Richard Smaling


I’d done some management training before, and it didn’t deliver. It was very theoretical; it wasn’t specific to social work. I just felt a tiny bit unequipped really. When Firstline came about, I was moving from managing a team to managing the professional development of a full cohort of social workers and feeling disappointed with the previous training, so it felt like the right thing at a perfect time for me.

One of the things that really stuck with me is the power of the organisation in shaping how people feel and behave, and how it impacts on their day to day work and their ability to continue doing the job. I am responsible for making sure that the organisation functions the way that it should, modelling behaviours to create a different environment. 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.

The programme gave me a lot of confidence. I’d never in a million years have applied for my current job if I’d not thought that I had the skills. I carried on my coaching sessions with my leadership development advisor after I’d finished the programme. The support of my coach on top of the new skills base I felt I had developed made me feel that I was ready for the new role. It was very much linked to the programme.

I now manage a child protection and court locality, and am responsible for six social work teams. The highlight for me is seeing the impact I am having in helping others to be able to do their job properly, and making sure that our service runs in a way that is focussed on getting good outcomes for children.

What I have enjoyed most about the Fellowship is continued learning: thinking differently, learning new skills. I’ve been able to springboard off Fellowship events, dig around in new areas and build on what I’ve learned.

When you’re on the treadmill and you’re doing your day job you become completely disconnected from the different ways of thinking, learning and what’s going on in a wider social work context. I hope the Fellowship keeps me connected with like-minded individuals, people who want to think differently and want to make a difference to the profession, that inter-professional connection would be great.