Frontline fellow, London
When I joined the Firstline programme, I had just become a team manager. Previously, I had been an assistant team manager for a child protection team, but I had only been doing that for about six months when I stepped up. So my progression within a year was very fast and I really wanted anything that could help me develop and learn more. I had become aware of just how different it was being a manager than a social worker.
I think the skills I developed the most on the Firstline programme were being more mindful of myself as a leader and influencing others and my organisation. I think it’s safe to say that when I was a senior practitioner I was confident in my practice and how I as an individual fit into a team. However, when you move into a position of leadership, you have to be more aware of yourself and the impact that you have on others. I think at first I was a manager that always had something to say about everything. Through the Firstline programme I learned that sometimes the best way to lead others and affect change is to support other people to say what they need to say.
I loved that the Firstline programme was all about you, how you are as a leader and how you can become a better one. This was different from other training and workshops because everything was linked to you and learning about yourself, which in the day to day business of social work you don’t always get time to do.
Whilst I was involved in the Firstline programme I had a very serious incident on a case. Being a part of the programme and having the residentials during that time really helped in my development and how I handled that situation. I have subsequently applied my learning to my everyday work and this has helped my in my professional development. I have gone from being the new manager when I started the programme to now running two services, so I can absolutely say that I have benefited from the Firstline programme.
Helping others and supporting their potential has always been something that has been really important. Before I used to do it as a social worker and then a manager; now I’m a service manager, so I don’t get to do much direct work with families but supporting others within my service and seeing staff develop is very rewarding. It’s been great to be a part of my staff’s journey, supporting them as social workers and seeing them progress. It’s nice to think I helped with that in some way.
I got involved with the Fellowship because I got so much out of my experience with Firstline. I can confidently say I don’t think I would be a service manager today had it not been for the Firstline programme. I now have staff that have come through the Frontline programme, so I want to make sure that they feel supported. Participating in the Fellowship is my way of helping.
The Fellowship has strengthened my leadership skills and my ability to work with others. This has helped me to be more self-aware. I think that having emotional intelligence is something that is very important in this profession, but it’s also something that you can apply in any part of your life. I learn from others every day and keeping that open mind and curiosity about others and the world is a good thing.
I hope the Fellowship continues to grow a network of support for each other and the new people coming through the programmes. That way we keep this learning and sharing going as I think it influences practice not only for individual organisations but also just in the profession in general.
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Having a child confide in and trust you, and seeing them grow is also something that stays with you and gives you hope for the future.
With other fellows, I’ve been able to think about the scope for change and innovation in practice, policy and research across the sector.
By far the biggest insight Firstline has given me is into my own behaviour and the way that I lead others and support the team.
My time as a social worker has made me more adaptable, confident in my own judgements, calm in a crisis and able to prioritise effectively.
I think every child has the talent to do well and succeed. If I can change their lives in any way so they can do that, then that’s what I want to do.
The most important thing I learnt from the Frontline programme was the importance of building relationships with the families we work with.
Through the Fellowship, I’ve been able to stay in touch with developments in the profession through the leadership series and develop my interviewing and assessment skills through work on the Frontline assessment centre.
Prior to starting Frontline, I enjoyed a stimulating career as a teacher for 35 years. Frontline presented me with the opportunity to work with these young people at the other end of the school day, in their home and family.
Sometimes social work is about hard-fought but small successes, which although small can be really rewarding when they represent a shift in a family’s thinking or behaviour.
Firstline has helped me look at how I manage my staff. It’s helped me identify that whilst I’m good at managing performance I’m not great at interacting with extreme levels of emotions.
I got involved with the Fellowship because I got so much out of my experience with Firstline. I can confidently say I don’t think I would be a service manager today had it not been for the Firstline programme.