Birmingham – the place to do social work

A feature sponsored by Birmingham City Council

Birmingham is a great city, famous for its dynamism, diversity and civic pride. In recent years, Birmingham’s reputation to deliver high quality social work support to its most disadvantaged children and families has not been so high. However, this is now changing. We have developed a new approach which puts direct relationship-based social work at the heart of our service for children and families.

A strong sense of purpose

We have developed an agreed vision and purpose statement about how we work with children and families. At the heart of this is our belief that good social work can help families make the changes necessary in order to care for their children well and meet their needs.

We support social workers in Birmingham to work openly with children and their families to bring about change, building on their strengths, so that parents are able to provide good parenting, firm boundaries and emotional warmth. We are committed to direct social work with families (not just assessment) to support children to remain within their family wherever possible.

We recognise that to bring about change and build resilience in families, who are often very disadvantaged, is difficult and challenging work requiring skilled and confident social workers who need to be supported by good leadership and management, supervision and learning opportunities.

Investing, supporting and leading

Although Birmingham faces budget restrictions, this year sees a £21.6M increase in resources to children’s social work. As well as this significant investment which will see the creation of some 80 new social work posts over the next two years, we are focused on improving support to social workers to improve practice in line with our vision above. As part of this improvement, we are recruiting a chief social work officer and four area principal social workers who will be instrumental to developing robust quality assurance systems and championing learning and support for social workers.

We are shaping a whole system for children and families from early help to child protection, from first contact to adoption. We are developing evidence based methodologies to underpin direct interventions and good assessment across the system. We are creating a culture of learning and accountability and a collaborative and motivating approach to supporting social workers.

The cornerstones of a learning culture that enable good social work practice are:

• High quality supervision
• Strong and accessible management support
• Manageable caseloads
• Workforce development around evidence based practice

In Birmingham we are on a journey to ensure that we have all of the above firmly in place. We need social workers and seniors, newly qualified and experienced, and team managers and others who share our concept of effective social work and our vision and purpose. With a stable and committed workforce of social workers we can significantly improve the life chances of disadvantaged children in Birmingham and ensure that Birmingham is the place to do social work.

Are you interested in the chief social work officer or area principal social worker role? Click the job title to apply. Click here for opportunities for social workers and team managers.

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4 Responses to Birmingham – the place to do social work

  1. John April 9, 2015 at 9:08 pm #

    Relatively new to Birmingham but it’s clear to see that the problems that have always dogged Birmingham continue (and are probably worse than ever if you ask the on the ground workers, rather than the vast amount of directors and assistant directors that the Council pays).

    Overworked, massively high staff turnover, vacancies in just about every team and a heavy over reliance on agency workers is just the start of it. The poor pay and inability of any one in a position of power to address the real issues is concerning.

    I work in safeguarding in an area hub and the situation is just dire. I’m already thinking of leaving after less than a year. I have a friend in the MASH service and apart from a few permanent members of staff most are agency workers. They even have agency managers who run the service! If that’s not the prime example of a broken system then I don’t know what is! Mind you, pay your social workers poorly and have no incentives for staff to come to Birmingham or change to permanent and what do you expect.

    But don’t expect the highly paid powers to be to do anything about it, it’s been going on so long there’s no one there that has the ability or force to change it. Instead you’ll get the usual rubbish about ‘things are changing, new visions, new directions’, and so on and so forth that you always get. It’s simply not true in reality though.

  2. Fred April 12, 2015 at 2:20 pm #

    I did eight months in Birmingham many years ago now and they could pay me 100k a year and I wouldn’t do it, soul destroying, I’m sorry to have to say that.

  3. Alastair Gibbons April 13, 2015 at 7:45 pm #

    I am new to Birmingham too. I was happy to come to Birmingham because I believe I and many others can and will make things different. Birmingham has around 33% agency social work staff at present but our intention is to reduce that to 15% by doing more direct work with families to bring about positive change for children and parents. Being a social worker is a very difficult and challenging job, and social workers deserve good quality management, supervision and support. We are on a journey to improve that support in Birmingham and these new posts are part of that journey.

    Most of us came into social work to help people, children and families who are usually very deprived and disadvantaged. In Birmingham we are committed to supporting social workers to help children and families through using your social work learning and practice skills. We have a long way to go to get things right in Birmingham, but we have begun the journey and we can only do it with the help of committed social workers and managers who share the values and purpose above.

    We can make it better for those who need us by working together.

  4. Clair Graham April 14, 2015 at 9:37 pm #

    I have worked in Birmingham since 2002. I started as a social work assistant in Adults and when I qualified went to work with children in 2009.

    Working within the child protection arena can be bitter sweet. It is pressuring hard work but rewarding. This is the reality of any type of work with children and the issues raised within the comments made are not unique to Birmingham but are the same issues facing many if not all Local Authourities. On a wider scale budget cuts within services such as Police , Health and Education are also impacting on the support and work that we do with children and families.

    Working in Birmingham which is such a diverse community with mulitple issues of neglect ,domestic abuse and the issues of deprivation and poverty has enabled me to gain invaluable experience. I have seen good strong leadership and the support I have received has enabled me to progress from social work assistant to newly qualified to Team manager and there are many opportunities within Birmingham to progress and develop both professionally and academically. Sometimes it is not about money but about the difference we can make in the lives of children and having a passion for social work and the values and ethics that underpin the work and the profession that we choose to come into. Birmingham has a lot to offer in these areas.