Introducing Head of Service for Children and Families, Claire Nelson
As Claire makes the jump from being Project Manager to Head of Services for Children and Families, we go behind the scenes to find out what motivates her inside and outside of work.
Claire, could you tell us how your social care journey started?
My journey started with people, just not in the way most people presume. Initially, I started life in HR and payroll, but I quickly knew that I wanted to help people on a deeper level. I wanted to make a difference to those who do not have a voice or means to advocate for themselves, so social work was a natural choice.
Before joining Innovate Services, I had mainly worked internally in permanent social work positions. However, my experience has been shaped by the roles I’ve held at three different local authorities and as a Project Manager at Innovate.
After qualifying, my first social work role was in Duty and Assessment. I worked my way from the employer-led AYSE induction programme to Senior Practitioner and then Team Manager. During this time, and due to the role’s fast-paced nature, I gained a vast amount of experience and specialised in child exploitation.
After quite some time and as a natural progression, I decided to focus on long-term support, so I moved into care management. Here, I supported children in need and those subject to a child protection order and prepared care proceedings and adoption cases for court.
Following this, I made the leap back to Duty and Assessment, but this time as a Service Manager. This role was incredibly satisfying as it saw me support the local authority with service improvements identified by Ofsted and implement improved ways of working to achieve effective service delivery and high quality practice. I also took on the Children with Disabilities Team for a period of time to support the team with its transformation and improvement plan.
In October 2018, I left my permanent role to move into project work here at Innovate Services so that I could broaden my experience once again. Since then, I have specialised in Children with Disabilities, pre-birth, SGO/discharge of care orders, safeguarding, and the review of children in residential care.
I enjoy the variety of project work. So, when the Head of Service role became available, it was a perfect fit for me to start managing multiple projects and core teams.
What does your role at Innovate involve?
As Head of Service for Children and Families at Innovate, my role is focused yet varied. I oversee projects, manage team managers and support local authorities in terms of diagnostics and implementing improvements. I am exactly where I need to be in my career, making the difference I came into social work for.
Innovate Services enables me to focus on targeted pieces of work and supporting solutions. I am essentially going wherever I am needed and that’s professionally satisfying.
Together, as a team, we’re creating a positive legacy for children and young people and for each local authority we work with. It’s rewarding to knowledge-share with a local authority and guide them into a position where they can sustain best practice.
What’s your personal motivation for your work?
I love being able to help those in need, strengthening families to support children to remain safe at home. Ultimately, everything we do at Innovate is about the child and the difference we can make to their lives, both short and long-term.
I’m a massive believer in focusing solely on improving the daily lived experiences of the children we work with. We’re able to creatively learn through our project work, which enables us to do this.
How do you like to spend your time out of work?
Having such an involved career, it’s important to have a good work-life balance.
I love travelling with my family, partner Lee, two children, a girl 15 (aspiring performer so lots of time spent at plays), and a boy of 9 (aspiring footballer, so plenty of Sunday morning on the side-lines). We love holidays in the UK or abroad and seeing new places. Whether it’s in a hotel or the outdoors camping, we love to explore!
We’re also support carers, and so we have looked after children come to stay with us from time to time. Currently, we are supporting foster carers, so we’re nervously awaiting panel to become official foster carers, which is due in May. As a family, we’re really looking forward to this!
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