*name has been changed to protect identity.
It’s no secret that the recruitment industry, is, well, less than favourable in the eyes of its workers. We know how difficult and challenging the job can be at times – long hours, the level of care required and emotional distress can all take its toll on the most resilient of people. At Portman Recruitment, we genuinely care about our people, because we know that without them, that honestly, we’d be nothing. It’s their support and care that makes clients want to work with us, and we truly appreciate all the hours they put in. This is why we treat our social workers right, and as a testament to that, we recently sat down with one of our workers, Jeremy, to discuss his new agency role within a council.
‘’I’ve recently been placed in a Yorkshire authority in a locality safeguarding team. It’s a safeguarding role with children. We get referrals from relevant agencies, from the public and from anonymous sources. This gets filtered through our central team and then it gets identified on a level of threshold and where’s best for the case to be supported. More often than not, it comes to us and we pick it up as a fresh referral. We go out and meet the family, discuss the referral and the concerns around that and we try to identify safety and support measures to help that family out. The baseline is that children are kept safe.’’
We asked Jeremy to tell us more about what that involves…
‘’We undertake what is known as a ‘Child and Family Assessment’ based on a framework which is derived from the ‘Working Together to Safeguard Children’. From that assessment, we identify whether there’s a role for us, any safeguarding concerns and how we can respond to them appropriately. For example, we could class a child as a ‘Child in Need’. This may mean that they are not meeting their development needs, are at risk of harm or at risk of significant harm, and in these cases, we may need to arrange child protection. Our team could also start care proceedings and do any related court work, but we always hope it doesn’t come to foster care or adoption. We want the parents to make positive changes in the meantime, to keep the family together.
We’re there to help them before it comes to this, giving them access to services and to promote autonomy and self-determination for them to make their own positive changes, because we don’t want to come in and force them to do it. It’s very much working with the family as opposed to against them, but unfortunately, sometimes, those families can’t make those positive choices and the priorities are not aligned with the needs of the child so we have to take appropriate measures.’’
At the moment, what is your average caseload?
‘’Currently, I have 23 children on my caseload and that includes sibling groups of 3, sole children and even a group of 6 siblings, which can be quite chaotic. But you also need to consider the complexity of the cases as well. Some are quite straightforward and others involve court work that are significantly more complex and more time-consuming.’’
What do you like most about your job?
‘’One thing I’m learning is that we have ups and downs and sometimes we struggle to see those positives, but I think it’s important to try and focus on them. We should all work with the belief that we are supporting children and families and hopefully the support that we put in place makes long term, sustained and consistent changes. I’m in this job to see those results and feel that I’ve done everything I possibly could have to help that family out. To get to close a case and to see children thriving is reward enough for me.’’
How important is it to have a positive work/life balance?
‘’Prior to moving to my current role through Portman Recruitment, I worked for a neighbouring council on a permanent basis, which was a massive learning curve for me. I used to work late evenings and weekends but I had to learn to take a step back because it was impacting on me and I was burning out. Therefore I’ve learnt to manage my time and ensure I get some downtime. I go to the gym before work so that I’m relaxed, ready and awake for when I get there. Now I’m very much against working at the weekends because that’s my time, and luckily, Portman understands that.’’
Can you tell us about your journey with Portman so far, starting with what made you choose to work with us?
‘’I had originally gone with Reed because I’d heard of them. I went for an interview but I felt like I was more of a number to them, so I thought I’d try Portman instead. With Adam, it felt unpressured, like it was kind of down to me and this kind of ‘step back’ approach actually drew me in. I had a lot of apprehensions about taking that jump from safe, secure work to agency work, but he was very understanding and listened to me. And the rest, as they say, is history. I’ve been happy working with Portman ever since.’’
Do you feel supported working for Portman?
‘’I honestly can’t fault Portman. Adam replies pretty much instantly and I think if Adam wasn’t there, I could call the Portman office and anyone would speak to me. It’s good to know that he’s there if I need anything. He’s been a fantastic support.’’
Has there been a particular time that we’ve helped out with an issue that stands out to you?
‘’There has been a couple of occasions. I was recently asking Adam’s advice because a colleague of mine got a pay rise through the same Yorkshire authority that I work at, even though she was on the same hourly rate as me. Adam gave me that ammunition to go to my manager, tell them what other authorities could offer me, and even said he’d help with interviews if I wanted to leave. It wasn’t a case of authority priority. It was very much a case of me being his priority. He wanted to get the best for me. And it’s the same with anything else. I feel comfortable enough that if I had any issues or any queries that he would help, and if I wasn’t happy where I was, he’d be liked – ‘‘That’s cool. We’ll find you something else.’’ I would recommend Portman to every social care worker out there.’’
What advice he would give to social workers just starting out?
‘’Be aware of your own limits, but don’t be afraid of those limits. Be aware of your own emotional well-being, as well, because at the end of the day, if you’re not 100%, you can’t give 100% to that family. If you’re new or unsure, we’re all on a learning journey for the rest of our lives and no-one expects perfection right away. It’s also about developing your own practice because at the end of the day, the results should be the same but it’s what works for you and what works for the family. We’ve all got our own unique style.
Don’t be afraid to say if you don’t know something, because it’s your manager or whoever is around who should support you and develop you as a practitioner.
With Portman, the support I’m given is very much tailored around me, you know, what do I want? How can they help me? I think it’s a really good attitude, and I feel supported and safe around that.’’