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Supporting each other to build resilience

I am writing this at the end of my 19th working day in my new job in Croydon. I still feel very ‘new’ despite being an ‘old hand’ in many ways. This is my third role as a DCS and DAS.

As you may expect, I have been reflecting on what I need to think about in my new role; what I need in place to continue to support my own development and what helps a DCS thrive. During my time as a front line social worker I was always interested in why in the same family some children overcame challenging circumstances and other siblings struggled. I became interested in how you could help build resilience in children and families, a systemic way of thinking that has stayed with me throughout my career. As I stepped into management the issue of how you help workers and other managers build their resilience in the face of tough challenges helped me make the transition to management and onto leadership roles.

Over the summer I read ‘Grit - The power of passion and perseverance ‘, a slightly different take on resilience. Duckworth argues that our potential is one thing and what we do with that potential is another. Outstanding achievement is not about talent but about ‘grit’ - the passion and persistence. She argues that ‘grit’ grows through passion, intrinsically enjoying what you do; a clear purpose ripening the passion; capacity to practice i.e. trying to do things better and lastly hope that supports the perseverance.

This had strong resonances for me with the DCS role. Stepping into a DCS role for the first time is hugely exciting, a great privilege and very scary. You step into the space to make a difference for children in a complex and demanding system - over 400 different initiatives, strategies, funding streams, legislation or guidance and organisational changes to services affecting children and young people over the past 21 years, alongside risk and in many cases budget challenges. Talent alone is never enough.

I was lucky enough to step into the role when the Virtual Staff College (as it was known then, now called the Staff College) was running the leadership development programme for DCSs. This provided theoretical underpinning to leadership but equally as important, time with other DCSs both old hands and those starting out. These relationships and networks have been critical to my ‘grit’.

The support of the ADCS Regional networks has been important to me. This can often be underestimated as a key support but it is also a place of influence where you may be able to better crack those issues which feel impenetrable at times in a single DCS.

The mentoring arrangements – Mentor Plus - for all new DCSs, that ADCS now commissions the Staff College to deliver is invaluable. I benefited from a mentor, who not only gave practical advice but who also listened when I felt stuck or unsure of my direction. I never once felt I could not pick up the phone and if I had not picked up the phone for a few weeks a call came to me to check if there was anything my mentor could help with. So if you are a new DCS – get a mentor – it works! If like me you’re on old hand I encourage you to continue your own learning and development by becoming a mentor. For further information about becoming a mentor, please contact

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