Not one for being in the limelight, Tracy Cullen “didn’t think for a minute” she would win the Adults Team Leader of the Year accolade at the 2013 Social Work Awards. But with her track record of successfully supporting service users to return from out-of-borough placements, as well as managing a team that boasts an extremely low turnover of staff, it is hard to see why she wouldn’t.
Tracy has been team manager of the joint learning difficulties team at Salford City Council for the last 12 years and was nominated for award by her line manager, in recognition of her achievements in multi-agency working, safeguarding and for her strong leadership style.
“I didn’t know very much about the awards before I was nominated so I was very shocked to be shortlisted, let alone to win,” says Tracy. “I was very pleased and it was good for the team and their standing to be highlighted nationally.”
But it was her team’s response to her winning the award that really cemented the event as a career highlight for Tracy. “As a manager you never really know how your team views you and it can be quite an isolating position to be in,” she says. “My team seemed genuinely pleased and I got a lot from their reaction. It is really important to feel like your team values you.”
Tracy’s achievements include the successful transition of seven service users back to Salford, following the closure of a residential unit in North Wales, and more recently a pilot project for service users with milder learning disabilities, ADHD or low level Asperger’s syndrome, which aims to support them in gaining skills for the future.
“This is a client group that a lot of local authorities are struggling with at the moment so if the project is successful it is going to be a really important piece of work nationally,” she says.
Tracy went into social work because of her own personal family experiences of social services. “As a child I observed the difference it makes to people to have someone who can support families through difficult times,” she says. “I felt that I wanted to do something that was useful and meaningful and I still want to that which is quite good after so many years!”
And although there’s no typical day in her current role, where she’ll go from chairing a safeguarding conference one minute to dealing with a crisis the next, it is the unpredictability of the job that keeps Tracy going.
“I have so many things on a weekly basis that my make my week and additionally things that make me want to cry,” she laughs.
“It’s all very much a high and a low but that’s what you come into really, it’s very unpredictable and that’s what I like about it.”