Meet Darren Shaw, Director of Service Delivery at Innovate Services
In our first interview with our newly appointed Director of Service Delivery, Darren Shaw, we discuss his future aspirations for the service and his personal journey into social work. And what better way to do it than over a coffee and an MS Teams call!
Darren, could you tell us about your journey into social work?
“I’ve always liked being able to make a positive difference to the lives of others, and in particular vulnerable children. I wanted to protect and advocate for young people who do not have a ‘voice’.
“I arrived at social work when I was in my mid-20s, which was a little later than many practitioners, but at that point I knew with absolute certainty that a career in children’s social work was my calling. So, I went back to education to study social work as part of the new social work degree. “
You’ve had a fantastic career in Children’s Social Work. Could you tell us more?
“I’ll never forget emerging from university, where I went straight into the role of social worker at Staffordshire Council. Here, I was lucky enough to have managers who supported me to progress my social work career. Whilst in post, I completed further studies and gained a Post Graduate Diploma in Special Social Work Practice to further develop my skills.
“Over my eight years at Staffordshire, I became a Senior Practitioner before moving on to become a Team Manager.
“Keen to use my experiences in other settings, I moved into the world of interim social work. My first interim role was at Birmingham Council as a Safeguarding Team Manager”
“After 12 months I wanted to gain new experiences and started working as an Independent Social Worker undertaking parenting assessments and fostering assessments for a number of local authorities”
“From there, I was approached by Dudley Council to assist with its practice improvement project, which appealed to me given the ambitious nature of the programme. I played a pivotal role in leading on practice improvement. First as Case Progression Manager, then Service Lead for Practice Improvement before taking on the role of Head of Practice Improvement, and finally Principal Social Worker.
“During this period, I was proud to set up and lead the Centre for Professional Practice (CPP) which was later nominated for a national award in respect of innovation.”
“My practice journey came full circle when I joined Birmingham Children’s Trust as Assistant Director for Practice Improvement and Development. This was an exciting opportunity, and I was delighted to have helped launch the Practice Hub and instrumental in the launch of the new Social Work Academy and Social Work Apprentice Programme. I held this position for two years up until I left to join Innovate Services last month.”
Why did you leave the public sector to join Innovate?
“That’s a great question. For me, joining Innovate Services as Director of Service Delivery, enables me to work within the public sector but in a completely different way.
“The role on offer at Innovate Services was an exciting opportunity, since the collaborative work with local authorities across the UK gives me the chance to make a much bigger impact.
“I had been working at local authorities for over 12 years, but I was intrigued by how Innovate Services, as a private sector business, was able to have such a big impact.
“A big part of the attraction of the role is what Innovate Services represents. I wanted to be part of an entity that consistently provides high quality social work. Being social work-led, Innovate is a specialist project service with values, standards and expectations that wants to do something different.
“I can be creative and develop new systems and ideas in my role. Emma Blakemore, Innovate Services’CEO, was very clear that ideas will be listened to and developed. Professionally, my new role is a great opportunity to make my mark and find new ways to secure positive outcomes within social work.”
What are you responsible for at Innovate Services?
“My role is to oversee the CYPS division, the operational and strategic delivery of the social work projects up and down the country.
“In growing the services and projects that we can offer; I have very high ambitions for Innovate Services. I see my role as elevating Innovate Services to become recognised for being the industry leader in providing project support for children’s services.”
Could you tell us, what’s your personal motivation for your work?
“My mindset is driven by my own life experiences. When I was young, my mum was incredibly poorly but she always remained positve. She taught me that your life circumstances do not have to define you and I use this in my practice. There’s a solution to every problem and you can resolve every issue if you think about it in the right way. It’s never too late to change, to study, to achieve!
“Day-to-day, I enjoy working with agencies and being part of a bigger group to protect young people. I also find the investigative aspect of social work appealing, exploring why people do things, and the psychology behind behaviours.”
How do you like to spend your time away from work?
“Working in social work, it’s important to maintain a good work-life balance. I love sports, football, and cricket. Manchester United and England are my two teams that I follow, or I’ll sit down and watch a film with my family. I’ve got two daughters aged 7 and 11 who I love spending time with.
“Once a year I go out to eat at a Michelin Star restaurant. I love good food and it’s the perfect way for me to switch off and enjoy myself!”
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