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Innovative practice thrives in a learning environment

Innovative practice thrives in a learning environment

Essex County Council was named employer of the Year at the Social Worker of the Year Awards. Melanie Noel, the practitioner, won the adult social worker of the Year award.

These awards are just a few of the many that Ofsted has awarded the council for outstanding services to children in recent years at the annual celebrations of social work.

Judges voted Essex the employer of the Year for this year’s category. They found that Essex showed a genuine commitment to provide a high standard of service to its communities, and to support and nurture its employees and their continued growth.

This is the experience of staff in West Essex, one of the four quadrants in the county where services are organized.

Innovative practice can flourish with a caseload

Michelle Hayden-Pepper is the director of local delivery in West Essex’s children’s services. She says Essex is an outstanding authority, and a leader for practice improvement. West’s caseloads are manageable as they are below 15 children. [long-term]Family support and protection teams

It’s a caseload that encourages innovation. We can stop and reflect, and staff are well supported.

Annelise Barns, service manager for adult social care, says that caseloads are manageable and cover a variety of complexity based upon the skill base of social workers.

Bianka Lang, Children and Families service manager, is responsible for family support and protection teams and family time support service in the quadrant. She says: We are a learning space and we really understand reflective practices, from senior to newly qualified.

The quadrant is full of students through Frontline and Step Up to Social Work. It also has a lot of newly qualified practitioners.

A learning environment

It goes beyond formal education.

Kiran Box, service manager for assessment and intervention for children and young adults with disabilities, says: We encourage sharing learning. If someone has a particular interest, they will give a presentation to colleagues and share their learning. A recent presentation was made on the inclusion of fathers in social worker assessments.

Lisa Smith, service manager in adult care, said that learning is combined with opportunities to develop.

Staff are encouraged in monthly management supervision sessions to identify areas of practice that they would like to improve. This could lead to secondments with other teams, or simply taking on more work in another practice area. This will help them to grow.

Social workers in Essex can apply for various positions to help them grow in practice. This could include senior practitioner positions, while those looking to progress into management can apply for deputy team manager roles.

West is best

Covid-19 has been a crucial time for the development of a strong and supportive ethos.

Annelise states that West is best because it gives you a sense of belonging.

It was easier to adapt to Covid-19 as we are such a supportive community in West.

Lisa says, “Morale is strong.” Nobody says that this is not my job. Everyone pitches in to help someone who is having trouble coping.

A wide range of areas

West Essex is a diverse region, both in terms of its communities and its geography. It stretches from Epping just outside London and also includes the forest through urban Harlow to rural Uttlesford.

Lisa says that we are a diverse community that spans quite a distance. Harlow is densely populated. Uttlesford, however, is vastly rural and spread out. The Epping area has a mix of both.

Michelle claims it has excellent connections to London. Kiran says it offers decent, affordable housing that would appeal to people who want to move out of London.

The county’s leadership on anti-racist practices reflects the diversity of the communities West Essex serves.

Promoting anti-racist behavior

This includes facilitating workshops on Black Lives Matter as well as establishing a support group for black workers.

Kiran states that we are pushing for the anti-racist practices agenda. We have many unaccompanied asylum-seeking children, and many more black families. [than the rest of the county]. We are a growing company with black employees. Therefore, we are providing opportunities for them to develop and grow.

See Also

All statutory social work teams in children’s services fall under the control of the quadrant. West covers the adult side. It includes learning disability, sensory impairment, autism, and older adults mental health. There are three community support teams, two early intervention and one point of access teams, and three discharge to assess teams.

One-service approach

Kiran says that working within a quadrant permits a one-service approach between different teams and between adult and childrens services. This is possible because it allows Kiran to work within a smaller geographical footprint.

Michelle says that the quadrant prevents things from being too isolated. We want everyone to be part of the same service. We believe in the importance of relationships so we make sure children and families get the right services at the right times so that they can build the relationships that can bring about change.

This is in line with the strengths-based practices model Essex employs throughout the county.

Kiran says that we have a low number of children in child protection plans. We also have fewer children coming into care. Kiran says that this is because we believe that children are best off with their families. It is easy to say, but West actually practices this well.

Michelle adds that it is a very clear practice model. We believe that children are best placed in their families, so when we do bring them into care it is carefully considered and done promptly. We don’t bring them into care without a care plan and reflection on the impact of our intervention.

Adult services have a similar strengths-based approach. Lisa says: Adult social care promotes a strengths-based approach and a holistic overview.

Exciting times

It’s a great time to be a West Essex practitioner. The service is integrating with other services and health services on the adult side. A new director has taken over. The single point of entry is now a care coordination centre, which provides an integrated front door to the health service.

Teams will work across six primary care network aligned central teams ( PACTs ) that are aligned and supported by community health services. This ensures that people do not have to tell the same story to multiple services.

Michelle states that children’s issues are her concern. We are expanding our unaccompanied asylum-seeking children’s service. We are actively involved in helping children in school. Essex is at the forefront of many innovative programs.

Kiran says that if you’re a social worker and want to practice good, relationship-based social work, then this is the right place for you. Relationship-based practice has been our bread and butter.

Check out this site if you are interested working in West Essex and the surrounding counties.Find the most recent vacancies here.

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