Penny Southern is district manager for adult services in Shepway at Kent Council and has worked in social services for 25 years. She is part of a team from Kent – awarded three stars by the Commission for Social Care Inspection – working with Swindon social services to improve their zero rating.
Best training ever done: Recent course on emotional intelligence, where I learnt a huge amount.
I wish I had: Been more assertive in senior management meetings, when I felt the implications of decisions on service users were not fully considered.
I wish I hadn’t: Cried in a meeting. I was so angry at what was being said but found myself for once unable to express myself, or to challenge what was said, in any kind of assertive manner.
My worst interview was: For my current job. I did a PowerPoint presentation for the first time. It was the hottest day of the year and I cooked, determined not to take off my new jacket, purchased specifically. I got the job though!
Me and my career:
I’ve worked in social services for 25 years now. I was born in Derbyshire and worked first for Derbyshire Council then Nottingham Council. My original plan was to stay in Kent (where I didn’t know a soul) for a year. I am still here 18 years later and loving it! The main reason I’m so happy is the excellent people I work with.
As one of the senior managers from Kent working with Swindon Council to improve their social services, I offer support and mentoringmto staff in services for people with learning difficulties in areas such as commissioning and integration with health services.
There are many good people in Swindon and the partnership is very constructive. To have staff coming in from another council could be viewed as undermining but I hope not. I’ve had good feedback from Swindon staff.
I’ve always enjoyed staff development, helping colleagues to become dynamic and competent workers, and to take chances.
I also love service development, working with service users, staff and carers, to help them structure their lives into how they wish them to be.
2002-now: District manager, adult services, Shepway district, Kent social services.
1997: Team leader, care management, disabilities, Kent social services.
1992: Manager, community services, disabilities, Kent social services.
1987: Community care organiser, then team manager, independent living scheme, Kent social services.
1983: Instructor, special care unit for people with learning difficulties, Nottingham social services. Did social work training.
1981-3: Assistant instructor, special care unit for people with learning difficulties, Derbyshire social services.