Grace, Family Support Key Worker

An interview with Grace, a Family Support Key Worker.

Can you tell me a little bit about yourself?

I'm Grace, I’m 26 years old and very sociable. I like talking to people, listening to people and I like getting out and about. I like my exercise. I'm very animal orientated, I've got a dog and enjoy my dog walks.

What inspired you to become a family support worker?

I started off in an admin role in the Child Protection Team in West Sussex. I became the observer if you like, and I became very interested very quickly. I wanted to grow and progress into a bit more of a responsible role. To actually be the one to help and empower families.

Speaking to colleagues helped me see how they work and I wanted to be part of it.

Why did you choose to work for West Sussex County Council?

I think for me it's quite important to have a good work/life balance and so West Sussex is closer for me to work from.

I've worked amongst many teams within West Sussex and I've been really lucky to meet lots of people from different services. I just always feel like everyone is friendly and it's a nice place to be. All the offices I've been to, even if it's not your base, it just seems that everyone is friendly.

Did you need any qualifications to start in your in your job as a family support worker or can you just use transferable skills?

It's desirable to hold a qualification, but it's not the be all or end all. Yes, you can use your transferable skills, which is exactly what I did. I had ‘A levels’, but I haven't got qualifications in terms of being specific to a family support worker, childcare or anything like that.

I've been able to evidence skills through my work experience, my different jobs and how I've progressed, taking on more responsibility. Your expertise that you're then able to evidence, such as what you would do in a certain situation and what you have done in order to support families. So, the qualification is desirable, but it's not essential.

I've managed it and I think a lot of people in the service are in similar situations and have successfully built the skills needed for the role.

What’s the best thing about your job?

The best thing is just being with the children and their families. Doing whatever it takes to support that family and that child. You get a lot of opportunities, I'd say, to make them feel more supported.

Every day is different which does bring some stresses, but it also brings more enjoyment because you're never bored. You're in control of your day and you can make those arrangements with those families, which instantly makes you feel more comfortable and relaxed as a worker because you know that they feel comfortable and relaxed too.

I think just building up those relationships with people, being a listening ear and seeing that people really appreciate that. Often people really do just need someone to listen to and bring their voice to the table to get the right support.

What do you particularly enjoy about working in the Early Help team?

It is a bit like a little family! You have development days and there's lots of training opportunities, which is massive. That's helpful because, if there's something you're lacking, even though you might not feel fully confident when you first start as a family support worker, that's OK, because those skills that you lack, there is training for them. So, if you're stuck you can often reach out to your peers and we all work things out together, so you're always part of the team, you never feel alone, which is nice.

How does WSCC support you to develop and progress?

I can only speak from my perspective as I have just been promoted recently to the Key Worker role, which is the one above family support worker, and I had only been doing family support work for a year, but I've got a really supportive management team. I know them all, but they're all very supportive. They celebrate your achievements, what you do well and try to empower you as a worker in order to empower families to make positive change.

Take any training opportunities and try and broaden your expertise, the management are very open to the idea of progressing your career. I think they've given me the confidence and support to apply for the next stage in my career.

Is there a particular case or something about your work that makes you particularly proud?

In one case, at the beginning with the family, it felt like a crisis and very high levels of anxiety. We've now got to the place with this family where it actually feels like it's gone from practically speaking to them every single day, to me actually calling to say, “hello are you still here?”

We've managed as a professional network to all support this family and get what they need to empower them to make the changes and think about sustainability. Giving them the confidence to make the changes so that they don't feel like they need professionals in their lives and that they do have the confidence to sustain that. So I feel really proud that we've come from that crisis situation up to a place where it's been settled and is being sustained.

What would you say the biggest challenges are for you?

I think it depends on what type of person you are. For me, I am a perfectionist, but there's some situations where things are out of your control, so that's quite hard for me to deal with. I guess when you want to do so much, you sometimes don't have the time.

Obviously, we've got admin which must be done too. This takes up so much time but it's a tool to help us. Whereas before, I was probably a bit negative about it, but actually it does help you and I think if you see it like that, it helps shift your mindset, so you don’t feel bogged down with it.

If there was a myth that you could bust about being in your role, what would it be?

It is the fear that their children will be taken away, we're not here to do that. We want to prevent and help empower to sustain positive change for the families.

What would you say to somebody who is considering joining us?

Just go for it. I think if you're the sort of person that wants to help and you are patient, like to listen, you're open to meeting new people and want to help children and their families, then you will smash it! It's a very rewarding job.

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