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Children’s Services staff have been praised for the incredible work they do to help families in County Durham.

Durham County Council’s first ever Practice Week saw bosses – from council chief executive Terry Collins to heads of service and team managers – going out and about to see first-hand how more than 55 teams provide support to thousands of people.

Head of early help, assessment and safeguarding, Carole Payne, praised the “unrelenting positivity” of staff, as they day and night deal with some of the most complex and sensitive situations.

“We’ve been out in practically every team and service right across the county and we are all left in awe of the work that our staff do,” she said.

“They are just unrelentingly positive from morning to night while dealing with some of the most complex situations you could possibly imagine – And they do it all with great skill, experience and compassion.

“I was incredibly impressed by that.”

What was Practice Week?

Corporate director for Children and Young People’s Services, Margaret Whellans, said: “Practice weeks are an idea that have been used successfully by ‘outstanding’ services elsewhere in the country to make sure that their leadership have a good understanding of the strengths and capabilities of organisations.

“We constantly want to improve and innovate, to offer families in County Durham the best services that we can.

“And through this we can influence changes to what we do and ensure a greater connection between managers and front line staff – Things that we believe can only be beneficial.”

The week, from March 5 to 9 2018, gave managers a chance to see up close the work and achievements of staff, and hear from parents, carers and children about the services they receive, including where the council is doing well and how things might be improved.

Staff were also offered an opportunity to shadow managers, learning more about the work that they do.

What did managers find?

Managers praised the passion and dedication of staff who, as well as having professional and warm relationships with children and families, and great working relationships with other agencies, often go above and beyond to support the county’s children.

It was particularly highlighted how through hard work, a high level of commitment, a real depth of knowledge, empathy, assertiveness, challenge, and support social workers are successfully engaging with families.

What was the response of staff?

Staff said that they thought senior managers demonstrated a genuine interest in them and were open to hearing about the challenges they face in their work.

They also said that they could see that the council is committed to providing continuous support, investing in and developing their careers to make them the best at what they do.

What happens next?

Following Practice Week all of the observations and feedback will be evaluated to help make any necessary improvements to the service.

Early lessons for the council include a need to give staff more capacity to spend time with children, young people and families so that they can build good relationships with them; offer more time to reflect and plan; give greater feedback for teams about the good work that they do; and make sure that there is good communication between team managers so that work is done by the right team at the right time.

How can you help?

To be able to achieve these aims the council needs to fill its current social work vacancies.

Find out more information about a career in children’s social work by visiting www.durham.gov.uk/socialwork

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