The Strength of our relationships

In the Eastern region we pride ourselves on a long and successful history of collaboration, co-production and support which has not changed even when the Directors of Children’s Services (DCS) or Assistant Directors may change around us. Our successful collaboration is underpinned by the strength of the relationships that we take time and effort to build and maintain. These were essential for me when I started as a new DCS and now, further into that journey, I’m aware it’s from my regional peers that I find that much needed support and guidance when I need it the most.

In the spirit of this collaboration, we held our regional conference this week, spending the whole day celebrating great social work practice across the eleven regional authorities. Having spent what has felt like weeks and weeks immersed in budget setting activities, it was such a joy to spend time with fellow social workers, focusing on how different practice models and creativity makes a positive difference for children and their families. What is always striking is the unique differences in practice models and approaches in each local authority. There was a real sense of what drives practice in each place, based on the needs of the communities they serve.

The conference was also timely in providing us with the right platform to launch our regional recruitment website, one of the ways we are collectively trying to attract great social workers and address the recruitment and retention concerns we all hold. We have deliberated many times about how we are fishing in the same pool for workers, concluding that our message is about attracting great social workers by showing them what is on offer to them in the region.

Professor Eileen Munro, as the keynote speaker, proved to be a great draw for the 300 delegates, providing the opportunity to think together about opportunities and challenges faced by our profession. A good reminder that safe uncertainty is a position that social workers hold much of the time and it is support from excellent managers, peers and a learning organisation that wraps around practitioners, allowing them to hold this space and enabling them to feel empowered and able to be creative. When there is so much uncertainty around us, investing in our people to support children has never been more important.

What was overwhelmingly clear throughout the day was the passion and commitment of our social workers to do their best for children, alongside their peers and partners, to create opportunities and the culture for social work to thrive. I left the conference feeling optimistic and energised working through these uncertain times, with the knowledge that social workers and children’s services continue to rise to the challenge thanks to the strong relationships we build.

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