Local Authority Childcare Team "At the cutting edge of social work practice"
Opening emails on a Monday morning as a manager of a local authority childcare team is always a bittersweet task. So, this particular morning I waded through the twenty telephone messages, thirty invitations to attend team around the child meetings and the all staff emails about health and safety and what we should be eating this week. I glanced down at an email saying Scottish Social Work Team of the year. Intrigued, I opened it, and it said that the Children with Disabilities Team in Dundee City Council had been nominated and short listed as Social Work Team of the Year. My first thought was that this was someone winding us up, then I thought when I get to the bottom of the page it will ask us to send the £500 to get the award. On closer inspection I saw it was from SASW and that a former student and a colleague from the third sector had nominated us.
I was very proud to read that the nomination was based on our students’ experience of having her views on working in a statutory social work setting changed by her experiences with the team. Her previous view, which is a common one, is that statutory childcare social work is driven by paperwork and stifled by bureaucracy and has little room for creativity. Dundee City Council encourage innovation and have allowed the team to be flexible and creative in their approach to children with disabilities and their families.
When we attended the ceremony we genuinely did not expect to receive an award. We were sufficiently proud to have been nominated. We were so humbled to be given an award for leadership in social work. The team have always offered placements to social work students and we have a real belief that learning is an equal experience for the team and for the student.
My journey into social work was a convoluted one. Having tried welding, training to be a priest, nursing, factory work, laying roads, nursing again, I finally decided I needed a career. The choice was social work or joining Greater Manchester Police. I had some difficulty seeing myself breaking down doors on an estate in Greater Manchester so applied to do the Diploma in Social Work at Northern College. Social work training was a revelation for me. I felt that I had finally found something that made sense and that fitted perfectly with the values and ethics that I had.
When I started training to be a social worker in 1992, I believed that social workers have a pivotal role in supporting and assisting children and their families and that we need to be creative and think laterally about how we do this. It has been a long journey but I am happy to say that local authority childcare social work can and does remain at the cutting edge of social work practice.