Social work academy launched by Luton children’s services

A sponsored feature by Luton Borough Council

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Luton Borough Council smallUniversity of Bedfordshire logo




We are excited to announce the official launch of our social work academy here in Luton for our children’s services.

Our social work academy aims to support the recruitment, development and retention of newly qualified social workers through our partnership with the University of Bedfordshire.

Social workers are an incredibly important part of what the council does and social work is often a very difficult and challenging job. Implementation of a social work academy is a crucial part of the workforce development strategy for children’s services and will be essential to sustaining permanency in the future workforce.

The aims of the social work academy are to:

  • Attract and develop capable, motivated, pro-active, and reflective newly qualified social workers;
  • Support newly qualified social workers to gain a comprehensive understanding of their role, responsibilities and the policies and practice standards in Luton;
  • Support career development, to ensure sustained delivery of outstanding services to Luton’s children, young people and families;
  • Promote evidence based practice, informed by current research and grounded in theory;
  • Facilitate values-based leadership at all levels, and promote a positive learning culture.

We understand the importance and need for newly qualified social workers to feel that they are welcomed into a learning environment where they can develop internal and external networks, understand what the best practice guidance is and be mentored into experienced social workers. We hope that our social work academy in Luton will help to bridge that gap by providing newly qualified social workers with high-quality practice development, supervision and work-based learning support, through coaching and mentoring from our practice educators and practice improvement officers.

In Luton, we also pride ourselves on being able to ‘grow our own’ and support those staff who have committed themselves to a career in Luton.

Elaine Hughes, head of social work academy, Luton Borough CouncilHead of the social work academy Elaine Hughes had the following to share about her journey with Luton, which began in 2002: “I began working in the fostering service as a social work assistant when I first joined Luton. I grew in confidence and had many learning opportunities and worked in this team for five years.  I was encouraged by colleagues and managers to apply for the Trainee in Employee Route of Social Work training [TIER], and was successful in gaining a place on the course.

“I moved to the family support and child protection team and began the degree course with the University of Bedfordshire in 2007. Luton supported my training and gave me learning opportunities to help develop my knowledge and experience, and in 2009 I passed the degree with a first-class honours.

“I was supported in my first year of practice within the child protection team and my colleagues helped me develop my critical thinking and analysis, which helped me to grow in my confidence. There were many training opportunities and I took on more complex cases. I began supporting less experienced staff and, before I knew it, during supervision my manager began to talk to me about becoming a senior practitioner.

“After a couple of years, I was then encouraged to apply and was successful in gaining a deputy team manager post. My manager and I worked really closely together and we enjoyed managing a stable team together and empowering our team members to grow and develop their careers. Then, during supervision, my manager then encouraged me to apply for a team manager post.

“I was successful and, in 2015, I moved to manage a large frontline child protection and assessment team. I really enjoyed this and did this successfully for five years.

“In 2016, I was awarded manager of the year in the Luton Excellence Awards. It was great to be acknowledged in this way and I attended a lovely evening where teams and staff from across the council came together to celebrate our successes.

“I then had an opportunity to step up into a secondment as a service manager for the family safeguarding service for six months, before I was successful in gaining the position of head of social work academy Luton.

“On reflection, my experiences of working in Luton have been extremely positive and throughout my career Luton has offered a safe learning environment where people have always empowered me to take the next step to develop my career.”

Sancha Thomas, Luton Borough Council
Sancha Thomas, one of our heads of service, started her career in Luton in 2003 as a residential worker in a children’s residential unit in Luton.

“I was encouraged to apply for the position by my mother, who was employed by the council, due to her positive experiences of working in Luton. She has now retired after 28 years of service. This position was my first experience of working with vulnerable children who reside in Luton and as a result the experience confirmed my desire to become a social worker.

“Due to Luton Borough Council’s training offer, giving me the opportunity to be in a social work team and to attend the University of Bedfordshire to undertaken my training, I was supported to obtain my social work degree in 2007.

“Since then, I have gone on to complete a post-qualifying award in children and families and most recently I have competed my masters in leadership and management, which was all supported by the council, and have recently been promoted to head of service for strategic safeguarding, quality assurance, practice improvement and principal social worker.”

Ignatius Powell, assessed and supported year in employment practitioner, Luton Borough CouncilIgnatius Powell, one of our recent assessed and supported year in employment practitioners to join Luton under the social work academy had this to say about why he chose Luton: “I am a newly qualified social worker and I have recently started my assessed and supported year in employment (ASYE), with Luton Borough Council. I am delighted to be joining LBC, in the children and family safeguarding team east.

To be honest, I don’t think that I chose LBC; rather I feel LBC won me over, if that makes sense. Right from the very beginning, I felt that my interviewers were genuinely interested in my opinions and who I was as a person.

“This was followed up by the HR team, who communicated with me throughout the whole process of completing the necessary documentation for the role, for example, DBS checks and references. It made me feel like I was joining a council who valued and respected their workforce.

“This really helped me, especially as it was at a time the country was in lockdown as a result of Covid-19, and people were not quite sure what was going on and everything was moving slowly at a snail’s pace.

“My short-term objective, is to successfully complete the ASYE program, and gain as much experience supporting the families assigned to me, with the support of my manager and my colleagues, who have made me feel extremely welcomed.

Long term, my objective is to move into the youth offending service, or a similar role working with disenfranchised young people – especially young men who, for one reason or another, are at a standstill in life, struggling to find their role in life – to provide them with the right support enable them to find their direction.

“I hope that my relationship with LBC, is not only long term but that I am able to make a difference with the children their families and the other people, whom I will meet.”

John Roache, Luton Borough Council
John Roache, one of our social workers to have been through the ASYE programme, had this to say about his journey with Luton. “I chose a career in social work as I am passionate about supporting children and young people to make changes and achieve their potential. I chose Luton as it is a diverse area, where I get to work with a wide range of children and families from many different backgrounds and walks of life and there is a new challenge every day.

“The role can be emotionally taxing at times ,but in Luton I am in a very supportive team and have colleagues around me as well as support from management.
I am currently working towards my senior practitioner with Luton and looking forward to the additional challenges this will bring.”

For more information on children’s services roles at Luton Borough Council, go to the authority’s careers site.

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