It’s an exciting time to work for Leicestershire County Council with a new adult social care strategy being implemented, as well as the authority looking to expand its number of frontline social workers, approved mental health professionals and community support workers.
In the past few weeks, there has been a big recruitment drive at County Hall, with two highly-successful welcome meetings, and the significant interest from the meetings is now being developed into shortlisting and interviewing potential employees.
Peter Davis, the county council’s assistant director for adults and communities, said: “We’ve had a very encouraging response to the two recruitment events at County Hall with more than 60 people attending and expressing an interest in the various roles we are offering.
“We would also encourage people to keep an eye on any re-advertising of positions.”
Leicestershire is also expanding the support for its workforce. Most councils rely on a single principal social worker to support the practice and development of its adult social care workforce, but the county has taken this idea one step further.
Earlier this year, the council decided to expand its support for staff with the introduction of four lead practitioners dedicated to helping social workers and community support staff deliver top-quality practice in four specialist areas: safeguarding adults, disabilities, mental health, and older people.
We caught up with these lead practitioners to find out a bit more about how the development of their roles in supporting staff could make Leicestershire the ideal next step in career development.
Mark Hutton qualified as a social worker more than 25 years ago and has worked in a range of management roles within hospital and community settings.
For the past two years, he’s been the principal social worker in Leicestershire, and has now been joined as a lead practitioner by Carly Houghton, Mandy Ewart and Laura Sanderson.
Working together, they will drive up the quality of our work by supporting professionals to improve their practice.
Listening to staff
Mark, who is lead practitioner for older people, said: “In my role as principal social worker, you have to try to be all things to all people.
“All our staff have common areas of skills and knowledge which we need to develop and maintain. By having four lead practitioners, with a focus on specific service user groups, we’ll be able to acknowledge the unique differences and challenges within these service areas.”
Carly Houghton, lead practitioner for mental health, has been a social worker for 17 years, spending the last eight years in Leicestershire. She has managed a number of services and has been a frontline practitioner within social care and multi-disciplinary teams.
Carly said a key area of the practitioners’ role is to support staff to identify any barriers to good practice, such as looking closely at the training offer as well as practice guidance and procedure.
She said: “Our aim is to design and develop guidance to make sure it is operationally sound and makes sense to staff. Another area will be focusing on the development of good practice forums.”
A positive difference
Mandy Ewart, lead practitioner for disabilities, has been a social worker for 11 years and a frontline manager for an enablement team which oversees services such as day services, short breaks and long-stay residential units.
Mandy is also a social work practice educator and says there is a strong recognition of the need for the lead practitioner team to develop close working relationships with local universities to jointly plan, review and monitor changes to social work education.
Reflecting on potential barriers to good practice, Mandy said: “It’s vital that we find innovative ways to build strong working relationships with partner agencies. Integration is key to the success of this and the lead practitioner team will be working closely with partners and operational staff to identify ways to truly achieve a more joined-up approach.”
Laura Sanderson, lead practitioner for safeguarding adults, has been a social worker for the past 13 years, managing the safeguarding adults team for around eight years.
With the county council recently advertising to bring in around 70 social care staff, including social workers, approved mental health professionals and community support workers, Laura has outlined why the council has been looking to recruit and what kind of people they have been, and will continue, to look for.
Laura said: “We’ve been looking for enthusiastic and motivated people to join our authority at an exciting time in the development of our adult social care department which is demonstrated by the appointment of the four lead practitioners, who are solely dedicated to supporting good practice.
“While potential applicants will need relevant skills, qualifications and experience, their commitment to making a positive difference to people’s lives will also be key to the role.
“We also believe that the council seeks to support staff in a number of ways, including a commitment to flexible working and a good training offer. We have strong workers’ groups too, such as the Black Workers’ Group and Working Carers’ Group, with Leicestershire also the highest-ranked local authority for LGBT employees by Stonewall.”