On the front line

22nd June 2001 at 01:00
Helen Nys. HEAD OF CHIlDCARE PRACTICE

I am one of three practice managers: the other two cover educational psychology and educational welfare. Previously, these would have been line-management roles but, in the new multi-disciplinary teams, the senior line managers can be from any discipline.

In the early consultations, a suggested model was for front-line teams to be managed in the same way. But the challenge came back that we needed to remember how these roles actually work in practice.

In social work, front-line managers often go to court. Social workers were saying: 'If my line manager is an education welfare officer, how can they support me? They're not going to have the professional experience and knowledge to back me up.' It was the same message from the others. Educational psychologists were worried about statementing and EWOs about their court cases. So we decided to have front-line managers from the same professional group. Team leaders and group managers can be from an discipline.

There's a possibility that the professional groups could end up being isolated, which leads to the need for practice managers.

The majority of staff are keen. But there have been anxieties, especially among EWOs, who were concerned that they would be swamped by the other professionals and expected to take on the role of social worker - understandable given the national shortage.

For schools, the challenge is to see the relevance of this to their job. Our main thrust has been supporting schools in helping children in care, but I've come across examples where a looked-after child has been excluded and the Children Schools and Families social worker turns up at the appeal and argues against the school. That can cause tension.

There's also a need to ensure standards across the quadrants. We aim to do things the same way, but there is potential to pilot developments in one, spreading the ideas that work to the others.

Interview Phil Revell


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