County council wants more than 40 new children’s social workers

Karina Case Study Vid

More than 40 new children’s social care workers are wanted by Oxfordshire County Council - how would you like a job that involves becoming a close and personal part of the lives of children and families who are having a difficult time and setting them on the road to a positive future?

In 2011 there were around 425 children in care in Oxfordshire – now there are around 780, a rise of around 80 per cent. The children’s social care budget in the county has increased annually from £46m in 2011 to £86m this year and will rise up to £95m by 2022/23 – more than doubling in ten years.

Rewarding work

If you’re looking for a change of profession or starting in the world of work and looking for a career – consider the words of Karina Boorer. Her advice is to give some thought to what she describes as her “rewarding” work, in children’s social care in Oxfordshire.

She joined the county council’s Family Solutions team in 2018 and is now encouraging others to become her colleague as the council looks to recruit new social workers to help with the rising number of children entering care – a situation being experienced all over the UK.

Karina, 31, has practiced social care in both her home country of Canada and in Oxfordshire, where she moved with her husband in last year.

She said: “Working with families in the way we do is very intimate and personal. You get to be part of a family’s journey. We seek to empower them and work on their strengths. It’s very challenging but very rewarding. There’s no other profession quite like it. As a professional you are constantly learning, evolving and facing challenges. Every family is so uniquely different and you learn from everyone you deal with. You grow as a professional.

“If you work in children’s social care you will learn so much that you will be able to do any other social care job in your future life because your skills are transferable and can be adapted to any other field. It really does set you up as a professional.

“We often come in to the lives of families when they are in chaos. We come in and they see us as having lots of power. They understandably initially feel scared, judged and defensive. The job is to work with them, build up trust over time, build a strong relationship and break-through and work in partnership with them. When you are able to achieve that partnership, it is an absolutely amazing feeling.

“Once you’ve got past those initial barriers and built a partnership you can help them recognise their strengths and build on them. We put plans in place with them – those plans become that family’s plan. They take ownership and as a result the child and the family’s life starts to improve.

“Concluding a file and saying goodbye to the family is very rewarding. You may never hear from them again because they have made the necessary changes for themselves. Yet for a while you’ve been a very close and personal part of their lives.”

Exciting and challenging

Both in her previous role in Alberta, Canada and in her new role in Oxfordshire Karina is in no doubt what skills a person needs to develop to become a successful children’s social care work. “You need to be flexible. You need to have the ability to prioritise what you need to accomplish in any one week. Urgent things will crop up - but you still have your overall priority for the week. It’s exciting but it does challenge you. You have to be particularly good at time management to deal with all the urgent demands while still having that overall priority for the week as a whole in mind.”

Karina’s most rewarding moment since taking up her job in England is an example of the rewards to be gained by taking up the profession. “There was a child I was working with who was scared to go home and the child was just not able to share the reason with us.

“I spent a great deal of time with the child and the child was eventually able to discuss the physical abuse they were suffering. The child thought that by sharing this information things would get worse. I made sure the child’s story was heard and worked over a long period of time with the mother and wider family and the end result was that the child was no longer afraid to go home. The relationship with the child is the most important of all. We need to work to create a space for children to tell their story. Then we can turn a life around – and in that case we helped the family to succeed. It’s very rewarding.

When asked what she’d say to persuade people to join the ranks of her profession, Karina is very clear: “As a children’s social worker you will have the privilege of working with families to work on their strengths to improve the lives of their children. It’s an amazing profession”.

Dedicated professionals

Lucy Butler, Director for Children’s Services at Oxfordshire County Council, said: “Karina and her colleagues are dedicated professionals who have turned around the lives of many Oxfordshire children and their families. We need more recruits like Karina. I would urge anybody who has considered social care as a profession and thinks they may be suited to give it a go and join our team.”

If you’d like to learn more and consider a role in children’s social care in Oxfordshire check here