I phone in to say that I will be late due to my first appointment overrunning. It takes me ten minutes to navigate the new call centre system. I decline the option “to report abandoned cars and dead dogs’ and wait for something that sounds like children’s services. I wonder how the process is perceived by the birth mother, adopted person or adopter who finally plucks up courage to phone the Adoption Team. I decide to tell everyone to use the 0800 recruitment line and hope the number crunchers don’t notice the increased phone bill.
I meet with the other managers and the ‘new’ Ofsted Inspector. She looks almost as harassed as we feel. She assures us that that the teething problems will be resolved and our correct forms will be sent soon. I find myself empathising (a hazard of the profession) and then remember our last inspection. I pull myself together and resolve to ensure every area is covered and accept that even if we get a “good” inspection there is always room for improvement. Especially when the goalposts keep moving.
The lynchpin of the team, Carole, is leaving after 33 years service. She is following a well-worn path to a voluntary agency that offers a final salary pension scheme, one secretary between two social workers, no hot-desking and a less stressful working environment. The Acting Divisional Director gives a huge donation despite being in the Department for only a few months. The high staff turnover of the last few years shows no signs of slowing. There are so many ‘acting up’ that it’s beginning to sound like a theatre group or a case of multiple ASBOS.
I attend a placement meeting with a senior social worker in the team and her practice supervisor. The worker has almost completed her PQCCA and will soon be leaving for the same voluntary agency. I wonder who will be next, apart from the other two workers that I know about. The practice supervisor wonders if I would like to ‘do’ a PhD. I tell him I would, but it doesn’t pay the bills, so decline. I wonder if there are any more vacancies in that voluntary agency.
The management meeting agrees that managers must now hot desk. I book a room with a phone to discuss a confidential issue with HR.
In the afternoon I sit on the Adoption Panel as the Professional Adviser. The presentation by a new social worker wasn’t good but she knew the children well and wanted the best for them. The Panel were on form this week, giving constructive advice. Everyone pulls together to move the plans for the children towards an adoption placement. I remember why I remain in the local authority setting. I have the privilege of being part of influencing life plans for vulnerable children.
I discuss proposals for new developments with Brigid. “I want to run something past you”. She looks horrified. “You’re not leaving are you?” I say no. I feel like Sigourney Weaver in Alien, wondering who will be next to ‘turn’.
A discussion ensues on the problems of the new call centre. The website has also changed and information about Adoption has been ‘lost’. Brigid says “The website change had to happen due to Sipple”. I wonder if this is another new technology or initiative that has passed over my head. “Sipple?” “Yes, Sipple, the new department Children, Young People and Learners, CYPL, Sipple”.