An interview with Sonya Miller, Head of Service talking about her priorities for our children’s services.
Tell us about your career to date
Since qualifying in 1996 I have worked for a number of councils in a variety of roles across residential social work, probation, youth justice, social work and as an IRO/CP co-ordinator. I’ve worked with young people who are homeless and children with disabilities and complex health needs.
I very much see myself as a social worker first and foremost and secondly as a manager. I am as passionate today about children as I was the day I started my training, and am very clear that children and their families need to be at the heart of the work we do and the decisions we make, and most importantly the way in which we then work. My role as head of service is to give staff and the partners we work with all the support we can to enable them to demonstrate their expertise, enthusiasm for what they do and commitment to improving the way we work.
Why are you recruiting?
I believe at South Gloucestershire we have some extremely talented, professional people who are as passionate as I am about social care. It is refreshing to be working with so many colleagues who are determined to be the best we can be for the children and families we work with. This includes the council’s senior management and councillors who have been fully supportive in backing our ambitions for the service with additional resources.
Like all authorities, we face challenges in trying to find the best social workers locally, but we are confident we are building something very special here, and we are recruiting to expand and strengthen what we already do.
What are your priorities for the service?
My priorities are very straightforward. I want to do all I can to ensure we are delivering high quality, child-centred practices, which ensure the best outcomes for children.
Firstly, this means putting children and young people at the heart of all that we do. We want them to recognise that they are central to our decisions and planning and we want to work in partnership with families to equip them with the skills they need to ensure local children live in happy, healthy and safe homes. I see Signs of Safety as key to this. We’ve made a significant investment in Signs of Safety and it is now being used consistently throughout our interventions with families, allowing us to identify and respond to risks at the right time and with the right interventions.
Our staff are obviously key. I’ve worked at a number of authorities – what’s special here is the strength of the team ethos and I feel very privileged as head of service to have such support. We are a relatively small local authority, so managers know staff well. They can plan their services to ensure teams have manageable caseloads and have effective supervision so feel supported to make decisions which are right for the children, young people and families they work with.
We’re keen to develop our staff and provide a comprehensive training offer, supporting staff to focus on a specialist area of expertise and preparing them to progress their careers.
We can’t achieve this on our own and an important aspect of my role is to build relationships with partners to ensure we jointly provide high quality services through Early Help and statutory services.
Finally, we need to make sure that all of our efforts are actually feeding through to better results for children and we have high aspirations for them, especially looked after children.
Putting yourself in the position of someone considering their next career move, what do you think South Gloucestershire has to offer?
I’m very grateful to colleagues who on this website have spoken about what they think is special about working for South Gloucestershire Council. However, for me, the most important thing is our team spirit, our shared vision and our determination to get things right. The council wants to be proud of the services we deliver to children and there’s a real team ethos – not just within the service, but in the support we get from members and corporately to be the best we can possibly be.