This year has not been easy at Surrey, not only in maintaining critical frontline services during the Covid-19 pandemic, but also dealing with the devastating loss of its executive director Dave Hill, who passed away in June.
Dave was an instrumental figure in driving the council’s improvement, putting the needs of children and young people at the heart of its transformation. The leadership team is now determined to ensure that Dave’s legacy and vision is delivered.
Reflecting on the difference he made, Jacquie Burke, director of family safeguarding, says. “He drove us all on to make sure we get to outstanding services. As a leadership team we’re resolute that we will finish the work he started.”
The council has a big presence at this year’s Community Care Virtually Live – showcasing aspects of its new model and approach in two masterclass events – and is actively recruiting for committed and experienced social workers.
While coronavirus has presented its challenges, Jacquie says it’s actually helped accelerate the improvement journey: “Remote working has, in some ways, enabled greater trust between managers and practitioners. Social workers have responded by taking more accountability and responsibility for their practice.”
She adds that, over the summer, significant work has gone in to make offices Covid-19 secure, to help welcome social workers back, and almost all interaction with children and families in Surrey is now in person.
Building relationships with partners has also been a major priority. Surrey’s Children’s Services Academy has been one of the main driving forces in bringing together children’s services, schools, youth services, police and health to learn from each other.
The council’s family safeguarding model is focused on multidisciplinary teams supporting children and families with their most complex needs, all of whom were rapidly put to use in helping navigate crisis situations in the out-of-hours team during the Covid-19 outbreak. Jacquie says that the model is based on motivational interviewing techniques, which have “enabled families to build their resilience and make positive changes to keep children safe.”
Motivational interviewing masterclass
Every Surrey social worker is trained in motivational interviewing and attendees will get the chance to sample the training in a masterclass at Community Care Virtually Live, on 13 October from 10.30am to 11.30am.
Advanced social worker Nicola Adesuji has felt it really helped her to approach families who may have been resistant to support: “It’s been amazing. It really helps because it approaches the family from a place of ‘loving kindness’. Families don’t always work at the pace we want them to but it’s about having the time and patience and skills to stay with them.”
Nicola says the training has also improved the quality of the supervision that she both gives and receives. “It’s helped me feel more confident and, as a supervisee, I’ve noticed that I’m encouraged to be more reflective and think about my own ideas and responses to situations.”
A nationally-recognised approach to adolescent mental health
Tina Benjamin, director of corporate parenting, points to the impact the pandemic has had on adolescents, which has disrupted their lives and affected their mental health and wellbeing.
Surrey’s masterclass on day two (14 October) will share the work the county council undertakes with the Hope Service. It’s a unique service to Surrey and a national trailblazer, built on relationship-based work, to support adolescents with complex mental health needs.
Tina says: “The Hope Service is unique service nationally and its work is pioneering. There are so many inspiring stories of young people and families who reached out to them and how, by building relationships, it was able to make a real difference to their lives. Our approach is about giving them an opportunity to be heard and listening to what they say.”
The council has made big strides but there’s a recognition that there’s more to do. There’s a resolve in the team that they will finish the work Dave started here, improving the lives of children in Surrey. As Jacquie says, “we will do it together for Dave”.