Cheshire East is an amazing place to work

Jenny-BrownJenny Brown is a great advocate for our social workers and has been working for Cheshire East Council for more than eight years.

She recently secured a 15-month secondment with the North West Midlands Social Work Teaching Partnership (NWMSWTP) and will be working as a Consultant Academic Social Worker, based at Keele University.

Jenny’s secondment is an integral part of the teaching partnership and will be important in strengthening the quality of practice learning among trainee and practising social workers, and be hugely beneficial to both Cheshire East Council and other authorities.

We asked Jenny to tell us about her role at Cheshire East and the secondment –

What path did you take to become a social worker

 “I came to education later on, having had children, and initially I wanted to be a teacher. Because I had previously been in care myself, I knew a bit about social care but never thought that was what I’d end up doing. But part way through my access course I decided to give it a go and then I went to Keele University to do a degree in social care.

“We did three placements during the training and my last one was within Cheshire East in a children and families team. When that ended there were interviews for positions that were available and I got offered one of them. I’ve been with Cheshire East since November 2008 and have worked within various different teams, but they have all been in child protection. For the last three years I’ve been working in the ‘long-term’ team.”

What’s the best thing about your job

 “Working with children and being able to see that with support and help from children’s services, children’s lives can be made a lot better. You meet some fabulous children that have amazing strengths and you do also meet some great families, who just need a bit of support and help from us.”

What does your working day usually entail

“When we come in in the morning we have what we call ‘protected time’, so we don’t take phonecalls and it’s where we can sit down and get all of the case notes up-to-date.

“Throughout the day we would have either child in need/child protection meetings, or home visits. As a lot of the children I work with are older children, above the age of five, the home visits that we generally do are after school, so we can see the children within the home environment.

“A lot of the day when we’re in the office is also spent taking phonecalls. People could call up with concerns about a child and then we would have to do that immediate response.”

What will the secondment entail, what do you hope to learn from it and how will it benefit Cheshire East

“I applied for the secondment as I’m also a practice educator and it will give me the opportunity to work with students.

“One of the reasons I’ve stayed with Cheshire East is because they have provided me with lots of opportunities for me to progress my own learning, and during my time here I’ve had four students and three are now working within Cheshire East. The students make you challenge the way you think – I may have a certain theory or understanding, but they make me look at it another way and it keeps me really interested in social work itself.

“All of the students I have worked with previously have been very similar to me…whereas this secondment gives me the opportunity to work with a variety of students from a variety of backgrounds and will help me progress my development and learning.”

Jenny added: “As the secondment is based at Keele University, I will have access to the masses of resources and information they have and I think it will make me a better practitioner so that when I come back to the authority in 14 months’ time, my understanding of a variety of different areas of social work will be much better.

“I have only ever worked for Cheshire East and I know the Cheshire East way, but different local authorities work differently and this secondment will also help to build those links and understand how they each work.”

What would you say to someone who is considering a career in social work

“It’s a really rewarding career if you have the dedication and the commitment and want to work in a profession where you really can make a difference.

“The team in Crewe are fabulous and work so hard. People are working really hard to protect children. I think the public’s perception of social workers is that we are there to remove children and place them in foster care. But actually, we work so hard to keep children within their birth families, whether that means they are with their mum and dad, or nan and grandad or extended family, we work really hard to try and keep children within their family as long as we can and as long as it’s safe to do so. So much of our effort is to support the families.”

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