London Borough of Newham’s social work academy was born in 2020. Underpinned by systemic, restorative and relational practice, the academy offers a breadth of training for social workers at all levels.
The training is not generic but targeted, and much of it focuses on issues that affect a London borough like Newham, such as poverty, domestic abuse and exploitation. With over a 100 languages being spoken, the diversity and uniqueness of Newham cannot be overlooked.
To get a better idea of what it is like working at Newham, Community Care spoke to three social workers at different stages of their careers, who shared what they had learnt from training and working at the council.
Grace Ogbu-Ogoli has worked for children’s services at Newham Council for 16 years. She was recently promoted to service manager of safeguarding and intervention.
“The social work academy is one of the best innovations Newham has had. From the onset, newly qualified social workers are given a package of practical training. I’m really impressed with the academy as it makes my job easier,“ she says.
Grace explains how she previously spent a lot of time teaching and training social workers. Now, because of the academy, all the training is provided there, and she can spend more time assisting with cases and reflective supervision.
She especially benefitted from the Safer Together programme, which aligns closely with Newham’s practice model, and also counts towards her continuing professional development (CPD). There are different levels to the training depending on your own experience. Grace took the training from a supervisory viewpoint and felt it helped her further her team’s learning.
“It really equipped me to manage them as I understood where they were coming from.”
Having been a team manager for 10 years, Grace wondered why she had not progressed despite being such an experienced social worker.
Then Newham paid for her to go on the Black and Asian Leadership Initiative (BALI).
“It made me not only embrace who I am, but feel confident about who I am. BALI is one of the key things that helped me from being a team manager to where I am today. It opened my eyes to why I’ve applied before and I didn’t get it.
“It’s about strategy, how you meet and manage people. I was seeing things from the dancefloor, but BALI made me see things from the top balcony as a leader. I have to hand it to Newham for sending me [there].
“My leadership style changed. It’s about having a growth mindset – it’s not just about practice, it’s about wellbeing. How do you look after yourself as a black woman? I am able to support, not just those from the global majority, but support everyone better.”
Grace is also part of the first cohort to take part in the developing diverse leaders programme, a nine-month course at Newham Council. The personality assessments she took helped her fine-tune her strengths and work on weaknesses.
“It was fantastic. I’m not going to lie, it was really stressful and we had to do presentations on topics we were given, but I really benefitted from it.”
Grace says that if you work in Newham you can go and work anywhere in the country, because the borough has all kinds of cases and concerns. But the excellent resources will also prepare you for working in any location. In her long career, she has seen people leave Newham, and return.
“I love my job, Newham is like a family – people come and go but they come back.”
Vanlee has been a social worker in Newham for over five years. In the video below, she explains how using strategies and tools she learnt at the social work academy has helped her work with fathers.
Starting a career at Newham
All new starters must complete a five-day systemic training course, and there are many pathways to specialise in systemic psychotherapy.
A clinical team of family therapists is available to social workers who work with children and families, and can accompany them on home visits if requested.
Newham is particularly proud of its assessed and supported year in employment (ASYE) programme, in which 20-25 newly qualified social workers are taken on annually.
To prepare for the five-year early career pathway that the Department for Education is developing in response to the care review, current and future cohorts will benefit from the ASYE plus one programme, which adds an extra year of support and training.
Ollie joined Newham Council after a career change and is on the ASYE programme. He talks about how having clinical training prepared him to help families in Newham.
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