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About the Academy

Academy purpose and vision

Gloucestershire Children’s Services Social Work Academy is a professional development centre for social workers at all levels, from students and newly qualified social workers to heads of service.  The Academy is also supporting a range of entry routes into social work and related professions including 'step up' programmes and Frontline. It is for both new and current staff and aims to embed a 'Gloucestershire Approach' to social work practice, leadership and management and will make sure there is a consistent level of good practice across Gloucestershire Children’s Services.

We want you to have the tools, training, and development available to make sure you are the best at what you do, in your role. Within this site, you will find links to information that will support you in your day to day interactions and also to grow and develop in your current role and beyond.

 

About the team

Fiona Walker, Social Work Academy Service Manager

I have had the exciting role of Principal Social Worker in Gloucestershire Children’s Services since March 2017. During this time I’ve worked closely with staff at all levels and locations across our service to find out how our work can make a real difference for children and their families. Being part of an improving authority is challenging but also really interesting as it creates great opportunities to make sure everything we do is effective and understood.

My first job was as an Archaeologist, but I’ve worked closely with children and young people and their families and carers in various ways since 1985 when I was a part time youth worker. Since then I’ve had various roles across social care services – as a manager of residential care for people with learning disabilities, as a social worker and manager of children in care teams and as a manager in adoption and children and families teams. I’ve also enjoyed returning to Cheltenham as a Senior Lecturer at the University of Gloucestershire Social Work degree programme, which is where I qualified as a social worker in 1998.

I’ve been privileged to work with and support staff to be part of effective change in our organisation throughout all these roles – my current role as Principal Social Worker enables me to listen to and talk to everyone involved in developing and delivering our social work.  I’m interested in increasing inclusion and participation with young people and their families, how systems work together, putting high challenge and high support into practice, and building clearer career and development pathways for everyone involved in social work and social care. The Social Work Academy is a rare opportunity for us to build an energetic and supportive environment to grow a confident and informed social work practice together.

In my spare time I love cave and mine exploration, swimming in the sea and plotting holidays…

I qualified when probation was still seen as part of social work, and spent many years working as a Probation Officer, and then setting up and running services engaged in HIV prevention and for drug users in the prison system in Yorkshire, working in a multi-disciplinary team in a non-statutory service. I then moved to Bristol Drugs Project before returning to Probation in Gloucestershire to participate in running specialist programmes as alternatives to custody for drug users. In 2007, I moved to work for Gloucestershire Children’s Services, initially working in the Leaving Care Team, which became the 16 Plus Team, and then in Cheltenham Children and Families Team. I have also undertaken training with the Adoption Team and completed assessments for new foster carers. Having had this range of experience, and having enjoyed supervising students in a range of settings, I decided that I would like to move into training and joined the Practice Learning Team in 2015. Since then I have specialised in all areas of student provision, and I very much enjoy working with so many people who are keen to supervise enthusiastic students from a range of universities.

I qualified as a social worker in 2000 from the University of East Anglia. I have worked in Children’s Social Work teams since this time, more recently specialising in Adoption, Fostering and Kinship Care. I have worked as a Social Worker, Senior Practitioner, Practice Lead and Advanced Practitioner in a number of Local Authorities. I have also worked for CAFCASS as a Children’s Guardian. I am a Practice Educator and achieved the Post Graduate Certificate in Practice Education from Birmingham University.

What’s important to me? I enjoy helping to develop the practice of others to achieve the best possible outcomes for the children we work with.

My role as an ASYE Consultant Social Worker (with my colleague Liz Hobson) is to hold responsibility for the development, oversight and review of our ASYE (Assessed and Supported Year in Employment) Programme. I have been in post since 2015 and have a varied role across the county in regards to our ASYE programme; that can see me providing coaching and mentoring to Newly Qualified Social Workers, delivering the ASYE Training Programme, and providing reflective case supervision. I have been a Child and Family Social Worker for eight years and my main areas of professional interest are ASYE Programme and what we do in supervision. I was the key note speaker at British Association of Social Workers’ 2018 Student Conference ‘Excellence in Social Work: Employment & Theory’. I began my social work career as a Newly Qualified Social Worker with Gloucestershire Children’s Services back in 2010. I have worked as a Social Worker and Advanced Practitioner in a number of different practice settings during my career. I live in Gloucestershire with my wife, two boys, and road bike Rose.

My role as an ASYE Consultant Social Worker involves holding responsibility for the development, oversight and review of our ASYE Programme. I have been in this role since 2014 and have a varied role across the county in regards to our ASYE Programme; that can see me providing coaching and mentoring to Social Workers, delivering the ASYE Training Programme, and providing reflective case supervision. My main areas of interest are the learning and development of skills for all practitioners and foster carers who work with children and their families.

I have 11 years of qualified experience of working with children and families in a variety of settings, and teams from the front door to being in care. I have 7 years of working in workforce development where I was responsible for the development and training of social care practitioners and foster carers. I am a licensed trainer specialising in the delivery of assessment skills and the use of evidence based assessment tools to inform analysis in complex cases, and parents’ capacity to change.

I have learnt that to keep my passion for this amazing but increasingly challenging career intact I have to be with others who inspire me and help me keep learning. I am a practice educator and I have enjoyed the opportunity to work alongside some talented and skilful students, Newly Qualified Social Workers and experienced professionals in my career so far who keep that inspiration alive and keep me motivated.

I joined Gloucestershire Children’s Services in 2018 and I am currently within the Academy an a secondment from my role as a safeguarding Team manager.

Stepping out of frontline practice and focussing on how we introduce and integrate NAAS into our practice here is an exciting role and involves developing the core curriculum to support continued professional development for social workers and practice leaders.

  It is positive and helpful that I can reflect on my recent frontline experience to assist in understanding how we achieve NAAS readiness whilst reassuring our workforce that this will benefit them and recognise their good practice with children and families.

Supporting our social work practitioners is important to me, recognising that their experience, practice knowledge and skills need to be recognised and opportunities for learning and development are clear; that we create space for learning in the busy context of frontline practice. I am passionate about how values and ethics impact and shape social work practice and how being ‘in touch’ with these supports social workers to develop alliances with families that promote change and create opportunities for respectful but challenging conversations.

My role as Practice Development Co-ordinator is to develop practice using Restorative and Relational Approaches across Children’s Services; to enable colleagues to work with families and each other to create positive sustained change. I have worked in the restorative field as a facilitator for ten years and although my work began in the criminal justice sector I could immediately see how this way of working could be applied in schools, social care and beyond. The work we are doing with children and families in Gloucestershire is some of the most rewarding I have undertaken and being part of the Social Work Academy and supporting our improvement journey is something that I feel Restorative and Relational Practice has a great deal to offer.

Sam Haines, Quality Assurance

Sophie Bruce, Advanced Educator

Jackie Orr, Practice Learning Coordinator

Louise Williams, Senior Administrator  

Heather Yates, Administrator

Amber Priday, Business Administration Apprentice

Contact details

Gloucestershire Children's Services Social Work Academy
4-6 Commercial Road
Gloucester
Gloucestershire
GL1 2EA

SWacademy@gloucestershire.gov.uk

01452 425413

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