In May 2017 I took up my new post as Project Manager for NESWA with excitement, nervousness and huge ambition for the project. My 2 colleagues Helen Woolley and Glenn Dunnett had already been appointed as Regional Placement Co-Ordinator and Project Administrator respectively and had started a couple of weeks ahead of me. We had a very tight timescale to deliver the project and an even tighter budget! The spending, targets and timescales had already been set. So we had to play catch up in order to deliver the project. And, as though that wasn’t challenging enough, we had 18 partner organisations to work alongside. Each with its own individual people, challenges, priorities and vision. And, initially we had to deliver the project by March 2018!!
Fortunately we were successful at securing an additional years funding which gave us some breathing space to deliver the agreed outcomes by March 2019. Nevertheless it was a big ask. All of the representatives from Universities, Local Authorities, Trusts and PVI organisations already faced challenges as a result of austerity and political interference.
We have encountered challenges, a lack of shared vision, some defensiveness and some lack of a willingness to share or work in the spirit of partnership.
But, mostly we have encountered dedication, passion, enthusiasm and a very strong commitment to the values and principles that underpin social work. We have exposed some ‘elephants in the room’ some myths, and some decidedly average practice. But mostly we have exposed what Helen describes as ‘nuggets of gold’. Areas of fantastic practice, new ideas, innovative and creative ways of working that are transformational and are helping to improve social work education for social work students and for the existing workforce. In partnership we have generated additional capacity in placements, grown new Practice Educators, developed new approaches to mentoring, shadowing and providing placements. We have piloted new models of social work education that involve service users and people with lived experience through Mend the Gap, we have developed new modules for Practice Development Educator qualifications and Preparing to Teach on social work programmes. Neither of these were being delivered in the region. We have developed tools, resources and materials to help to embed the KSS across the region. And we have started the process of collecting regional workforce and labour market planning data.
Exhausting, exhilarating and exciting!! It has felt like an immense journey but, as it comes to an end I feel we have done the very best that we can to deliver strong and robust foundations for the future.
Thank you to everyone that we have worked in partnership with, and good luck in the future.
Dr Felicity Shenton