Unions say social workers and senior leaders are all pulling in the same direction
Unions and employers often disagree. However, Kev Standishday, branch secretary of Unison for the Northamptonshire Children’s Trust, admits to being pleased with the ongoing efforts to improve the working lives of social workers in Northamptonshire.
Despite the high-profile issues with the former council, Kev says he was not in favor of the decision to create a trust dedicated to children.
“For me, it was like a privatization of services. But now that it’s happened, I can honestly say it doesn’t feel like the private sector – it still feels like the public sector with the same philosophy.
Changes to pay
And Kev believes the current management team has made real and meaningful improvements to culture, pay and conditions which is helping to turn things around in Northamptonshire.
“Colin Foster is a great guy and has great ideas about team and management structures and how to help people perform at their best.
“They reintroduced incremental pay and implemented a 1.75% pay raise. We obviously would have liked more but we understand that they have to work within a financial envelope. Everyone’s back on six full months and six months half sick pay, for example, and they’re also paying for social work registration, which shows their willingness.
There has also been the introduction of a range of bonuses to encourage recruitment and retention in particular teams.
Such changes to wages and working conditions are significant improvements, according to Kev. He thinks there has been similar thinking about the work being done to change the culture of the organization as well.
“Colin spent a lot of time communicating with the staff. I wasn’t sure what to expect from his 58 minute sessions for everyone, but in the first one he was playing Bob Marley tunes while everyone listened and I was like “this seems like a good start!”
Kev says setting up an equality forum felt like a better approach than the usual half-day training that often felt like a tick box.
The forum features speakers from inside the organization who talk about their lived experience. Recent speakers included a person with dyslexia and another who did not identify her gender in the traditional way.
This was followed by actions intended to meet the challenges people face, such as setting up a dyslexia support network or encouraging all employees to put their pronouns in email signatures.
“To me, it shows that senior leaders really think things through and take the time to consider people,” says Kev.
Journey from employee to union representative
He is one such employee in his day job as an early aid coordinator with NCT, but is currently on full-time release.
Her background in social care was unusual. He started in 2003 while working full time as a truck driver.
“A friend of mine was a social worker and he worked to resettle young offenders. I started helping out as a volunteer. I would pop into their apartments and help them with their shopping, cooking, and making sure they were taking care of themselves – basically, I was mentoring them.
“Soon I was doing more YOS [young offending service] work and less truck driving,” he laughs.
Kev has worked in a number of early help roles, including setting up an innovative project to help young male offenders who have become teenage fathers. He is passionate about the difference early help can make.
“I met a few guys from the project on the street a few years later and they were with their kids. One was getting ready for a job interview. It was so nice to see. I felt like we had made a real difference in their lives. Unfortunately, it did not survive the austerity cuts in services,
“It was the combination of funding cuts and decisions made by what was Northamptonshire County Council at the time that prompted me to become more involved in the union.”
Kev is now much more positive about the current climate at NCT, though he doesn’t discount the number of issues that still need to be addressed.
“Senior management and the union are obviously not going to agree on everything. But I feel like we now have people on the other side of the bargaining table who are reasonable and receptive to what we have to say and who are working hard to make things better.
“It will take time for the previous culture to build up but I think Northamptonshire is now on the right track to becoming a reasonable place to work as a social worker and I wouldn’t have said that two years ago. year.”
Northamptonshire Children’s Trust has announced a new offer for social workers, senior social workers and advanced practitioners. It includes a welcome bonus, retention payments, flexible working options and payment for social work registration in England. Learn more
The Northamptonshire Children’s Trust is now open to applications for the next cohort of newly qualified social workers. Apply now
If you would like to find out more about the new offer or opportunities at Northamptonshire Children’s Trust, see their employer profile or contact us at [email protected]