Five minutes with…Esther Warner, Level 3 social worker, Leicester City Council
When did you join Leicester City Council children’s services?
September 2011 – I’ve been here nearly six years. I joined as a newly qualified social worker and now I’m a level 3 social worker in the long-term team. I’ve had some fantastic managers who supported me over the years.
Ofsted rated Leicester inadequate in 2015. What was it like to be a social worker in Leicester back then?
There was a time when caseloads were very high. It was a time when there were a lot of financial cuts, we also had a big restructure and the exit of quite a few members of staff. That, of course, did bring our caseloads up. I was probably really frustrated and stressed.
It has been two years since that Ofsted, what’s changed since?
Lots. Before the restructure we had a response team that would take the first calls and do the section 47s, an assessment team that would decide whether a case goes to care proceedings, child protection or children in need, and a long-term team. They’ve brought that back and capped our caseloads so that has made life a lot easier.
How would you rate the positivity of the team today on a scale of one to 10?
I would say it’s an eight, an eight and a half. We’re now at a point where members of staff that left are coming back. Some had gone to agencies and some to different local authorities but we’re now seeing familiar faces back again and that’s got to be a good sign.
What made you stick with Leicester during the tough times?
I’ve always liked it here. I think it’s the city and the working culture. I also had cases in proceedings and I wanted to keep them until the end. They are my families, my children, my caseloads and you want the best for them. The time two years ago was horrendous but I’m proud of myself for getting through that and working here is so much better now.
“Leicester does feel like a place where you can always develop your skills”
What else has changed in the past couple of years?
We’ve moved premises. In the old premises we had our own rooms and if your team was out doing cases you could be there on your own and so it was really difficult if an emergency came up. Now we’re in an open-plan office and you have your managers at hand. We’ve also got a team of permanent managers now rather than temporary ones.
Do you get much training and development at Leicester as a level 3 social worker?
Definitely. For example I’ve just been on PAMS training. It’s a specialist assessment for parents with learning needs. Normally when going to court we would have to bring in an independent social worker to complete that assessment but now I can do it. We also have refreshers and service events every three to six months too and there’s always emails about upcoming training that you can attend. There’s always plenty of training to go to. Leicester does feel like a place where you can always develop your skills.
Would you advise social workers to come and work at Leicester?
Yes I would, definitely. It is a laid-back authority, very friendly and supportive. Obviously, you do have your stressful times but that depends on what’s in your caseload. It isn’t as it was two years back and there are good people here. Also Leicester itself is a small area so you can get around quite quickly, so you can pull in probably six visits a day whereas if you were in a county council you would be travelling a long way. Well, you know, I’ve been here for six years so I must like it!