Luke, Service Manager

Interview with Luke, Service Manager for Crawley and East Hospitals' Group.

Hi Luke, tell us a bit about yourself

Hi, I’m Luke and I’m a Service Manager in Adults’ Services for the Crawley and East Hospitals' Group.

I didn’t start out my career working with vulnerable adults, in fact, after school and college, I owned my own woodwork restoration business.

When I badly injured my back however, I needed to change direction. It was then that my wife saw an advert for an open day promoting different opportunities within day centres at West Sussex County Council [WSCC].

It was at the open day that I spoke to some fantastic social workers and carers and they really inspired me! I volunteered to work in the woodwork department of a centre for people with learning disabilities initially, and shortly after that I was a offered a job as one of the carers, and I haven’t looked back since.

Great! So what inspired you to progress and become a social worker?

I had struggled at school because I’m dyslexic and I didn’t have A-Levels or a degree when I became a carer. At the time, I never imagined that I would ever get the qualifications needed for qualified roles within adults' social care. My managers however really encouraged me to consider the social work degree sponsorship, which led me to do the introduction to social work module that WSCC were running with Chichester University to see how I would cope and feel about doing the full degree.

Although I struggled with it from a dyslexia point of view and initially needed my wife to help me write up my reports, it was a revelation to me. I realised that I could study at that level and I went on to be sponsored for the full degree and getting great grades!

"West Sussex saw something in me that I hadn’t, and they have really supported me all the way."

That’s fantastic! And then of course you went on to become a service manager…

Yes, after finishing my degree, which was a fantastic experience, I went on to do the post-qualifying degree with Brighton University part-time for four years. This enabled me to become a senior social worker within the community. Because of the support that West Sussex gave me, I had this newfound confidence in myself and went on to look for as many opportunities as I could to help build my knowledge and skills in lots of different areas within adults’ social care. I then progressed to become a senior practitioner and then to the role of service manager, which I'm in today.   

As service manager, I manage the Crawley and East Hospitals' Group. I find it a real privilege to be in the role I’m in - being able to support our customers and my team, especially over the last year with the outbreak of COVID-19. I take real satisfaction and pride in managing others and seeing them grow and do well and to be able to make a positive difference to people’s lives together as a service.

Talking about COVID-19, how do you feel West Sussex has supported you and your team? 

The support has been excellent, I would say. I think we’ve all been very open about the challenges, so communication has been good. We’ve also been proactive in trying to find the best solutions, whether that be to support the mental health and wellbeing of us as individuals or enabling us to deliver the best possible outcomes to the vulnerable adults in our care. I take great pride in what we’ve achieved this last year. 

What would you say is good about being a social worker/service manager at West Sussex?

The outstanding support and the opportunities open to you. There are always opportunities to develop and progress. In the last year, we’ve had to adapt due to COVID-19. Many of the learning opportunities can now be accessed online and they’re fantastic. The support you get from management and the team as whole is also second to none. 

The people you get to work with are amazing. They are dedicated and passionate about making a difference, even at times when it is really challenging and that’s a real testament to their values. I've seen my team really stand up for customers and have difficult conversations, particularly this last year, and I’m just so proud of them and to be a part of it. 

What would you say are the challenges of being a social worker/service manager?

I think the challenges are often linked to the rewards. Adult social work, especially in hospitals, is very complex; you need to have a lot of knowledge around social care and health legislation and guidance and trying to navigate through all that to meet a customer’s needs and goals can be challenging. At West Sussex, we must also bear in mind budgets and tight time frames to meet our statutory duties. Having said that, when you do achieve successful outcomes for people despite these challenges, it is incredibly satisfying.

So, if there is one myth you could bust about adults’ social work, what would it be?

I think there's a myth sometimes out in the public domain that social workers 'do' to people and they take over. That is simply not the case - our social workers work alongside a customer and their family and we empower them to get the best outcomes. As a manager, I wouldn’t accept it any other way.  

What would you say to somebody considering joining us as a social worker?

I would say go for it if you enjoy working with people and problem solving! You know, social work in its most basic form is about supporting someone to move from A to B. It's all about supporting someone to improve their life and that's why people come to us and why we get involved. It’s also the job for you if you enjoy diversity and never knowing what the next day will bring, and the satisfaction you get from working with some amazing people. I can think of no other job I'd rather do to be honest. I think it's a great career!