“Join us and you will be safe and supported, have manageable caseloads and get to spend quality time working to make a real difference for children and families.”
That’s the message to children’s social workers from Nick Jarman, the director of children’s services at Dorset County Council.
The council is pulling out all the stops to transform children’s social work practice so that fewer children go into care and social workers have a better work-life balance.
Nick, who joined Dorset in October, says manageable caseloads are central to achieve both of these goals.
“We want to reduce the number of cases held by individual social workers and give staff more time to reflect on their own practice,” he says.
Reinvigorating Social Work: The Benefits
– A relationship-based approach to working with children and families
– Promotes the development of direct work skills
– Training, coaching and appreciative inquiry for all social workers
– Social work autonomy and accountability around better outcomes for children
– Restorative practice focused on families’ strengths and joint problem solving
– Action learning forums for social workers to share best practice
“To do this, we need more experienced social workers to join us here in Dorset.
“That is why we offer a generous relocation package and are planning to introduce key worker housing to help people move to Dorset.”
That’s not all though. The council, backed with £2m of Department for Education funding, is also running an innovative staff development programme called Reinvigorating Social Work.
“Reinvigorating Social Work is about using relationship-based practice, direct work and appreciative inquiry to establish and maintain effective relationships with families and achieve better outcomes for children,” says Tanya Hamilton-Fletcher, operations manager of Reinvigorating Social Work.
“It will allow us to identify what ‘good’ looks like for individual children and show how we’ve made a positive difference to their lives.”
‘I wanted to be involved’
For children’s social worker Rebekah Withers, who recently joined Dorset County Council, the programme played a major part in her decision to join the local authority.
“Working in children’s social care is a difficult job, no matter where you are based, but I feel Dorset is recognising the impact of high caseloads and increased complexities of cases,” she says.
“They want to make changes and I wanted to be part of it. I didn’t want to be the person moaning about my job and doing nothing about it.
“I wanted to be involved, I wanted to be heard, I wanted to make the difference I trained to make. I know this will not happen overnight, but I know it is happening. I’m excited to see what the future holds.”