Employer Zone

Wiltshire Council

Leadership Q&A

Flexi-working, less box filling and more time with adults – how one council is liberating its social workers and OTs

A sponsored feature from Wiltshire Council

See how you can work differently and take the next step in your career at Wiltshire council.

Emma Legg, the director of access and reablement for adult social care, has been in Wiltshire council since her final student placement before qualifying as an occupational therapist.

Since then she has risen through the ranks and overseen the service’s transition to a bespoke way of doing things.

“We identified that we were not delivering effective reablement. We felt that some of our approaches were building dependence, rather than increasing independence,” Emma explains.

The solution? A massive investment in increasing the number of social workers and occupational therapists so the council can provide an in-house reablement service.

Liberating practitioners

The aim is to liberate practitioners out of a position where they just refer clients to providers to one where they get to do the substantive work themselves. It’s taken a year of preparation to get it right but now the council is starting to implement the changes.

The ambition, Emma explains, is that 80% of people who use the reablement service would no longer require care afterwards. This would free social workers and occupational therapists to do more substantive work with adults who have the most complex needs.

More time with people

“We are completely refocusing our therapists’ and social workers’ time to having valued time with customers and their families and moving them away from spending all their time at desks,” says Emma.

“We have redesigned our suite of assessments and documentation, so it is able to be used in a much more person-centred and proportionate way.

“We’ve moved away from staff feeling like they just have to fill in boxes to staff actually being able to record what is important to the person and the areas they want to change in their life.”

Freedom to work your way

Getting social workers away from their desks isn’t just a corporate promise, it’s a necessity. The majority of Wiltshire’s clientele is spread across small countryside towns hidden among the picturesque farmlands.

In light of this, the council supports every employee to work flexibly and remotely. They are given the tools to do the job from anywhere in the county – many of the council meetings are done over Skype – and it’s then up to the practitioner to decide where is best for them to be.

“Whether that’s trying to fit in to our GP surgeries, with our community health partners or working from home, and we support the need to be flexible as being essential to maintain a work-life balance,” says Emma.

“We hear really positive feedback from our staff about the freedom they have to work in that way and it feels that it is just the norm.”

What’s it like to work in Wiltshire? Principal social worker Kim Holmes and principal occupational therapist Lisa Dibsdall answer some key questions.

Reducing stress: Support to employees in adult social care includes regular supervision with your line manager, induction training for new starters, regular ongoing training and CPD throughout your career. There is a good occupational health and safety service which includes access to counselling.
Flexible working: As well as being provided with a laptop to work in council offices and other facilities across the county, social workers are supported to work from home.
Parking: The council has parking permits for staff, which includes access to onsite parking, and Wiltshire council car parks around the county for social workers and occupational therapists conducting visits.
Holiday: New starters receive 25 days annual leave plus public holidays. After five years service this rises to 30 days, and employees can purchase up to 10 days additional leave a year.
Average caseload: This varies, depending on skills, knowledge and experience of worker and complexity of cases. It is closely monitored by the supervisor and /or team manager to ensure that caseloads are manageable.

Strong career pathway

Emma also wants staff in the council to have the same experience she had – one where she was supported to grow from a new starter to the role she has now.

This is all part of the service’s strategy – not just to manage increased demand – but to make services in Wiltshire better for people who need them, both through reablement and preventative work delivered by well-trained, well-supported practitioners.

“What we’re aiming to deliver is a career pathway where you can join a local authority without a professional qualification, have the opportunity to do that and then continue to progress throughout the organisation, if anything I think that career pathway will be stronger for people who join us now than when I joined,” Emma explains.