ICS Assessment Services, since its establishment in 2015, has always valued the effective support from knowledgeable, personal administrative support that keeps the social work engine running.
During this time, we had never experienced anyone replicating the role of a Project Co-ordinator within a Local Authority, until we came across an article posted on Community Care. The article references a pilot scheme report that took place in 2017 within Hampshire Council.
In response, we sat with one of our experienced Project Coordinators, Sean O’Brien, to help us understand the many aspects of his role and how it benefits our work with the Local Authorities.
What is a Project Co-ordinator’s role like at ICS?
All Project Co-ordinators at ICS support the delivery of projects in partnership with Local Authorities and Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs). The role is primarily split between Adults and Children’s Social Services and Health Services.
We work on varied projects. Each year, our Social Workers meet with 1,000s of customers, service users and their families, who all have unique needs. It is our responsibility to support them on a daily basis and enable them to spend more time with them.
What are your key responsibilities as Project Co-ordinator?
I am a Children’s Project Co-ordinator and I work with the Duty Teams who conduct Child and Family Assessments, with Locality-based services (encompassing Child in Need [CIN], Child Protection [CP] and Looked After Children [LAC]) and with Revocation of Care Orders, in order to successfully see children placed back with their families following support and guidance.
How do you collaborate with Social Work teams to achieve positive outcomes in your projects?
We recognise that the job of a social worker can be difficult, challenging and stressful.
We work closely with our social work teams co-ordinating work and conducting administration. This ranges from simple but time-consuming tasks, such as creating genograms, to answering phone calls from families and professionals, as well as dealing with appropriate requests and escalating urgent requests.
We often hear them describing previous experiences they’ve had, in which they didn’t get enough guidance and resources, in order to properly do their job and it is really rewarding for us to keep them satisfied and happy to work with us.
We also feel it is important to evaluate our own actions. We collate information about our performance, making sure we are always on top of our agreed KPIs and work to the highest standards together.
Is there anything else your average day includes?
We provide ‘snapshot’ views to support compliance (such as utilising key indicators as in the national ChAT – Children’s Services Analysis Toolkit). This allows managers to focus on tasks such as dip-sampling and thematic to deep-dive case-auditing.
At least one co-ordinator is always allocated to each of our projects (typically 10 social workers receive support from one of our team in the office) – ultimately, we are all responsible for our own success and we work as such in our team.
Over the course of projects, which can be anything from 12 weeks to 2 years, we develop and maintain relationships with each other, share both the challenges and positive outcomes and work collaboratively for all.
Based on your personal experience, what do you consider challenging at your job?
Each new day might bring a new challenge since no two projects are the same and every single project is tailor-made to the needs of the client. Another thing you learn throughout time is prioritisation! It is vital in our job to distinguish what is urgent and what is important and deal with it accordingly. It is a challenging job but at the same time, it has helped me develop skills in time-management, organisation, prioritisation and delegation.
Do you foresee any more challenges due to the COVID-19 spread?
It’s already had an impact on us. We recently started working remotely from home. The transition has been smooth even if communication is limited to video calls, calls and emails, we try to keep regular contact with each other and adapt to the new reality ahead of us.
We are still adapting to the new ways of working, as stricter measures are implemented concerning social distancing, which really affects our work. Face-to-face visits are likely to become less common in some areas of our projects and we are already looking at how we can use technology, such as Skype, to still reach the vulnerable members of our community.
Furthermore, we are also looking at new ways we can support local authorities during these unprecedented and uncertain times. I expect that we will see the needs of local authorities change over the next few weeks, with a greater demand for urgent implementation of care packages and hospital discharges.
Finally, in your opinion, what’s the value of supporting Social Work?
As Project Co-ordinators we go beyond the typical PA role by being more analytical with our project work, wherever our social worker may be and by supporting Councils and families. We fully understand the needs and processes that should take place to ensure best practice is followed and maintained.
At ICS we have managerial and senior social work staff supported by highly-skilled administration professionals and an experienced consultancy team that enable us to deep dive into any operation and bring together a team that is capable to meet any need.
Now more than ever, our teams work very hard to cope with the COVID-19 crisis.
Our social workers are out there in the first line, doing an incredible job and ensuring safety across the country. From our side, we are doing our best to support them in any way we can and I would like to thank them personally for the personal risks they have been taking for our own safety.
Find out more about our Project Co-ordinators’ role and responsibilities by directly speaking to one of the team here and by calling at 0161 238 7485.
More about the innovation in Hampshire and Social Work PA Support:
In March 2017, an Evaluation Report produced by “The Institute of Public Care at Oxford Brookes University”, titled Social Care Innovations in Hampshire and the Isle of Wight which detailed The Innovation Programme in Hampshire and the Isle of Wight.
It came as a response to the British Association of Social Workers (BASW) when they launched their 80-20 campaign, which detailed the ratio that social workers spend dealing with their case management as oppose to the meaningful time spent with families doing the necessary work required to support them.
Hampshire council recruited 25 Personal Assistants to support the 100 new social workers that the council had invested in. The scheme worked on the assumption that the correct ratio of PAs to Social Workers was 1:3.
From the description of what the role provided we noted the similarities in what was required from these PAs and our Children’s Project Co-ordinators.
Both roles focus on supporting the social workers by: pro-active diary management, responding to phone calls and email enquiries from families and professionals, monitoring and chasing social workers compliance related to KPIs, agency checks and processing referrals to external agencies and minute taking.