Changing narratives: Leadership – a desire to affect change
Jonny completed the Firstline programme in 2018. He currently works as a development Lead in North Yorkshire where he focuses on improving systems for children and family services using technology. As a freelance keynote speaker, he also delivers workshops on the Pathways programme and is a trustee of a national charity.
Jonny’s warmth and enthusiasm is refreshing and complimentary to the energy he engenders in bringing about innovative changes to the care system.
I made friends at the Firstline residential that I continue to be in touch with today, and I think that’s the difference between going on a one-day training course versus being away somewhere where you can really think about your professional and personal development.
The Firstline programme gave me a renewed desire to affect change in the social work sector. My timing for joining the programme was ideal because I had just started in a new leadership position. This meant that it helped shape the practitioner that I would become at the beginning of my journey rather than challenging me to think about my position as a leader differently. For me, the best thing about the Firstline programme was having the opportunity to be away on a residential with likeminded people, sharing ideas and hearing experiences of practice from different local authority contexts. I made friends at the Firstline residential that I continue to be in touch with today, and I think that’s the difference between going on a one-day training course versus being away somewhere where you can really think about your professional and personal development.
Whilst a family visit might be another day at work for a social worker, it might be the most significant event that’s happened in the person’s life who we’re visiting.
I feel that being a care experienced social worker has given me a deeper appreciation of the needs of children and families who need a social worker. The personal development coaching helped me to recognise the unique position that I had as having care experience and using that to stay connected to people’s needs. Whilst a family visit might be another day at work for a social worker, it might be the most significant event that’s happened in the person’s life who we’re visiting. Remaining connected to the notion that this job is an absolute privilege, but also an absolute responsibility is therefore important. One of the things that I’m passionate about is making people more aware about the effect of language in social work. I’ve dedicated quite a lot of time to trying to help people think differently about the language that they use with the children and families they are helping. I’ve been so pleased to see and hear more people thinking differently about the words they use, and services move away from acronyms like ‘LAC’ (looked-after child) and using more mindful, accessible terms to describe their work and people involved. It’s exciting to start seeing a national shift away from that exclusive language as well.
Love needs to be central to all that we’re doing
In ten years’, I’d like social workers to be spending the vast majority of their time working directly with children, young people and families instead of the majority of their time being spent on writing endless reports. We’ve got so far to go as current estimates are that social workers spend about 80% of their time at their computer and 20% of their time out with families, and that’s the wrong way around. This hope fits into the work that I’m doing now in looking at how technology can help work towards freeing up social workers’ time. What I’d also like is more of a personal touch in how we store and share records, so that young people can be able to access their records. In keeping with having a personal touch, I am so pleased to see the sector talking about love, as was mentioned in the independent review of children’s social care published last year for example. Love needs to be central to all that we’re doing, so it felt like quite a milestone to have this language used in the report. I think we can go further, and we could be braver in embracing that in all aspects of our work as social workers.