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After an unorthodox route into social work, Nick Pratt, Head of Safeguarding at the Independent Safeguarding Service, shares how he has harnessed his knowledge and experience to help establish an online safeguarding training/CPD hub.

My journey into social work

I started working in Social Care in 1999 within an ‘Asylum Team’, filling out forms for newly-arriving adults and families seeking accommodation and subsistence support whilst their applications were being heard by the Home Office.

Prior to this I worked in television production and research.

I had no training or background in the area of Asylum Team work but remember spending the first few weeks carefully reading through legislation and the judicial review hearings, so I understood the legal framework of the duties placed on the Local Authority. After a few months, I became a liaison between Local Authorities and the Home Office.

After working in this area for a few years, I was offered the opportunity by my then employer to train as a Social Worker and was surprised at how much I enjoyed it despite the amount of work on top of my job. I went straight in to frontline Child Protection and felt I had found my calling. The work was exciting, enormously challenging, but very rewarding.

My Typical Day

I am currently a Designated Officer for a Local Authority (commonly called a LADO) and manage allegations against staff and volunteers who work with children. I also help co-ordinate the London LADO Network, represent London on the National LADO Network, and deliver training to organisations in all sectors around their Safeguarding practice.

My day-to-day work involves chairing multi-agency meetings, auditing safeguarding practice in various organisations, quality assuring internal investigations, looking at organisational learning, managing information relating to high profile cases and supporting Social Workers with child protection practice. During a typical day I will consider new referrals of allegations, support employers with risk assessments on employees, coordinate Police and Children’s Services response to referrals, chair allegations meetings, delivering training and write briefings for senior management.

During the evening I juggle being an attentive parent and husband with helping with a social enterprise called the Independent Safeguarding Service

My Proudest Moments

What I am most proud of is seeing confident social workers that I have trained; especially when they strive for good practice and are not afraid to challenge appropriately. The periods of time I have spent training up NQSWs were particularly enjoyable for me as they always reinvigorated my ongoing hunger for social work generally.

Lesson I’ve Learnt

I have become involved in the Independent Safeguarding Service (ISS), a Community Interest Company that is set up to provide a wealth of safeguarding resources.

It emerged after a group of LADOs and safeguarding leads (around 50) in different sectors became frustrated that access to high quality training and updated compliant policies and procedures required a lot of money for organisations.

This seemed to be unusual as being able to embed good safeguarding practice is in everyone’s interest. With no solution to this from the government and with ever-changing legislation and statutory local authority contacts, we got together and volunteered our knowledge and time to set up ISS as a social enterprise.

We developed software that can produce a full set of bespoke safeguarding policies in less than seven minutes. This, combined with access to some 20 safeguarding CPD training courses delivered by experts in their areas, is all available for a small membership fee.

This offers organisations affordable access to everything they need to embed good practice. ISS can also offer the same training access (60 training sessions) for Social Workers who want CPD for just £65 which can be a real issue for those working as locums. Profits are reinvested to improve the services available.

My biggest challenges

I think the biggest challenge has been the lack of consistent ‘footing’ in the various authorities I have worked in. The industry is known for its instability due to changes to the political landscape, restructuring, changes to senior management, changes in theory to be used in practice and staff turnover.

Whilst I welcome change brought about by new research, I feel that social work with families can become challenging in terms of available time during periods of instability. I recall one Local Authority some years ago where my diary was almost full of management meetings and compulsory training courses for new practice direction. This resulted in me having very little time on the ground to deal with the nuts and bolts of practice issues and support for my social workers that was badly needed.

After Work

The importance of a work/life balance has been lost on me up until the last few years but is more important to me now. I have young children so spending time with them is always a priority.

Generally being outdoor, camping and going to the beach always recharges me. I am lucky enough to live in an area of Suffolk where there are swim-able rivers which my son enjoys, so you are likely to find us in those over the summer.
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