Sarah is a social worker within the response team at South Gloucestershire council. She joined the council two years ago having previously held a similar role at another local authority.
Tell us about your role
I’m a social worker within the Response team. The job comes with the same challenges and pressures you find in duty teams at other authorities, but what’s different here is the support that is around you.
I’m also the domestic violence lead for the Response team. Domestic violence is a specialism I’ve always been interested in and so I jumped at the opportunity to build my knowledge and experience in this area. Through this role, I attend MARAC (Multi-Agency Risk Assessment Conference) meetings, working with partners across police, health, housing and education to discuss our joint approach to high risk cases. What’s great is that I can take back what I learn to share best practice with colleagues.
What does South Gloucestershire Council have to offer for social workers?
There’s a great team spirit, which I think is due in no small part to the relationships we have with our managers and service managers. We’re all based at the same site and I know I can go to my manager at any time for support or guidance. That goes for senior managers too – the head of service is extremely approachable and we see her around all the time, asking us what’s going on, checking we’re ok – basically just ensuring we get the support and supervision we need.
What are your plans for the future?
I’m ambitious and do want to progress. We have a linked grade scheme here which allows us to move up to advanced level when we can prove we’ve attained the skills and knowledge required of the role without there necessarily being a specific open vacancy. I’m currently applying to Advanced level and in the longer term I’d love to work towards Consultant Social Worker. Will I be still with South Gloucestershire Council at that stage? I hope so – children’s social work is challenging and can be stressful – it’s really important to me that I’m working for an organisation which recognises that and provides the support I need.
Jean-Paul has progressed through the ranks as a social worker at South Gloucestershire Council. Having initially joined as a student, he applied for a permanent role after completing his Masters and now, five years later, is a senior within the South 2 team.
You’ve been with South Gloucestershire Council for some time now, what do you enjoy most about working for the council?
JP: First and foremost, I think it’s a great organisation in which to develop, learn and progress.
I joined as a student and have always been supported to continue my learning. I feel managers recognise the value of training and encourage us to seek out opportunities to bring new skills, learning and experience into our work. As an example, we’re each urged to develop a specialism. I’m focused on harmful sexual behaviour – and as part of my learning, I’ve been seconded to a specialist agency in Bristol to gain more experience in this field, which I can then bring back to my work practice.
We have busy caseloads and budgets are tight, and I’m sure there must be a temptation to cut training budgets, but my manager has always helped me to find the time to continue my learning.
We are encouraged to take ownership of decisions, but equally I think we have good management oversight and managers know our cases well. There is a strong focus on quality assurance and we are challenged – in a good way – to help us learn and find better ways of doing things.
I’m sure a great deal must have changed over the last five years?
JP: Yes and no. Sure, there have been changes within teams and structures, but actually I think there is also a great deal of stability. I’ve had the same manager for the last four years and most of the managers of other teams have also been at the council for a number of years, including one who has recently returned to South Gloucestershire.
I think managers at all levels are excellent at recognising and passing on good practice and in the time I’ve been here, myself and a number of colleagues have been lucky enough to have been promoted to more senior positions. However, there’s still plenty more for me to learn and I’m very much looking forward to gaining more experience with South Glos Council.