An interview with Steph How Head of Strategy and Operations (Children and Families) East and Strategic and Operational Lead for Transforming Social Care in Hampshire County Council.
How long have you worked in Hampshire, and how long have you been in your current job?
I’ve worked in Hampshire since 2003, I did spend approximately 18 months seconded to the Isle of Wight Children’s Services in the initial stages of the County Council’s partnership with them in 2013. I have been in my current job as Head of Strategy and Operations for the East of Hampshire since February 2018 and I have been the Strategic and Operational Lead for our exciting Transforming Social Care programme since March 2019.
I qualified in 1997 and spent a number of years working in South Gloucestershire and the Midlands prior to naturally gravitating ‘home’, I can confidently say it was the best professional decision I have ever made.
What do you enjoy about working in Hampshire and being a manager?
Everything! I love managing staff, supporting them to grow, develop and observing their absolute passion to improve the outcomes for the children and families with whom they work. I feel proud every day of the innovative, forward-thinking organisation that I work in and of the incredible people I get to work with. I feel so grateful to be able to be a small part of improving outcomes for the children of Hampshire.
It is also not every day that you get an opportunity to be part of leading the way in changing the way we practice social work and transform service delivery. Hampshire has invested in me as a professional, showing commitment to my growth and development. I came to Hampshire as an Assistant Team Manager and have been grown by Hampshire into a Senior Leader for which I will always be grateful.
What is the County Council’s approach to social work practice?
Hampshire knows that their most valuable resource is their staff and the investment in and commitment to them is a priority. Part of that commitment is to create the right conditions and framework for our staff to do what they do best – work with children and families to ensure that they achieve the very best outcomes. We have invested significantly in our transformational journey as we know that standing still in our practice is not an option. We have developed a strengths-based social work model that we are proud of and that staff flourish within. We have developed the tools, conditions and training programmes that support staff to practice within a new model and will continue to evolve our culture and ways of working. Our transformation will never stand still, and we are already planning the next phase of our journey.
What are your main priorities as a manager?
Ensuring that the children of Hampshire receive the very best that they deserve. Supporting our highly skilled and committed workforce to grow and develop into the very best professionals they can be, which allows them to feel proud of the work they do with children and families. Always keeping in touch with changes in practice and never becoming too far removed from social work, whatever my position in the organisation. I work hard, and always will, to be a supportive colleague, manager and employee because the job is tough and in my view one of the hardest with often the least credit and thanks.
How do you maintain a good personal and working relationship with your social workers?
I have a lot of contact with our workforce and despite being such a large organisation I try to get out to all the offices as often as I can. As a manager of District Managers, I try to ensure that supervisions and meetings I have with them occur in their own districts as often as I can – although not as often as I would like! I always respond to communications and feedback, ensuring personal thanks and congratulations for work is a priority. As I have a lead responsibility for recruitment and retention I am also fortunate enough to be involved with recruiting our newly qualified and step up to social work staff – something I always look forward to.
Having worked in Hampshire for so many years, I have many important and long standing relationships with staff in the organisation who, over the years, have managed me, been managed by me and been my peers.