Romeo takes year’s leave from chief social worker role to care for mother

Thurrock PSW Fran Leddra and Hertfordshire director Mark Harvey step in as interim chiefs while retaining local authority roles

Photo: DHSC

Lyn Romeo is to step down for her role as chief social worker for adults for a year to return to Australia to help care for her mother.

Six years on from becoming the government’s first professional lead on adult social work, Romeo will cede her post for 12 months to Fran Leddra and Mark Harvey, in a joint appointment starting on 1 October.

Leddra is principal social worker and strategic lead for adult social care at Thurrock council, and Harvey operations director for adult disabilities and mental health at Hertfordshire.

They will undertake the role, which is based in the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC), alongside their local authority positions.

Return to Australia

In a blog post, Romeo said she had been travelling back and forth to Australia and now needed to focus on caring for her mother.

“It is a significant transition for me, but one many carers manage amazingly each and every day,” she added.

Romeo’s record

In an interview with Community Care in May, Romeo said adult social work was in a much stronger position since the creation of the chief social worker position in 2013, citing:

  • An increase in the number of adult social workers employed by local authorities.
  • The introduction and impact of the principal social worker (PSW) role including its enshrinement in the Care Act 2014 statutory guidance as lead social work and adult safeguarding professional in each local authority.
  • The contribution of PSWs and other social work practice leaders to policy and practice development, such as the 2018 independent review of the Mental Health Act 1983.
  • The creation of a bespoke social work regulator in Social Work England, which takes on the responsibility on 2 December.

Unlike her children’s counterpart, Isabelle Trowler, she has not been associated with a significant, politically-backed social work reform programme. In the Department for Education, this has yielded social worker accreditation, increases in fast-track training numbers and £200m to test new ways of working through the innovation fund.

However, during her time to date, Romeo has introduced knowledge and skills statements setting expected standards of social workers and of supervisors, and commissioned standards or good practice resources on mental health social workstrengths-based social work, coercive control, working with older people, people with learning disabilities, those with autism, people with dementia and carers.

She has also overseen the piloting of named social workers to co-ordinate support for people with learning disabilities, and been a strong champion of Think Ahead, the fast-track training provider for social workers in mental health.

The new interim chiefs

Fran LeddraLeddra has 30 years’ experience experience in social care and her role at Thurrock involves managing assessment and care planning, safeguarding, transition into adulthood and mental health services. She is also currently co-chair of the Adult Principal Social Worker Network, a position previously held by Harvey, who has 25 years’ experience, predominantly in mental health and learning disabilities.

Leddra said she was delighted by the appointment, adding: “With a challenging year ahead, we want to continue to drive forward the chief social worker priorities and to ensure social work and social care is high on the political agenda.”

Mark HarveyHarvey added: “I am looking forward to continuing Lyn Romeo’s work to lead an approach that can embed social work at the core of DHSC’s work to achieve a better outcome for the people we serve.”

Romeo said both would do a “fantastic job”, and highlighted the value of them continuing in their local authority roles, saying “their real life and real time experiences will bring enormous added value to their roles at DHSC”.

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