An interview with Sue Kocaman Head of Strategy and Operations (Children and Families) West
How long have you worked in Hampshire, and how long have you been in your current job?
I’ve worked in Hampshire since 1991, although I took 3 years out on a secondment to Government Office which was very interesting. But my heart is in local authority social work so I was very happy to come back to Hampshire and back to social work, which I have been practicing since 1979 when I qualified.
I have been in my current role since April 2015.
What do you enjoy about working in Hampshire and being a manager?
I love the fact that the people we work with at all levels of the organisation are committed to getting the best out of the children and families we work with, and to getting things done, not letting barriers stand in their way, and aiming to be excellent all the time.
I miss being a practicing social worker-I think lots of managers feel that way, but as a manager I like helping to find solutions to difficulties, supporting staff to be innovative in the way they work with children and being approachable so that staff know they will be listened to.
What is the County Council’s approach to social work practice?
We have recently introduced a more strengths-based approach to social work and social care practice. However, unlike some local authorities, we haven’t adopted a standard model. We wanted to develop something that recognised the strengths and professionalism of all our staff and acknowledge that staff, as well as the children and families we work with, have their own preferred style of engagement, so we have adopted several different approaches and a range of tools for staff to draw on to support their work. All staff are being trained in the different models and partner agencies have been fully engaged in the changes. We have seen some great outcomes already and we are ambitious about what we think can be achieved in the next few years.
What are your main priorities as a manager?
Keeping an eye and ear on the things that are getting in the way of good social work practice to help improve the way we work. Creating space and time to think about new ways of working. Ensuring that staff feel supported – the work we do can be risky and daunting, as well as hugely rewarding. Staff need to know that managers will support them in their work and that’s something they need to trust will happen on a day to day basis. That’s something in the culture of the organisation and we all contribute to that culture.
How do you maintain a good personal and working relationship with your social workers?
I like to get out to all the offices that I am responsible for, regularly, so that I can meet staff and they know who I am. Each year I set time aside to shadow practice and observe staff working with families. From early help to care leavers, from the front door (our Childrens Reception team and Multi Agency Safeguarding Hub), to the Out of Hours service
I often get told about excellent practice, great feedback from families, positive comments from other professionals about staff in my service, and then I will send them a note to thank them for their work and acknowledge the contribution they have made.