Social work in Wiltshire: ‘For the mother to write a letter like this makes me very proud and emotional’

A feature sponsored by Wiltshire Council

Late last year, a children’s social worker working within safeguarding and assessment at Wiltshire Council received a letter. In it, a mother from one of her cases explained how the Wiltshire employee had completely changed her negative experiences of social care.

A letter from the heart

Having had a difficult background, a mother moved to the rural area of Wiltshire. Social services had been a part of her life since she was a child but she struggled to build up the trust required in social work due to some negative experiences. She found that many people judged her on her past so when she met the children’s social worker from Wiltshire Council, she expected the same.

Instead, the social worker was open, honest and direct, and took her for who she was. In fact, the mother appreciated the social worker so much that she sent a letter to the council.

“I’d just like to say that before I’d got to know the social worker, I wasn’t able to stand social services due to having them in my life since I was a child. I’d met a few beforehand and hadn’t got on with any of them, so when I met her I thought “here we go again”. But I couldn’t have been more wrong, she didn’t judge me on my past, she took me for the person I am today and the mother I am. I honestly couldn’t speak any more highly of her, she told me how it was, no beating around the bush, upfront & honest.

She has completely changed my opinion on social services, and I’d happily work with her again. Not that I’ll never need to. But I would like to thank her for being the social worker she is and taking most of the fear out of me having to work with social services.”

Speaking of the letter, the social worker said:

“I was overwhelmed. I know she wouldn’t send the letter unless she really meant it. I was very proud, chuffed and emotional because it’s very unusual to receive a letter like this in social work. And to have it from this particular mother was special as she didn’t have a very good experience of social care before.”

An honest approach

In the letter, the mother stressed how the social worker didn’t “beat around the bush, [was] upfront and honest”. It was an approach that led them to start a good relationship early on. However, that trust grew from the social worker not making any judgements on the mother based on her past.

The social worker explained:

“I did contact the previous authority to find out what happened, and they were very helpful. I learnt about the mother’s background, but I never wanted to judge her based on that.

It helped me be aware of what I needed to eventually address. But at the time, I just assessed the family in front of me, identifying concerns as well as strengths I could build on. I’m there for the safety of the child first, so I think it’s important to really focus on what’s happening at the time.

That’s what I always try to do. I think you can learn the theory, but you have to be able to get on with people. And if you can do it with a bit of humour, you can really tell people what they need to hear without being intimidating. The mother and I actually used to tease each other a bit, but it helped me tell her what she needed to work on without me dictating to her. It showed the trust we had in each other, and she liked that.”

The children’s centre


For the social worker, it wasn’t just the strong relationship that she had built up with the mother that saw positive outcomes. It was also because of the services provided to her by Wiltshire Council, particularly the children’s centre.

The social worker contacted her colleague at the children’s centre and spoke to her about the mother. Because of this, a key worker from the children’s centre met the mother at the doors, took her and her child to their sessions and sat with them throughout.

The social worker explained:

“I have quite a few cases, so it’s just not possible to see the same person every day. Which is why the key workers at the children’s centre help so much. I called my colleague to tell her about the mother, and she made sure that she felt comfortable. Everyone at the children’s centre listened to the mother and it made her feel valued.

It’s a resource that’s been invaluable to the mother, her child and myself. They needed that because she was new to the area, and it was important to meet other mums. She had difficulties trusting people before, but she absolutely loves it now.”

Positive outcome

Now, the mother and her child are doing very well and have a great relationship with each other. In fact, the letter mentions that she hopes she won’t have to work with social services again.

The social worker explained:

“You can see how happy she is here. She always did what was asked of her and she’s a great mum. She mentioned that she hoped she wouldn’t see me again, but in a positive way. Since we first met, she told me that she liked me, and to see her write a letter like this makes me very proud and emotional.”

How Wiltshire Council supports its social workers

The social worker also explained how Wiltshire Council always supports her and the other social care professionals. Having a caseload of no more than 18 children (the Wiltshire Promise) allows social workers to spend quality time with children and their families to help achieve positive outcomes. She said:

“Wiltshire always listen to you, and trust you to do what’s right for families and children. They understand that you know the case better than anyone and they always support you in your own style of work.”

If you are interested in social work roles at Wiltshire, please visit the council’s careers page.

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3 Responses to Social work in Wiltshire: ‘For the mother to write a letter like this makes me very proud and emotional’

  1. John M January 7, 2016 at 10:03 am #

    Good to know the Children’s Centre played such an important role in this family’s situation – a pity therefore that Wiltshire’s looking to close so many of them.

  2. Christine williams January 17, 2016 at 12:09 am #

    I am a social worker but many years ago a very wise man taught me three valuable things to live by 1. Always treat people the way you would want to be treated yourself. 2. Behaviour breeds behaviour and 3. Walk a mile in someone else’s shoes. All those things run through the core of my own approach to social work and I am a great believer in ,it’s not what you say but how you say it that matters. This social worker deserved the comments made by the mother social work is tough and appreciation is like a rainbow very rare but beautiful even if it last only seconds …………

  3. Beth February 2, 2016 at 8:41 pm #

    I just wish that other authorities would not allow caseloads over 18. Even this is too high dependent on the type of work they require. It is just madness that high caseloads are hampering social work…but even so the relationship based practice is priceless.
    I hear of too many families tell me that the social worker has gone in and ‘told’ them what to do/been rude/judgemental and not listened.
    Social work can deliver skilled work and help families initiate change through very difficult periods of their lives without wagging their finger at them. It’s not rocket science its respect, communication and delivering your message in a respectful but clear way. It is your job to get the family on board and work with resistance.
    This social worker appears to get what the work is really about..good luck to them. Well done.