Sasha is an advanced practitioner in social work for North East Lincolnshire Council. She currently lives in Hull and has enjoyed practicing social work since 2012. While completing a social work degree at the University of Lincoln, Sasha developed an interest in children’s services and hasn’t looked back since.
“I started in what we call the referral assessment team. That team would take cases from the point of referral, and undertake those initial seven-day assessments. We’d make a decision on whether or not that requires long-term intervention, and refer them to the longer-term team. I was in that team for nine or ten months before we merged into one big, holistic team where instead of having a separate referral team and a long-term team, we just kept the cases to the point of being allocated.
“From then on, my practice continued, my development of cases continued, and I developed to the point where I progressed to a senior social worker role. That role entails working directly with newly qualified social workers, in terms of their development, holding more complex cases, and becoming a bit more autonomous in my practice in general.”
A career move that supports and develops other social workers
In 2018, Sasha seized the opportunity to become an advanced practitioner. This role sees her promoting social work as a whole where she provides guidance and support to new social workers as they undergo their training, and develop their skills.
“I kinda jumped on it; because it gives me a bit of everything I love doing. It’s about continual learning and development and career progression. A social worker will progress from a training year, to a qualifying work year, and then into more senior positions. I make sure they’re supported and given ample opportunity to develop into those roles. General advice or guidance, I’m just always around for anyone that needs me.”
With a role focused on overseeing the larger whole of social work, it is no surprise that Sasha’s favourite aspect of her job is its long-term results. Likewise, her view of the role’s challenges also focus on wider issues and ensuring that social workers are supported through their own personal reflection.
“Without sounding really cliché, it’s about being in it for the outcome. For me as an advanced practitioner, that would mean seeing my social workers develop. It’s amazing to see them over the years. Meeting a student at university, then seeing them come and join us. Then they become a qualified worker and then get through their placement year. It’s the reward of seeing the time and input we’ve afforded these learners pay off as they become qualified social workers. It’s brilliant, seeing people come through that journey.
“The biggest challenge is trying to support other people who are facing all the challenges of the role. You can’t understand how it’s affecting them. You can’t give them that reassurance. But it’s about asking, ‘how do we provide them with that support and guidance in a way that helps?’ You’re continually trying to adapt your approach of support for someone.”
A small local authority allows for strong inter-departmental ties to be forged
The unique needs of North East Lincolnshire define much of Sasha’s work. As part of a relatively small local authority, she relies on both strong ties with different branches of the council, and with the community itself. The needs of her region are very different from those of a dense London borough, and Sasha ensures her social workers have the necessary skills and support.
“We’re all based in a single office. We all have a really good team relationship, and that on its own is amazing for development. We’ve always got people around to ask for support or just their advice. Because of the nature of our authority, we deliver the majority of our training in-house. We have social workers constantly making connections with people they’ll be working with as they continue their career.
“We have really good relationships with all of our partners within the council. And when you have that, communication is easier, and that means better outcomes. Even smaller things: It’s easy to get around and the traffic isn’t chaotic. It’s just a nice area to work in. My commute doesn’t bother me. I enjoy that ride home after doing a day’s work. It gives me a chance to reflect, and then when I get home, I can clear my mind.”
The importance of the right mind-set
With her long years of social work experience, Sasha knows that the main asset in this field is not just knowledge and preparation, but a mind-set.
“It’s not something that someone can tell you. You can’t just read a book, and a university course won’t necessarily give you all the skills. You’ve got to go out and you’ve got to do it. Start volunteering and get engaged in that kind of working arena, the front line. And when you’re there, just embrace it. You’ve got to go with the ebbs and flows of social work. You’re going to have sour days, but the reward and the outcome is worth going through the difficult times.
“You’ve got to be kind. That’s one of the most important things for me. I do a lot of recruitment, and I’m always looking for the traits of kindness. To do this job, we’ve got to be kind to people. Even though we’ve sometimes got to deliver terrible news, we’ve got to do it in a kind way. Sometimes you have to be challenging with people, but we’ve got responsibility when we’re doing that. We need those relationships. You’ve got to be trustworthy. The families have got to be able to trust that you’ll stand by them and do the best job you can as their social worker. So, to me, being kind and being trustworthy are two of the most important things. Everything else sits underneath that. If you’re a kind and trustworthy person, your values and ethics will all be in the right places.
“If I’m honest, I think Covid-19 has brought people together. It’s made us realise how strong our relationships are, and how much our teams are connected. Some people aren’t able to go out and do their visits, because they can’t leave their home for health reasons, or they can’t potentially expose family members to anything. But internally, the praise that’s come down from my chief to all of our colleagues, is brilliant. We are getting so much general support and thanks and generosity. Knowing that we have support is really crucial. It all depends on where you look as well. The same praise that people like the NHS get, it’s coming for social workers too, only it’s just in different forms.
“Children social work matters because everyone deserves the best chance that they can have. We can aid in doing that. For me, I can do that through my social work, by helping and nurturing my students, and in developing practice. It’s about giving everyone the best opportunity they can have to thrive in whatever situation they are in. We are qualified social workers helping children – it’s about supporting them to thrive.”
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