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We discover what it is like to work for Wandsworth Children’s Services.

Following a disappointing Ofsted inspection in December 2015, Wandsworth Children’s Services has been working hard to make service improvements. In a recent monitoring visit, Ofsted found the Council to be making “positive progress” with “improved management oversight and direction at all levels of the organisation”. We catch up with Director of Children’s Services at Wandsworth Council, Dawn Warwick, to discover more about the changes and what it’s like to work in the Brighter Borough.

Could you tell us about Wandsworth’s ‘positive progress’?

 We have developed new Practice Standards including our ‘Top Ten Non-Negotiables’, increased our staffing at the ‘front door’, strengthened management oversight and created new assistant team manager roles. We’re running bitesize sessions for staff alongside our core training 7 development offer and have introduced monthly social work ‘sharing’ sessions. Looking to the future, we’ve just launched proposals to strengthen early help structures and practice and now have a much stronger approach to commissioning. For example, we’re opening a new children’s home in Wandsworth later this year and a training flat for care leavers. Ofsted have told us that they can see the impact of this positive progress and that we now know ourselves better.

How are Wandsworth and Richmond working together?

The two councils will retain political sovereignty, with their own priorities and ambitions, but will be served by one set of staff across common service areas. Richmond and Kingston’s Children’s Services are currently run by a joint arms-length company, Achieving for Children (AfC), while Wandsworth’s Children’s Services remains an in-house team. However, there are links – AfC has been appointed by the DfE as our Improvement Partner, and their CEO, Nick Whitfield, chairs the Improvement Board. This has brought both challenges and valuable support. For example, in looking at how AfC’s performance regime works, Wandsworth has adopted some of their practice.

How do you use the Signs of Safety model?

Our practice framework, ‘Signs of Safety and Wellbeing’ (SoSWB) is based on the Signs of Safety model. Our ambition is to use SoSWB to support cultural change and develop excellence in our practice, strengthening the child’s voice, relationships with families, their own networks and partner agencies. We have SoSWB ‘practice leads’ who have received extended training and development opportunities to support and develop staff. We also have over 50 practice leads across social work, social care and partner agencies.

Ofsted notes youth participation is a strength at Wandsworth. Could you tell us more?

CLICK (Children Living in Care Kouncil) is a group for young people who represent and speak up on behalf of looked-after children to positively influence decision-making and shape the services they receive. They communicate with their ‘corporate parents’, from frontline staff to elected members, and have helped develop ‘The Pledge’ which describes what we will do to help young people get the best start in life. They contribute to training and development programmes and recruitment and have helped establish the ‘Wandsworth; Journey Through Care’ guide; a starter pack to promote independence for care leavers. We were delighted by Ofsted’s comment because members of CLICK and care leavers have all spoken positively about their engagement with the local authority.

Could you tell us more about your training programme?

We have a high quality and well-developed training offer focused on progressing and retaining strong frontline staff. There’s a combination of bitesize workshops, face-to-face and online training, external courses and conferences, as well as an external award programme. Plus, there’s a strong professional development framework for newly qualified social workers in their assessed and supported year in employment (ASYE). We also have an ambitious vision for our Social Care Academy to reinforce our development programmes for our staff at all levels of their career and promote recruitment and retention. This affords excellent opportunities for career progression into senior and consultant social work, assistant team management and team management roles. 

What would encourage people to join your team?

We are committed to focusing on quality of practice, keeping caseloads low and giving social workers the time to be able to form relationships with children and their families through high quality direct work. We have the flexibility to accelerate high performing staff and have a strong record in supporting those who want to progress into both managerial and practice specialism roles. 

For anybody new to Wandsworth, we understand that first impressions make the world of difference so we have launched a brand new digitalised induction process where all staff will have an allocated ’buddy’ to help them get started.

To read more interesting features such as the Council Spotlight. Check out the Sanctuary Social Work News magazine and subscribe for your free digital copy!

For vacancies, please visit or call Sanctuary’s permanent recruitment team on 0333 7000 026.
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