Employee spotlight on Richard, Service Improvement Officer for Children's services.
Richard has a background in social research along with a fascination with numbers and data, he joined East Lothian council after the local government reorganisation of 1996. Richard said: “I have always had a passion for social work but didn’t think I could ever be a social worker due to the extraordinary demands placed on the profession, so I played to my strengths and contented myself with a supporting role. Through various iterations within social work, I now find myself with title of Service Improvement Officer which gives me the responsibility of the Service Development Team and the Business Support Team within children’s services – a staff group of around 26.”
Children’s (social work) services exists to provide support and protection to the most vulnerable children and families in East Lothian. The teams work with children and young people from pre-birth to the age of 25. The services provided range from child protection, through looked after to after care.
Richard said: “Much of the obligation we have to care and protect is enshrined in legislation. East Lothian is for many a wonderful place to live but there are real areas of deprivation where family circumstances mean that support and intervention are required. Last year there were over 3,600 contacts to the service.”
Operating during the pandemic has been challenging for the service which is about meeting clients face to face and relies on close communication. From the first lockdown, social workers still had to visit to make sure children were safe and supported. They were very much on the frontline and were vulnerable to the risk of coronavirus. This was also true of our children’s residential homes where staff had to continue working. The acquisition of new technology has allowed workers to work in a safer way with clients and colleagues now but the pandemic has presented huge challenges for the way social workers would normally operate.
The children’s service is undergoing a redesign. The redesign is based on empirical evidence gathering which relates to Richard’s work. Richard said: “Providing the evidence that supports good decision making leading to better outcomes for children and families is the most rewarding part of my job. It is an exciting time for children’s services overall. The implementation of The Promise following a root and branch investigation of the care system in Scotland is one initiative that will help improve outcomes for looked after children. As a council we are committed to getting it right for every child (GIRFEC) which involves all divisions working together. The focus on addressing poverty for families to allow children to fulfil their potential is where we collectively need to be putting energy. Children’s services is a part of that but only one part of a community response that requires everyone to be part of.”