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Assistant Team Manager Career Profile

Written by: Fiona Narburgh
Published on: 11 Feb 2021

Meet Pal, an everyday hero working as a Assistant Team Manager, Transition and Leaving Care Service and Apprentice Social Worker at Walsall Council.

Below Pal has shared her story to show what a career as a Assistant Team Manager is like.

What's your role in a nutshell?Pal Walsall

I work in the Social Care team supporting young adults between the ages of 17 and 25 as they leave the care system – that’s residential children’s homes and fostering placements. We help with all sorts of issues - education and training, finding somewhere to live, health, life skills - everything the care leavers need support with, wherever they end up from Scotland to Devon! It’s all about improving their life chances as they transition from care.

We, the Council, are the ‘corporate parent’ for 170 children in care and have a duty to help each individual ‘make their way in the World’ after our direct involvement.

In the evenings I’m also on call as part of the Emergency Duty Team; an out of hours phone service for children and adults in crisis, whether that's abuse or food shortages, or a carer that’s not turned up – we help get the issue sorted out, or escalate it if needed.

Was this a planned career or one you fell into?

Definitely planned. I really wanted to influence and shape the future of care because I was brought up in the care system myself and experienced it directly.

When I was campaigning against the closure of the children’s home where I was living, I was working with the Children’s Society – we even had a meeting with the then Queen Mother about it. I was very much the voice of the child standing up against the closure. A manager at Walsall Council saw my passion and asked me to get involved and work more closely with them, which I did; changes were made but the home stayed open. This fuelled my interest and eventually I got a job in a residential children’s home when I was 21, with two kids of my own, and worked my way up from there to lead a team.

The new bit of my job is becoming the Social Worker Degree Apprentice . Even though I’ve been working in social care now for 20 years I really wanted to do my formal social work degree qualification. At 47 I’m older than most apprentices and maybe wiser too with a lot more real life experience.

Are you a doer, manager or leader?

All three! Definitely a doer – I like to get things done. I was up till the early hours making up food and gift hampers for all the young people we work with, so that they had something to open on Christmas day. We did ‘Hug in a Mug’ too for Care Leaver’s Week; marshmallows and socks in a mug. These things do matter, they show we care.

As a manager I do plenty of routine administration. As a leader it’s my job to motivate my seven staff of Personal Advisors who support the young people we work with. I want us all to champion each care leaver and be really passionate about that focus and work really hard to build a strong relationship and trust with each young adult, going the extra mile, such as always remembering birthdays and key events like driving tests and staying in touch regularly. “Did I really try my hardest?” is the attitude I try and instil in my team.

What do you love best & love least about your job?

I love the difference that I know we can make everyday to a care leaver’s life.  It’s a really key service to get right as it's our last chance to help young adults move into society on their own – our hand holding help can be critical, at 17 many are still children, we are their “corporate parent” as the council. I love that Walsall take this role very seriously.

I’m still in touch with people many years on. Some will pop into the office to say hello. A woman recently brought in her new baby. I visited one care leaver in prison, he was full of bravado but underneath he was a lost little boy, now doing well and working full-time, he’s still in touch. He remembers me bringing him Lucozade when he was feeling poorly.

What I love least is not having enough time to really raise the profile of our care leavers service. I also have to deal with some sad situations too, that can be quite tough.

Do you need: Qualifications? University or apprenticeship or special skills?

Nowadays you do need a social work degree to be a qualified social worker, hence why I decided to take on the Apprenticeship. Real passion to want to help care leavers is THE one essential skill; it’s certainly a vocation, not just a job.

Routine or variety?

There is some routine as it’s a statutory service that councils must provide so there are performance indicators that we need to report on to make sure we deliver certain things. However, every care leaver is different so there is lots of variety too. We have new issues like people seeking asylum, we have to be advocates to get the best for that young person. 

Pay check or calling?

Because I’m doing two jobs the pay is pretty decent. But what gets me up in the morning is the difference I can make to the lives of care leavers. There’s plenty of other benefits too – working for a team that really believe in putting the needs of children and young adults first – not just in our department but across the council. I’ve got great political support too from my cabinet member.

Is there development support available or is it DIY?

My focus is on completing my Social Work Degree Apprenticeship programme. There are plenty of other training and development courses and opportunities on offer in the team to keep ourselves up to speed.

We lead on training too. We’ve done some innovative sessions too, for example Training on Forced Marriages for school staff and other professionals, I teamed up with a Police Sergeant to run it, we’d had a great response - it’s really improved awareness of a difficult issue.

Staying put or moving on?

Staying put, I’m here to improve the lives of people in care and that's exactly what I’m doing and in my home town of Walsall too, I love it here. I’ve more to do to build the profile of the service. There’s so much focus on young children, yet people at the leaving care end get far less attention. Yet it’s such an important time for a young person as they exit out of our care. I want to change that.

Can you share a life lesson or specific career advice?

You are never too old to learn. I took on the Apprenticeship when I was 45, and really loving the going to university and learning on the job.

And finally, the best thing about working for the council is ..the inspirational leadership we get every day from our Chief Executive Doctor Helen Patterson. Throughout the Covid Crisis she’s urged us all to look after ourselves and make time for a chat with colleagues. That openness and support for our wellbeing is just brilliant, I do feel really valued here.

NB. Pal recently won Apprentice of the Year in the Health, Social Care and Medical Category at the BAME Apprenticeship Awards. Out of over 400 entries – Well done Pal!

Pal, is an #EverydayHero, working to change and make better the lives of others and you can be an #EverydayHero too. Click here to find roles currently available within management. 

Click here to read about more of our #EverydayHeroes