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How a group of opinionated social workers is driving change in Bristol council

Bristol is one of a handful of local authorities nationally to have set up a social work board, bringing together practitioners, senior managers and academics from local universities. Here, social worker Megan Robb explains why she joined the board.

Megan RobbI’m sure we’ve all had occasions in our working lives when we thought: “If only senior managers would ask us what improvements we would make; we could tell them what changes would really make a difference.” Luckily for social workers in Bristol, we’ve been given the opportunity to do just that, writes Megan Robb.

Bristol’s new social work board has gathered together practising social workers from all areas of statutory social work, senior managers from Bristol council and lecturers from the local universities to discuss how to improve frontline practice in the area. The board meets once a quarter to tackle issues of interest that the practitioners, managers or academics request be put on the agenda. In between meetings there are workshops for the social workers to attend, which enable initial discussions about potential agenda items in preparation for the board meeting.

I became involved with the social work board by chance when a colleague of mine, who had initially volunteered to be a part of the board, took up a secondment and she asked if I would take her space as a representative of the learning difficulties social work team. As I had been working with the community learning difficulties team since finishing university six years ago, I felt that I would have the necessary experience and, never having been known for shying away from giving my opinion, I was also intrigued by the prospect that being on the board might enable me to influence change within the council.

At the moment the board members comprise of social workers from the mental health teams, the approved mental health professional (AMHP) service, Bristol hospital teams, community and older persons mental health teams, physical and sensory impairment teams, transitions service, children and young people services and the community learning difficulties teams. At the last meeting there were about a dozen social workers in attendance, but that number will of course vary from meeting to meeting. We are currently focusing on topics such as appraising Bristol’s social work continuing professional development programme (replacement for PQ), the assessed and supported year in employment (ASYE) programme and how to maintain our training records for the Health and Care Professions Council, to name a few. Where we go next is up to us as practitioners!

What is also fantastic is that both local universities (University of Bristol and the University of the West of England) have lecturers who attend the board. In a profession where structures and tasks are forever changing, this is a great way to ensure that those in training are kept up-to-date with current issues for frontline practitioners.

Although the board is only just getting started, I am very optimistic that it is here to stay. Naturally there is a time commitment involved and in a busy profession it can sometimes feel that any extra responsibilities are a drain, but I truly feel that the half-day commitment every six weeks is time well spent. If other social workers are reading this and thinking they wish they had the same opportunities in their workplace, I would say, try and set something up in your area. Enthusiastic practitioners started Bristol’s social work board. It is most definitely worth the time and effort and could make a real difference in your area.

Megan Robb is a social worker in Bristol council’s community learning difficulties team.

Kirsty McGregor

About Kirsty McGregor

Kirsty McGregor is Community Care's workforce editor. She reports daily on social workers' pay and conditions, education, training, career progression, registration and fitness to practise. This includes issues affecting newly qualified social workers across the UK and the recent development of the assessed and supported year in employment (ASYE) in England. She is also responsible for producing job hunting and career progression advice.

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