A Day in the Life Of… Our Head of Service.
As Matthew Heatley celebrates his first six months as Head of Service at Innovate Services, he shares his experience of supporting local authorities’ children’s services.
Here’s what he had to say…
Could you tell us about your typical day?
Every day is different, but there’s a common thread through all the work we do; everything the team and I do is designed to help our local authority partners identify ways to improve social work service delivery.
This could mean helping them with their existing improvement plan or leading a managed service project within Children in Need, Duty & Assessment, Edge of Care, High-cost placements MASH, Discharge of Care, Safeguarding or Children with Disabilities.
It’s my role to ensure that all statutory duties for the Innovate Services social workers I manage are met, and that services are child-centred and deliver positive, measurable results.
My particular area of expertise is in service auditing, since my experience spans every children’s social work service-area.
Could you tell us more about service auditing?
When a council approaches Innovate Services, they’ll often know that they have issues. These may have been identified by Ofsted or by the local authority itself as part of an improvement plan. Sometimes, a local authority simply wants to know how they are performing ahead of an inspection.
My role, as Head of Service, is to manage Innovate Services’ auditors who look at the themes and patterns that are revealed through qualitative and quantitative analysis of cases. I work with the auditors to identify where those issues are impacting the timeliness and quality of social care.
For example, at a North West local authority, I recently led a team of four senior-level auditors. Earlier in the year, the council’s children’s social care service had received a disappointing Ofsted inspection. To pinpoint the underlying problems, the team carried out a robust thematic audit of 100 cases. As the project-lead, I evidenced findings, helped identify case recording trends and the impact on intervention, and recommended changes to the local authority during weekly meetings.
For added reassurance, I undertook a moderation exercise on a sample of cases that my team of auditors had completed. I also worked with the council to identify the service need for mentoring. This resulted in Innovate Services’ auditors delivering 30 knowledge-transfer sessions with the council’s social workers and managers to help improve the quality of their case recording. It’s this level of detail and being able to identify the links between cause and effect that motivates me.
How do you manage your team?
It’s important that I am accessible to the local authorities I support but I do try and spend at least one day a week at our head office. This gives me the time to support the project coordinators and further develop Innovate Services’ programmes with other members of the team.
You are known for taking a reflective approach to project management. What does this mean?
Being at Innovate Services, I can be reflective and constantly develop new care pathways. For example, Children with Disabilities is an area that’s often overlooked by social services. However, there are ways in which a local authority can redefine the care pathways for those children; for some, this may be outside of social care and within the existing local offer or early help. Where I have worked local authorities before, I’ve seen up to 30% of cases closed to social services by taking a reflective approach in redefining care pathways. It’s about thinking more innovatively about where the short, medium and long-term care needs of children and their families could be met.
What are the challenges you face?
Sometimes, as Head of Service, I have to tell councils that their internal service auditing is not up to scratch. Initially, this can be difficult for internal teams to take on board. You have to remember that an individual may have been in a local authority for a very long time and it’s difficult to step back and realise that improvements need to be made.
Where I evidence findings and reveal where the shortcomings are, they can see the need for change much more clearly. Service transformation of any kind is a journey and we act as critical friend throughout the process.
What are the differences between working for Innovate Services compared to a local authority?
For me, it’s about being able to affect change. When you work internally for a local authority, you get caught-up in bureaucracy and so it can be harder to make service changes.
At Innovate Services, I can safely test new ways of working. As a social work professional, I am still able to work with children and young people but make a greater impact.
It’s a unique way of working. Essentially, councils can access experienced social workers and managers who can do a great job at leaving them in a better place then they were before.
How do you make sure you have a great work-life balance?
There’s a strong emphasis on achieving just the right work-life balance at Innovate Services. Yes, we work hard, but we’re also encouraged to take time for ourselves. For me, that’s spending time with my wife, walking and delving into the fantasy worlds of the likes of Tolkien. This means, I am always able to perform my best at work.
To find out more about how Innovate Services can help you, please get in touch.
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