How working in care settings enables staff to build one-on-one relationships with young people

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After graduating as a social worker in 2011, Katie Sansom assumed her next step would be as a children’s social worker. However, a placement in a foster care team made her realize she had fallen in love with residential care work and changed the course of her career.

Katie has successfully worked through career progression opportunities and now manages Lincolnshire County Council’s (LCC) Eastgate residence in Sleaford, which is rated as outstanding by Ofsted.

“I had worked in a residential facility as a relief staff member before getting my social work degree,” says Katie, who returned to a residential facility after graduating as a social worker.

“During my final placement in a field team, I realized that compared to the time I had spent working directly in residential, I was spending less time working directly with children. At the council’s Eastgate Children’s Home, I had done this direct work with the children all the time and really enjoyed it. So when I graduated, I applied for a job at Eastgate, and I’ve been here ever since!

That’s why Katie thinks working in residence would be good for anyone starting their career in the social care sector, whether they’re qualified in social work or not.

“It gives you a better understanding of both sides. [social worker and residential] and a good foundation for working with children,” she says.

learning curve

Jo Casey is the Head of the Children’s Social Work Fieldwork Department and leads Social Work Recruitment. She sees firsthand the benefit residential work brings to those who then decide to continue and train as social workers and join the frontline social work teams of authority. This includes a better understanding of children’s needs; of the impact of trauma on children, and have the skills to build lasting and effective relationships with children and young people who often find it difficult to trust and open up to professionals.

Jo says: “For the skilled social workers working in our residences, career progression does not mean leaving the residential sector and quitting what is an exceptionally rewarding career.

Home managers, like Katie, are often people with social work qualifications or who have obtained a specific registered manager qualification. Over the span of a decade, Katie has progressed through Levels 1, 2 and 3 as Residential Care Worker to Assistant Warden and is now Home Manager.

Training and development

The training available in Lincolnshire means there are multiple learning opportunities for all staff, such as former teacher Shaun, who is undertaking a training program in the role of deputy headmaster at Northolme, another of the children’s homes of the authority. Gemma had a degree in criminology and started out as a first aider before working her way up to her current position as a hostel manager.

Management training includes QCF Level 5 [a competence-based qualification which is nationally recognised by care providers] and specialized training adapted to the needs of children. Due to the amount of training and development available, staff are highly skilled in areas such as social pedagogy, restorative practice and trauma-informed practice, and will carry out direct work with the children and young people they have the charge to help them transfer to foster care, semi-independent placements or into their own families.

There is also training in Therapeutic Parenting, Theoretical Approaches to Practice and Forestry School Leadership which provides training for the outdoors and the opportunity to become a practice educator for student social workers. Having qualified social work educators in homes means that children’s services can offer social work students the unique opportunity of a placement within the service.

Highly Skilled Role

Maria, who oversees the management of all homes in her role as Senior Manager – Residential Estates, says: “We need to recognize residential workers as full professionals – they don’t do a bit of babysitting. It is a highly skilled role, with clear career progression and responsibilities that enable staff to build one-on-one relationships with children and young people.

Gemma, who is home manager at Northolme in Gainsborough, agrees.

“For some of our children, the relationships they form with staff are the only safe and secure ones they develop. As a result we play an important role in the lives of these children, some of them have returned when they are older with their own children to visit us and some have joined us as staff.

Daily role

On a daily basis, the staff accompanies the young people in all aspects of their daily care. Shifts are from 10 a.m. to 11 p.m. and then from 7 p.m. to 10:30 a.m. the next day, with a sleep shift between 10 p.m. and 7 a.m. The staff covers about six sleep-ins per month. There is also a late service from 10am to 10pm.

The role is to help young people prepare for and get to school; support them in their homework; helping them at mealtimes and putting them to bed. Then there are day trips with the children, to support their hobbies and take them on what is for some children their first vacation! Staff work across multiple agencies to support children, including working closely with children’s schools, police, health, social workers, occupational therapists and with CAMHS.

positive difference

Katie remembers how her team was able to help a young boy, who hadn’t been to school for two years, get back into the school system.

“He was struggling with emotions and didn’t want to be in a home environment. But with the help of a tutor, therapy and working closely with his new school, we brought him in. He has never looked back and really loves school. After school, he tells us about his day and it’s moments like that that make me think my job is great because we can take those little steps with the kids to make a positive difference.

The future

Children come into residence much earlier, says Katie, prompting the council to open a new residence for children aged 6 to 12 in 2022 and to develop a six-bed unit for children aged 12 to 18 to open in 2023 is underway. The LCC also has three homes specifically for disabled children which offer short stay as well as long term care, providing a variety of opportunities for people working in children’s homes in Lincolnshire. Shifts for homes for children with disabilities are 7 a.m. to 3 p.m., 2 p.m. to 10 p.m., and an awake night shift from 9:30 p.m. to 7:30 a.m.

“Houses are a way to take that pressure off families,” says Katie. “And for some kids who have complex needs and therefore would experience a lot of breakups in foster care, coming to see us earlier is a really positive thing. This means that we can work with children to support their emotional and social development and provide them with a positive group living experience, allowing them to develop strong and trusting relationships, develop their life and social skills and enable them to have positive results.

ADVANTAGES

  • Tier 1 – £21-269 – £23,953
  • Tier 2 – £26,446 to £29,174
  • Tier 3 – £32,798 to £36,371
  • Deputy Director – £36,371 to £40,578
  • Manager – £45,648 – £52,725
  • Along with this salary, up to £5,000-10,000 extra can be earned with sleep allowance, mileage and overtime.

Interested in working on Lincolnshire County Council? Learn more by check the latest job offers here.

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