60 seconds with Darryl Freeman, head of children’s social care, Devon County Council.
What inspired you to join Devon County Council after three years at Bedford?
I wanted a new challenge. While I enjoyed my time at Bedford Borough, Devon is completely different in size and scale. It’s the third largest county in the country. I wanted to bring my skills and experience to a big county council and so Devon was very appealing. I also couldn’t ignore that Devon is a very beautiful county. It’s got two coastlines, national parks, amazing beaches and medieval towns. There’s a real appeal to living in Devon so it was a no brainer when the opportunity to move here came up. It’s also a county with a reputation for innovation in children’s services
What kind of innovations had Devon done that attracted you?
Devon is a developing children’s service with a long history of being innovative and family focused. It was one of the first counties to have a MASH. I remember when I was working in another authority setting up a MASH how we used to talk about the Devon MASH. Devon’s also got dedicated placement support and fostering support teams. We’re currently working with partners to develop a practice model focussed on strengths-based interventions with families and service users.
What were your first impressions on joining the council?
I was struck by the warm welcome I received, the friendliness of my colleagues, and the induction process. At my level you can sometimes land in a job like this and be expected to hit the floor running. But I had a good, thorough induction alongside other new colleagues joining the service.
Devon got hit really badly by the snow last month. What was that like to work through?
It was very unusual, Devon hasn’t had snow like that for many years but for me as a new head of service it really demonstrated the can-do attitude I’ve found since coming here. We had social workers offering to visit families near where they live if there was a crisis, so there were people walking through the snow to do statutory visits for children subject to child protection plans and to check that vulnerable young parents had got food vouchers and heating.
Our MASH and emergency duty service couldn’t get into their offices in Exeter but through some really creative thinking and good use of technology they managed to keep both services running just through working from home. It was really impressive to see.
What ambitions do you have for services in Devon?
Devon has a clear aspiration to be a good or outstanding local authority in terms of outcomes for children and families. We also want to be an employer of choice – a place where people will want to come and work because we will welcome them and nurture them throughout the whole of their career not just their first few years. We want those who join us to have a very clear career progression where they can move up all the way to my job if they want it.
What kind of learning and development opportunities does Devon currently offer social workers?
We have a comprehensive learning and development programme of course but we want to develop those opportunities more. To give you just one example of what we already have, we have got a well-established frontline manager development programme. Those on that programme get to work on projects as part of their learning and present their recommendations to the service. Many of those ideas are then picked up and adopted.
We recently had one on developing our use of restorative practice and the frontline managers on the programme made a very compelling case for developing and embedding that further in our practice. So those managers are now working to make that happen across the service.
For us learning and development is not just about giving our people the skills they need but encouraging them to lead pieces of work that will develop the service as well as themselves. There’s a real opportunity here for people who want to shape a service as well as live and work in one of the most beautiful parts of the country.
Devon County Council is seeking currently recruiting for a range of social work positions. Check the latest opportunities to work for Devon