Employer Profile: Kent Council

    Kent Council 

    Number of staff: 5,501.

    Typical salaries: The starting salary for a
    newly qualified social worker is £20,612 rising to
    £36,760 for a senior practitioner. Team leader salary ranges
    from £30,342 to £38,767. Practice and development
    consultant and district manager salary is £35,957 to
    £43,053.

    Number of clients: In excess of
    £48,000.

    Among the perks of being a social worker at Kent Council is the
    possibility of going on a month-long exchange programme to the US.
    The council has links with the largest children and families social
    care provider in Boston and an older people’s agency and has twice
    sent a group of 10 front-line workers to experience working
    practices in US voluntary services.

    All front-line staff are eligible – all they need do is convince
    the authority of how participating in the programme would benefit
    them in their jobs. Oliver Mills, social services’ director of
    operations, says the scheme has been highly popular since its
    introduction a couple of years ago. “Staff who have been on the
    programme have thoroughly enjoyed it,” he says. “It poses questions
    for people about practices here and we have improved services as a
    result.”

    The US host organisation also sends staff to Kent for a month.
    Mills says this exchange of ideas, policies and procedures is
    invaluable and helps staff to take a fresh look at their work.

    And it is money well spent, says Mills: “The whole cost is
    probably less than a national advert for social workers.”

    The programme has been such a hit with staff that Mills may
    extend it to include sabbaticals so that participants could take up
    longer-term placements. The only drawback with the scheme is that
    many staff with families feel they cannot leave their children for
    a month. If they could go for longer, Mills hopes their families
    could accompany them.

    Rated by inspectors as “excellent”, Kent Council places much
    importance on employee welfare and has a staff care package
    encompassing 10 areas. Mills says many of the initiatives started
    in the social services department. “For example, staff can have a
    half-hour free health check. This has occasionally picked up
    serious medical conditions and is very good for front-line staff
    working in care homes who might not otherwise have access to such
    services.”

    Vicki Nass, team leader in family support

    “The opportunity to discuss practice issues and explore
    theories was wonderful and really inspired me to self-reflect and
    consider my future plans,” Nass says of her exchange experience
    last year. “It helped me to clarify what I do. I’ve been in family
    support for eight years and this was the first opportunity in a
    long time to reflect on policies, procedures and practices.”

    Nass appreciated talking to other managers facing similar
    challenges and finding out how they tackled them.
    Initially based in a project on enhancing a school’s community
    life, Nass visited other organisations while in Boston. Her
    placement host helped her to become involved in projects related to
    her work in the UK, adding to the value of her experiences
    there.

    One such project was a training programme for social workers on
    working with vulnerable teenage girls who were being pulled into
    prostitution. “It is a big problem there and is starting to be an
    issue here so it sparked ideas about how we could adapt a programme
    for Kent.”

    As well as generating ideas she could bring back, Nass found
    that the exchange reconfirmed her belief in UK social services. “It
    made me proud of working in Kent.”

     

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