At a recent ADCS policy seminar I was asked by a fellow director of children’s services (DCS) if I had my time over would I still choose social work as a career? I had to admit that it was only when I arrived on my degree course that I actually discovered the “applied” bit in the title meant that I had to do social work placements! Of course this was a key reason why many others had chosen the course, whereas my choice had been more related to the Liverpool music scene of the early 80’s. (Those who have worked with me will be quick to point out detail was never my strong point.)
That being said, once I started it got into the blood, as did the impact of reading Gaskin as an undergraduate. For those who are unfamiliar with it, it was one of the first books to describe someone’s care experience and sadly for Graham a very poor one.
It is a book which has followed me for the last 30 years, sits on my desk and is one of the first things that I see each morning when I arrive at the office. In turn, it is a daily challenge to ensure we provide the best services we can within the money we have. It is also a reminder that good social work, teaching, children’s work across the board has the potential to change lives.
This is something I am constantly reminded of when I am accompanying social workers on visits and undertaking visits to schools, children centres and youth services. It is why I take such pleasure in attending our children in care awards and in receiving occasional emails from one of our care leavers, from a previous authority I worked in. This remarkable young lady is undertaking her doctorate on the health needs of children in care, working at one of our top Universities and is always the first to say that it is all possible because we stepped in to look after her.
What other sector allows you to have that transformational impact?
So going back to the original question. Yes, Linda, if I had my time over again I would make the same choice. But the challenge now as a DCS is to create an environment where others want to make that choice and to make those that have done so already want to stay. Now that feels like a job worth doing!
Stuart Gallimore is DCS at East Sussex County Council and chair of the ADCS standards, performance and inspection policy committee. This blog first appeared on the ADCS website