“There are so many opportunities across the county to make a positive difference and work with an awesome mix of cultures and diversity of people,” according to Trandeep Sethi, Business Manager, Safeguarding and Review Service West at Staffordshire County Council. 

We caught up with him to find out how he got to where he is, what he enjoys about his role and how his team are driving change to make thing better for children and families.

We asked Trandeep to start by telling us a little about his role

In his current role Trandeep manages half of all Independent Reviewing Officers and Conference Chairs, across the county, and work incredibly closely with the Principal Child and Family Social Workers.

He says, “It’s up to us to develop and maintain organisational systems for undertaking all independent Child Protection conferences and Looked After Children Reviews. Essentially it’s part of my role to maintain quality and ensure our children’s voices are heard and factored in to all care and safeguarding processes and plans.”

He provides a supervisory function for the team of Independent Conference Chairs. His team identifies opportunities for positive change: “It’s all about making sure we collaborate with the right people, linking in with all partner agencies to provide the best outcome for children and families.”

Constantly enhancing social work practice in the West Midlands

There is a lot of partnership work across the region and the different agencies work incredibly well together. Trandeep provides so many great examples of how his team are working together to instigate positive change, ultimately to make things better for children and families.

He talks about the Champions they have in each of the specialist areas. The Champions for Children with Disabilities pointed out their concern – when children with disabilities turn 16 they do not automatically get a Leaving Care Advisor. He said, “We campaigned to change this, arguing that these children have a legal and moral right to have the same support as any other child would in care. As a result, a fundamental change was made to support children with disabilities.”

The team has also been championing pocket money and savings for children. For children in an independent foster placement there is a stipulation in terms of how much children receive in savings and pocket money each week. But with children placed in care with local authorities it’s a voluntary amount. Trandeep says, “This is just not fair and potentially comes down to luck and availability for children. The difference this change will make to children is immense.”

Trandeep shares another example from when he worked as a Through Care Team Manager in the region. He worked with children from 13 to 25, essentially preparing children for independence as they prepare to leave care. He says, “We played a key role in transformation. We worked so well as a team to challenge parents to build confidence in themselves so that children could live with them at home.” 

Trandeep shares some amazing stories of how the team challenged existing prejudices to shift thinking to focus on whether parents were able to provide a safe and loving home for their children.

By working together, across agencies, they were able to support with housing and take a staggered approach to reunite a single mum and her five children. Trandeep says, “This really was the best decision for the whole family but because of the nature of mum’s job there was a red flag initially. We were able to change this.” 

Taking action together

Trandeep talks highly about his team. He shares a lovely story about how they all came together to do a little extra at Christmas. They are aware how lonely many of their children feel at Christmas, when many families come together it’s a reminder of what they are missing and they had seen first-hand the truly devasting impact this can have on children.

They wanted to help create a positive memory so they joined forces with the local community to run a fundraiser. They were given permission to use the local Masonic Hall. Trandeep said, “It was amazing. We served our children – the community linked to the Masonic Hall provided entertainment, gifts and a full three course dinner. Many of these children had never had a Christmas card before, let alone celebrated with gifts and entertainment.”

The team has continued to run this event at Christmas. Whilst Covid made things a bit trickier this year they managed to create a lovely gift package to send to children. 

There is still room for improvement

Things change so there is always room for improvement, according to Trandeep. He says, “We are working hard to educate social workers coming in and existing social workers, delivering hands on training to Universities and qualified social workers so they understand the role of Conference Chairs to support succession planning. Everything from how to manage aggressive situations to the art of facilitating meetings.”

Ever quarter Trandeep meets with heads of services across the WM regions to ensure there is some level of consistency and benchmarking across the whole of the region. The team also put together shared learning events for their Conference Chairs and Independent Reviewing Officers across the whole region, which is providing a great opportunity to share experiences and best practice. 

Commenting on what he loves about working in the West Midlands Trandeep says: “I love working in the region. There are so many opportunities to make a positive difference and work with an awesome mix of cultures and diversity of people.”

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