same time we build flexibility and resilience within the team.
It’s also a pleasant working environment. It’s a tough job, requiring us to make some difficult decisions, so it’s just that little bit more enjoyable working in nice buildings with friendly, supportive colleagues. When the chips are down, we all pitch in – colleagues, peers and managers – to help each other out.
Finally, I love the ambition and positivity within the team. Everyone from the top down is genuinely focused on making things better for the children and families we work with. We want to move forward – requires improvement is not good enough – we want to get to good and both individually and collectively are willing to do whatever it takes to get there.
What were your first impressions on joining South Gloucestershire Council?
I did have some apprehension before I started – not only was it a new organisation, but it was also my first role as an agency worker; I was nervous about whether as a contractor I would truly feel part of the team. Adding to the uncertainty, my first week in the job coincided with the start of an Ofsted inspection!
I needn’t have worried. Whilst there was the usual flurry of activity that comes with an inspection, everyone still had time to make me feel welcome. I felt settled straight away.
What was it that made you feel so settled?
I just felt really supported from day one. There is a great team spirit and a culture where individuals’ skills, experience and expertise are recognised. Our team is a very diverse group, a mix of permanent and agency staff with a range of different backgrounds and expertise – I think we’re very good at tapping into each other’s skills and knowledge to deliver the best for the young people and families we work with. Even though I’m agency, I am encouraged to go on training courses, I have discussions with my manager about my development and my career – I feel like people are interested in what I have to offer over the long term.
What does South Gloucestershire Council offer agency workers?
I don’t think there’s anything special about what the council offers to agency workers; what’s important to me is that we’re not seen any differently from anyone else.
I think what South Gloucestershire offers to everyone is very approachable managers and supportive colleagues. We have difficult decisions to make, but I never feel like I’m alone; I know I can always go to my manager and ask for advice and that his door will always be open.
Also, it may seem like a very minor thing, but I like our offices. They’re modern, bright and airy, but more importantly, the teams we work with are primarily on one site. If I need help or information from another team, I can go and speak to them in person, meaning I can deliver a better, more timely response.
Would you ever consider taking a permanent job here?
The flexibility that agency work offers is important to me as it provides an opportunity to take time out of work to visit my family who live abroad, but I am currently considering whether I’m ready to settle down in South Gloucestershire.