Claire joined South Gloucestershire Council as a social worker in the South 1 team last year and has since progressed to an advanced social worker. This is her second job in social work having previously worked in a similar role for another authority. She talks about her time with South Gloucestershire Council
After qualifying three years’ ago, unfortunately, my first experience of social work was not a positive one. With high staff turnover and large caseloads, everyone was so busy and focused on their own children, and as a newly qualified, I felt somewhat alone. It got to the stage where I was so worried about some of my cases that I often wasn’t sleeping at night. Fortunately, my manager at the time reassured me that it wasn’t like that at all authorities and encouraged me to continue in social work elsewhere, which led me to my current role at South Gloucestershire.
What a difference! We’re still busy, but the atmosphere within the team is supportive and welcoming. This is a job where you can’t have waiting lists, but our managers work with us to support us through difficult times. If I have a crisis to deal with, I know I can ask my manager or colleagues for help – I don’t have to work it out on my own. If anyone is having a bad day, we can recognise it and pull together.
There is continuity and consistency, with long-standing, permanent managers and seniors. Also, locums are used as they should be; to provide short term cover or specialist expertise. Inevitably with local government, we’ve been through some changes, but I think this has been well managed to maintain stability for us and the families we work with.
I also like the setup with the Access and Response Team at the front end of the process; and the separation into north and south teams means we don’t cover too large a geography so we’re not wasting too much time travelling to visits. This also means that as we’re not a particularly large team, we all get to know each other, our meetings are much less formal and it is easier for everyone to be heard.
But most importantly of all, I feel safe and reassured in my job. My manager is knowledgeable and approachable, knows my cases and children and has my back. I know that if I call her at 8 o’clock at night, she is going to pick up, which means I don’t take issues to bed with me. I sleep very well now!
Claire was recently promoted to Advanced Social Worker through the council’s linked grade assessment programme. This offers advancement opportunities for social workers who can prove their competencies at a panel review without the need to leave the authority or wait for a vacant post to arise.
Tell us about your career to date
CJ: Having worked as a social worker at a number of other Local Authorities in the region and in Australia, I’ve now been with South Gloucestershire Council for four and a half years. I’m one of three seniors currently on secondment to the 0-25 team, having progressed from advanced to senior in my previous team.
What’s the focus of your secondment?
CJ: Ofsted in their recent inspection highlighted issues in our 0-25 team, which was obviously really disappointing for all of us, but I think we’ve moved on significantly from where we were then. Speaking from a personal perspective, the secondment has been a great new experience for me. I’ve been encouraged to take on new challenges including supervising others and leading team meetings and I’m really passionate about embedding Signs of Safety into our working practices.
It was fantastic when one of the team recently came back from maternity and in her first team meeting, far from being daunted by all the changes which have happened since she’d been away, was impressed by the team’s clear direction and the supportive team environment.
Of the different authorities you’ve worked for, what stands out about working for South Gloucestershire Council?
CJ: Knowing that I am valued. Throughout my time with South Glos and across the various different roles I’ve had, I’ve been lucky to have worked for some excellent managers. I feel that our efforts and contributions are fully recognised – not just by our managers, but by the senior management team too – and we’re encouraged to seek training and development opportunities.
I also value the support provided by the consultant social work team, whose role is to promote best practice across the children’s services team. They work in close partnership with the individual teams, providing invaluable one-to-one and group development support.
Finally, I would say that there’s a really positive team spirit – not just within teams, but there’s also close co-operation across the whole department. There have been a number of occasions where one team has been up against it with challenging workloads and other teams have rallied around to ensure we continue to deliver the best support we can to the children and families we work with.