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David Jones is Interim Divisional Director, Adult Social Care at the London Borough of Tower Hamlets. A highly experienced social care professional, David is responsible for all adult operational services, with a budget of £90 million, a large workforce and extensive resources, including an in-house reablement service and five day centres. He took time out of his busy schedule to tell us more about himself and his work.

My journey into social work

After leaving school, I spent a gap year on a youth exchange scheme as an auxiliary nurse in Germany. That got me interested in helping people and their families. So, instead of taking my intended career path to train as a teacher, I studied for a combined social science degree and Certificate of Qualification in Social Work (CQSW). My first job was with the London Borough of Haringey. In those days there was no separation between adult and child services, but our work mainly involved children and young people. I stayed at Haringey for 16 years, spending the final three years as an Assistant Director.

My typical day

There's no typical day. As a senior manager, I'm inevitably involved in a lot of meetings, many of which are timetabled. But I also try to have an open-door policy because there are often crisis situations which require fast decision-making. I try to spend as much time as possible out and about, attending team meetings, training events etc, as well as doing informal 'walkabouts'. I think it's very important to get direct feedback front frontline staff.

I also liaise with senior council colleagues, elected members and partner organisations, particularly in healthcare. Throughout my career, I've been committed to the idea of bringing health and social care closer together. In my current job this is a key part of my remit: to lead from the social care side to achieve initially greater alignment, and then further integration.

My proudest moments

I've had a long and varied career, so it's difficult to single out any specific examples. In general, it's the changes I've been able to introduce that have delivered genuine, sustainable improvements in service delivery. Despite all the challenges of the job, it's all worthwhile if you feel that you're making a real difference and being rewarded with positive feedback from staff.

Lessons I've learnt

As social care professionals, we have a responsibility to provide consistently high standards of service. It's important not to accept any solution which is inadequate. It's also vital that we should always put the service user first. It's not simply about following processes and protocols. The approach must be focused on the needs of the person and how we can support them to find solutions that work for them.

I'm also conscious that I need to think strategically and focus not just on why we are taking a particular course of action, but how we are going to make it happen. Staff often come up with really good ideas themselves. Part of my role is to work collaboratively with them, to help them put those ideas into action and ensure they are implemented effectively and sustainably.

The most challenging part of my job

The biggest challenge I face as a senior manager is increasing pressure on social care budgets and the need to make savings, while at the same time delivering improvements and service transformation. Demand management is not about simply trying to reduce the number of service users. It's about finding new ways of working to provide better support to people and empower them to make choices about their own health and wellbeing.

As for special challenges in Tower Hamlets, because of high levels of deprivation and poor health, we have many people living with long-term conditions. That's why greater integration of health and social care services is a key priority. That being said, the diversity in the community is a positive and there's a real enthusiasm and commitment to improve services for the benefit of local residents. It's a great place to work.

After work

Long days and the daily commute don't leave me much time for after-work activities. But I enjoy gardening and walking and I'm a keen swimmer. (I like to say I go more than once a week, although that's often an aspiration rather than a reality!) I'm also a fan of live music. I have pretty eclectic tastes, but one of my big passions is folk music and I always try to get along to one or two of the major festivals each year.
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