A Day in the Life of ... Liz, the Director of Collective Space

Collective Space offers training programmes to Children’s Social Care practitioners and managers at all stages of their systemic social work development journey to enable families to find the solutions to their problems. Systemic social work puts relationships at the centre of change. To get an insight into the day in the life of a professional working hard to #safeguard #youngpeople in #Lambeth, we asked Liz, to describe an ordinary day...


Explain your role briefly,

I am the director of Collective Space: Systemic Social Work, we are an organisation that is passionate about social work that is underpinned by a systemic methodology and we deliver training and provide support to social workers in organisations all across the UK. Here at Lambeth, I oversee all the Heart of Practice training, and one day a week I sit with teams and practitioners and support their case work.


Q. What’s the first thing you do when you get to work? Why?

A. Every day is very varied but on the day that I come into Lambeth and work with practitioners, I would normally start the day by walking the floor and saying hello to everyone. Because I’m only in once a week this helps me see who is in the office, catch up on any news and it’s just a lovely way to start the day.


Q. Can you walk us through the different and competing priorities and situations you might experience in a day? How do you deal with this? How does it make you feel?

A. Only being in Local Authority once a week means that my time in the office is very stretched and I have more requests for work than I am able to take on. I would love to be able to offer a service to every request that comes in, I genuinely love my job, both working with social workers and working with families but I have to be careful not to over stretch and become ineffective. I need to give enough time to offering consultation and coaching to social workers as there is more longevity in skilling up staff rather than taking on direct work myself.


Q. How often do you work with others from different agencies to support and safeguard a child or young person you work with? What is the best thing about working with different agencies? What is a challenge and how can this be overcome?

A. I am often asked to facilitate reflective group sessions with the multi professional team around a child and family especially when they have become stuck in knowing how to progress a plan or there is a difference of opinion amongst the group. These sessions can be quite challenging and at times daunting to facilitate, as there can be strong emotions attached to what people feel should happen or difficult feelings of hopelessness and stuckness.

I try to open up a space in which people feel able to hold different opinions, acknowledge the impact of the case work upon them and hear each other without needing to come up with a ’solution’. Feelings of anxiety, uncertainty and helplessness can contribute to us becoming fixed and rigid in our thinking and so it is important to pay attention to what might be influencing us in our work and in our relationship with each other. Although challenging, this work often enables people to connect around the core purpose of the work and in their shared hopes for the family. Although the goal of the session is to enable more constructive dialogue between professionals rather than develop an action plan, very often professionals walk away saying they are clearer about what they are going to do next.


Q. Which book/website/Twitter account would you recommend to those working to safeguard children and young people? Why?

A. I really need to learn how to use Twitter as I hear there is a world of knowledge, on there but for now I’m quite old fashioned and spend more time reading journal articles and books. We are often asked for book recommendations from our students who attend our courses and the one we put forward is by Fran Hedges, An Introduction to Systemic Therapy with Individuals: A Social Constructionist Approach. We are highly attentive of the social constructionist nature of child protection within our courses and we urge our students to pay attention to themselves within their work and how it influences what they see when they work with families.


Q. At the end of a really tough day, how do you relax/unwind/get support for yourself?

A. I have a fantastic team who at the end of really good days and really bad days I will send a WhatsApp to and I know they will respond with exactly what I need to hear.


Find out more about Collective Space by visiting their website

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