Careers in social care
Alan Caygill is the divisional service manager of family support in Bradford Council’s social services department.
How long in the job? Since 2003.
Career highlight: Developing and delivering a family support strategy, which contributed to a shift in culture and reduced the numbers of looked-after children.
I didn’t get where I am today by: Not accepting and rising to challenges.
Over the course of my career, I wish I had: Learned earlier to focus on catching people doing things right rather than doing things wrong.
Over the course of my career, I wish I hadn’t: Tried to slot individuals into systems and services rather than making the systems and services fit them.
I applied for my current job because: I believed I would be working with a group of managers who shared a can do attitude and that together we could make a difference doing the things I entered social work to do. I believe in delivering flexible services that enable children to remain with their own families and communities.
My worst interview experience was: With another authority where the questions were put by a group of officers sat in front of me but I was informed that decisions would be made by elected members seated behind me. I turned my chair to face them and was told to face the officers. The first question was “Are you a serious candidate?” to which I replied “ If I wasn’t I wouldn’t be here”. Then, “If we offer you the post will you accept it?” To my eternal regret I did not reply with a simple no but said I saw the interview as my chance to interview them as much as their chance to interview me. I wasn’t offered the post. But neither were any of the other candidates.
Me and my career: My role is about managing a whole range of family support services to children, young people and their families. It also includes for the first time in my career, services to both children and adults with learning difficulties. I entered social services as an idealistic recruit committed to changing the way in which young offenders were dealt with and fired by enthusiasm.
My belief in the efficacy of family and community based services has remained with me and now encompasses all social work interventions rather than simply young people in trouble. One of my key roles is to chair the district family support panel to which all cases where a child or young person’s home base, be it with their own or a substitute family, is in jeopardy. The panel’s brief is to look at packages of support. This can mean challenging social workers and their perceived wisdom and focusing on the child or young person and their family and their desired outcome – not always comfortable but fulfilling.
1977-now Various roles at Bradford Council, starting as intermediate treatment officer, then principal officer of community services, area manager of children and families, acting assistant director of children and families and now divisional service manager
1975-7 Social worker, Lincolnshire Council
1973-5 Trained as community and youth worker at Leicester Polytechnic