We really do love social workers
“To feel really proud of your profession – that is quite something”
Jane Fowler is the service manager for the discharge planning team at Cambridgeshire County council.
Having been a social worker on the frontline, Jane now manages her own team and has a huge amount of admiration for them. ‘In my career, I don’t think I’ve ever met a social worker I don’t admire,’ she said. ‘Having humanity, compassion and the capability to listen and understand is amazing. The team I work with are able to adapt at the drop of a hat and their problem-solving capabilities astound me.’
As well as her own responsibilities, Jane is always on hand to advise and support her team, who often carry out complex assessments. ‘What I try to do is support their decision-making – and, sometimes, challenge it. I will always do this in a positive way and it’s not a criticism; it just gives them an alternative view to consider and allows them to learn,’ she says.
Within discharge planning, a social worker is often the first person to listen to the service user and understand what they’d like to do next. ‘Any one of us could be in contact with social care services, at any point, for any reason,’ Jane says. ‘I ask my team to put themselves in that position. What sort of social worker would they want to knock on the door if it was their relative? Are you the sort of person I would want for my relative?’
‘Everybody wants to do the best they can do. We all want the best outcome for the service user and, ultimately, we want to get them out of hospital and home,’ she adds.
Social work can be transformational for some service users – and, for Jane, there is nothing she would rather be doing. ‘To feel really proud of your profession – that is quite something. Social work is challenging, incredibly engaging and different every day.’
“The best thing about being a social worker at Cambridgeshire County Council is the sense of belonging I feel”
Rebekah Shields is an adult social worker for Cambridgeshire County Council in the discharge planning team. She moved to the county last year after previously working for an alternative authority.
The change means Rebekah now works with a strong and supportive team – something she particularly enjoys.
“My job now is very different compared with my last one,” she says. “In my previous sector, there was a different type of pressure, as I was often working alone. I now have a supportive group around me, which makes me feel relaxed and valued.”
In her role as a discharge planner, Rebekah has to make tough decisions about patients leaving hospital and their next steps. “We make decisions by meeting the families and the health professionals within the hospital. It may also involve having a senior member of our team come along to discuss the different options for that service user’s care,” she says.
This can be a difficult job but Rebekah is able to consult her manager whenever she needs advice.
“When you’re in a supportive environment making difficult decisions, you’re not carrying that load alone,” she says. “There’s always an open door and a chance to have important conversations with our managers, so we never have to take our problems home with us.”
For Rebekah, the best thing about being a social worker for Cambridgeshire County Council is the sense of belonging she feels and the high level of teamwork she experiences every day.
“We work very closely as a team and, through this, I’ve built some great friendships that go outside the work environment. I think that making new friends is encouraging, especially for some of the newer social workers who have moved into the area. It’s been good to spend time with them and meet up with them after work,” she says.
“Every day you learn something, it’s fascinating.”
Kate Scott has been part of Cambridgeshire County Council’s social work team for two and a half years. She specialises in continuing healthcare – an area she loves. “My manager knew my strengths and expertise so let me to focus on continuing healthcare. This allowed me to build autonomy and gave me confidence, and is probably the biggest thing she could have done for me,” she says.
Kate looks after service users – mostly elderly – with high levels of medical problems where long-term NHS-funded care is required. “I consider a key aspect of my role to be ensuring the person is happy, content and has a good quality of life,” says Kate.
“I work with families and service users to support them through complex issues. The main thing for me is that every day is different. You meet new people, who by the very nature of being older, have extensive life experience. That’s what I love about my job the most. I feel honoured that they’d share their story with me; it really is a privilege.
Every day you learn something – it’s fascinating, ” says Kate.
Kate moved from another county straight to Cambridgeshire and began work immediately. “I didn’t want to have a break in employment, so I made sure I had a job here,” she says. “I finished one day and started the next in Cambridgeshire, which meant I had continuous service.”
Having worked for other local authorities around the UK, Kate is full of praise for the members of Cambridgeshire’s social work team who, she says, always listen to her and support her in her role. “My direct line manager is always available and really approachable, which I think is so important. I haven’t always had the same level of support in previous roles and I believe my manager has faith and trust in me to do what I need to do. I’m allowed to train and develop and I feel valued as a social worker,” she says.
Improving the lives of service users is Kate’s priority. Through assessments, support plans and brokerage, she organises the appropriate care for her patients.
“People want to hear my views... that’s huge for me”
Becky Elliott is a social worker with Cambridgeshire County Council’s Huntingdonshire older people’s team.
From a young age, Becky remembers always wanting to be a social worker, and after leaving school, she began her career as a carer in the community. Becky quickly progressed to become a care coordinator, managing other community carers.
After 20 years in the care industry, Becky made a life-changing decision to pursue her dream and enrolled on an access course at her local college. Successfully completing the course allowed Becky to go on to Anglia Ruskin University, Cambridge, to complete a degree in social work.
“My degree is my biggest achievement to date and allowed me to do the job I’ve always dreamed of doing,” says Becky.
A final-year placement in the older people’s team further convinced Becky that a job in social work was the right career path to follow.
She says: “I absolutely loved it. I felt very supported by the whole team and that’s when I realised that it was the council and area I wanted to work in.”
Becky was offered a permanent job and feels supported and enjoys the flexibility the role gives her.
“There’s always somebody, no matter what level, management or peers, that you can go to for support. Our ideas are always welcomed. For me, one of the best things about the role is that people want to hear my views. The social workers out on the frontline are listened to and that’s huge for me,” says Becky.
“We tend to plan our own diaries – I can have whole days in or out of the office. The organisation is very flexible and allows me to meet the needs of my family. There is an understanding that I am a working mum, which often involves taking the children to appointments or attending parents’ evenings.”
As part of her role, Becky is often out on the road. This gives her the chance to process and reflect on visits or meetings. The allocation of caseloads is also structured to make it as easy as possible for individual social workers when making visits.
“Before we’re allocated anything new, there’s a conversation with management. I generally work around one set area, depending on the needs of the community, to limit the distance I need to travel. This isn’t always feasible, so having the option to work remotely or in any council office is a real bonus.”
Cambridgeshire County Council allows Becky to be the best social worker she can be thanks to the guidance and support she receives from management and colleagues. And, although she currently has no wish to move to management level, career progression is encouraged.