Laura, Head of service

“The Headline programme has given me the opportunity to think and reflect on what I can do as a leader to ensure great practice.”

I’ve always known that there needs to be system-wide change to improve the quality of social work for children and families in my service area, but the Headline programme has given me the opportunity to think and reflect on what I can to do as a leader to ensure great practice. Staff recruitment and retention is a persistent problem for our local authority, and I’ve learned that this is a shared challenge for lots of other heads of service across the country. I’ve really valued meeting and speaking with other heads of service about this at the residentials and we’re collectively starting to think about innovative solutions.  

The Headline programme has also reiterated the importance of values and workplace culture in terms of ensuring our social workers have the right skills and approach in their work with children and families. Since starting the programme, I have been involved in establishing a new professional development centre, which focuses on embedding values and developing skills for new social workers that join us in a very structured way. As a result, our retention rate is already growing, which is a fantastic result. It’s these sorts of solutions and ideas that we can discuss openly at the residentials.  

My leadership approach has definitely been influenced by the programme. Firstly, I’ve learned the importance of vulnerability and now recognise the value that my personal experience of social care intervention as a child brings to my role as a leader. Whereas before I was quite guarded about this, I now understand the value of that experience and how it can help to build personal connections with people. I feel that I am now more approachable as a leader.  

My communication style has also changed. During the programme we did a helpful feedback exercise, and as a result I was able to reflect and realise that sometimes my impatience to find a solution can mean that I am less open to others’ ideas and opinions. I am now deliberately curious about what others can bring to the table and having multiple solutions. Ultimately this means that children and families have a better service as we are considering the best option out of many options, rather than taking a narrow approach.  

“It’s been brilliant to hear first-hand from other social work leaders who are implementing innovative solutions to ongoing challenges.”

Lastly, it’s been brilliant to hear first-hand from other social work leaders who are implementing innovative solutions to ongoing challenges. The No Wrong Door model was very significant for me as it relates to one of the challenges we have in my local authority; a high number of children and young people are currently placed out of county, far away from their families, friends, schools and communities. This is simply not good enough for children and families. I’m excited about this model which enables children to stay in the communities they live in. 

Although I’ve been qualified as a social worker since 1996, I initially didn’t feel ‘good enough’ to join the Headline programme and I was concerned that I didn’t have the time. Social work is a job which is all about serving others, so it’s really easy to neglect and forget about the importance of dedicating time to our own development. It’s been so important and valuable to have this reflective time and space and I’m looking forward to learning more as I continue the programme.