“With this job you come in each morning with no idea what’s going to happen. But what makes it is the team.”
Gary Mathews, a senior social worker in the Older People’s Mental Health Team covering the north of West Sussex is full of praise for his colleagues: “They all do their best and go the extra mile. If someone’s off sick for example people on the team immediately step up, there’s no hesitation at all. We’re a team.”
Gary Mathews joined West Sussex County Council nearly six years ago from another authority. It’s a career move that’s seen his career and skills develop and blossom.
It’s the supportive culture in West Sussex that he says keeps him and his colleagues at the authority.
Low staff turnover
“What’s interesting about our team is that in the six years I’ve been here there’s been virtually no staff turnover – people want to stay with us,” he says.
“I think that’s because the team manager is very supportive and we’ve got a very open, consultative way of working. We talk and share all the time.
“Nobody here feels they have to know everything and nobody feels there’s anything wrong with asking questions or making a mistake. We try to learn from what we do. I think that’s why people haven’t left.”
For Gary, personal development is something he’s really interested in. With support from the council, he’s trained and qualified as a best interests assessor, a practice educator and an approved mental health professional.
West Sussex’s offer to adult social workers
Support – Be part of a well-trained and strong team which is both supported and supportive
Balance – Opportunities for flexible working, with the right help to achieve a good work-life balance
Develop – Work towards your own progression through CPD and clear career paths
“Becoming an approved mental health professional really interested me,” he says.
“It seemed like the next step in my progression after becoming a best interests assessor and the academic side of it really appealed to me.
“I do three days a month as an approved mental health professional and it’s very different to my day to day work because it’s really autonomous – it’s very much about working independently and using your initiative and decision making skills.”
Loretta Rogers, head of adult operations, says the support doesn’t just stop with the frontline staff: “I enjoy the variety and value being part of a supportive senior management group. As a manager, I find it very rewarding to recruit newly qualified staff to the service and work with them to develop their careers.”
The service pride themselves on taking the time to get to know each staff member and what gets them motivated.
“I have found that understanding the individual aspirations and interests of each staff member enables them to do work that both challenges and excites them and this, in turn, increases retention and job satisfaction; all of which has a positive impact on the service we
provide to people in West Sussex.”
With a desire to improve the lives of individuals, there is a strong focus on transformation and innovative solutions, including a drive to develop resilient communities and enable individuals to identify and utilise their strengths
West Sussex social workers are now more accessible, can see people quicker and work in ways that improve people’s live for the better.
Ultimately better support for the staff means better support for the residents.