1. Hey Rachel, tell us a little bit about yourself!
My name is Rachel, I'm 37 years old and work as a Supervising Social Worker for a Fostering Service. I also have a dual role as a Practice Development Lead for the service. I love a true crime podcast on my journeys in the car. I spend my evenings in my hot tub or watching a good gritty box set with my partner.
2. How long have you been in your role and what were you doing before?
I started my role in the Fostering Service in June 2020 right in the thick of the covid-19 pandemic (whilst home working). I was lucky to have worked closely with the fostering team before joining so it did not feel too bad as I knew nearly everyone. The Practice Development Lead role went hand in hand. This role was created to have a representative in each social work team to share consistent training and ensure links are maintained.
I initially joined Wiltshire Council in June 2005 as an administrator for the Youth Offending Service having been a legal secretary in litigation and criminal defence departments. I was able to see the “other side” of the journey for offending young people. I quickly moved my career in a direction of direct work with young people and joined a team who supported children in care, with advocacy and participation, then later as a practitioner for the Family Intervention Project. This moved to a role as a crisis intervention worker preventing children from becoming looked after by working with parents to understand and reduce risk. This included out of hours working with our emergency duty service.
I qualified as a social worker in 2017, taking a post in a Safeguarding Team after completing my third year placement in safeguarding. This work included writing assessments, supporting children and families with plans on different levels and court work. Working with looked after children and adoption was a main feature. I was always passionate with supporting change and became involved in writing and amending policies including the 16 and 17 year old housing protocol.
I have been lucky enough to have been given the opportunity to train in DDP (Dyadic Development Practice) Level 1, Level 2 and then as a trainer to deliver therapeutic training to foster carers. I have previously delivered mandatory training to foster carers and social workers which I thoroughly enjoyed.
My role as a practice development lead allows me to support learning via audits, identifying and delivering training and maintain links with other teams. I work directly with the Principle Social Worker in this role.
3. Why did you choose to become a Social Worker?
Having experienced adverse childhood experiences myself, I was in a position of not being able to attend college and university as my peers did and went into the world of employment at 16 years old. Collecting my GCSE results after my attendance was 40% in my final year was significant as I did manage to pass most of them. I have used all these experiences as tools for empathy and engagement. I was always craving knowledge which meant I grabbed every opportunity provided in my employment to develop. I was also a conscientious worker and always went above and beyond whether this was as a waitress or a secretary. This is no different in my career as a social worker. The turning point in my passion to work with young people was coming to Wiltshire Council and the managers I had in my different roles. With each role I did, I had a manager who believed and supported me and I progressed in my career. I continued to work part time whilst I completed my social work degree which demonstrates the level of support I was given and will always be grateful.
I am such a people person and believe in the strength of relationships. For me, having parents that wish to remain in contact with me to let me know how they are getting on and receive cards at Easter and Christmas, after I have removed and placed their children for adoption, gives me such hope that although this was traumatic, I managed to do so in a way that was respectful and sensitive.
4. What is the best part about your job/being a Social Worker?
As a supervising social worker, I enjoy supporting looked after children from a different perspective to that of child protection and safeguarding roles. I love meeting new people and seeing the different dynamics of the families that are created by placing children with foster families. It could be suggested that social work in fostering is not as fast paced and intense as other social work roles however, the amount of knowledge, support and crisis work needed to maintain and support our most vulnerable children is just phenomenal. My role also includes assessing potential new foster carers and although the assessment itself is in depth with significant analysis – again is another part of my role which keeps my skills active.
5. Has the pandemic affected the way in which you deliver your role? If so, how?
I have still had to physically visit the families I support however, this has been either in gardens, with full PPE or minimal PPE. The biggest positive change for me, has been the professionals meetings. They have been completed so much easier as there is no lack of room bookings for meetings or commute time, rather logging in to Microsoft Teams. Although this has become tiring at times – it is much more time effective and I believe prevents delay in planning for children (if everyone’s technology works).
6. How have you adapted to the new way of working?
My manager allowed us to utilise the equipment at the office which means that although I am home working it is much more user friendly. I am lucky to have a space I have called “my office” in my home since March 2020 and I know I am lucky.
Adapting to change can be scary and in a pandemic, something no one in my generation or the generations before me had experienced was traumatic to start with. As key workers, we remained working and putting ourselves at risk when we did not know what the risk meant. I will not miss the aprons, gloves and masks if they ever leave us and have a new found respect for our doctors and nurses who for decades this was their standard work equipment.
Social distancing can be difficult when seeing people in their homes and if its raining or snowing makes it an uncomfortable time in the garden! I think after 17 months I have got the hang of what I need and how to keep myself and others safe – even if it does include gagging on a Lateral Flow test a few times a week!
7. Do you think the new way of working has had a positive impact on social work?
I think there are pros and cons to more online working; less travel time to meetings allows potentially more time for visiting our children and young people. However, some young people have preferred the more technological communication as this is their culture.
I think a mix of working this way will be more flexible for social workers and families.
8. Lastly, what would you say to someone looking to join the Families and Children's service at Wiltshire Council?
I have worked with Wiltshire Council for 16 years and would say that there are opportunities for development, supportive managers and a lovely building to work (when we can). Once you come to Wiltshire Council there are different teams that specialise in supporting children and young people; Fostering, Safeguarding, Children in Care, Emerald Team (CSE), Children with Disabilities, Young People’s Service and Youth Offending Service. I would recommend doing some research on the teams however, there is always a crossover with work to enable a better understanding.