Social care staff on the joys of the profession
Russell Norman is chief executive of the Howgill family centre in Cumbria, provider of services for children and families including home support, counselling, therapy and play schemes.
The prospect of working and making a difference in the community where I live and avoiding the pressures of commuting, seemed a terrific combination when this role was created. I thought I understood what Howgill family centre offered and almost laughed when told by an old hand that it would take me a year to get my head around the complexity of our services.
Looking back those were wise words, and five years on I am still learning. As a voluntary sector family centre, the challenge to keep pace with the developing agenda for children and families services is a big one. But with a supportive trustee board and a dynamic senior management team, the race will never be boring.
It is a Sure Start programme and we are in one of the most deprived communities in the country, but the resilience of our service users is amazing. One of the joys of my role is to see the evidence of the success of the programmes through people development. The transition from receiving services, to volunteering, to extensive vocational and personal development training and into employment and self determination, is a road travelled by many involved with the centre.
Providing services across 400 square miles of urban and rural Cumbria brings enormous challenges, particularly when trying to support small populations, but need exists, even in some very picturesque settings.
Balancing necessary strategic involvement with the day to day running of the centre remains a challenge. It is essential to keep grounded through talking to staff and meeting children and families. This remains an essential part of the role, as the strategy development for the future cannot be to the detriment of services of today or ignore what people say they would find helpful
The challenge remains to continue to meet the needs and aspirations of a community that can overcome the difficulties it faces, in partnership.