Dr Tony Stanley, the new Chief Social Worker for Birmingham City Council, talks about his role.
Arriving in Birmingham has been a few months in the planning, and I am delighted to finally be here.
After seven years in east London, with the amazing Borough of Tower Hamlets (as their Principal Social Worker for children, families and adults), I am keen to get stuck in. A corner has definitely been turned and Birmingham is on an exciting social work journey. I am keen to be part of it.
My role as the new Chief Social Worker is to lead professional practice and I have already met motivated social workers and practitioners doing some excellent work. I strive for families to get the best of social work, while helping to drive innovative changes for our staff. My values are strongly orientated toward family focused statutory social work because I believe families deserve the very best we can offer. They are always worth doing business with.
Growing up in Aotearoa/ New Zealand, my values have been shaped as much by the south pacific culture and peoples, as by the beautiful and rugged landscapes where I spent my childhood. After a few years of travel and life overseas, I settled into university life both as student and then teacher of social work. My doctoral research considered statutory child and family welfare and risk analysis frameworks, and its great to be in a workplace where these ideas are of use in a practical and everyday sense. I write often, and try to add to debates that can influence how we do what we do. We need more practice-informed research to help us understand what works and how we help others.
It is my role, along with the other assistant directors, to promote a clear rationale for the type of statutory practice we deliver, and try to influence the organisational processes and systems to support this. My career has traversed practice, university teaching, research and frontline practice again, and the chief social worker role allows me to bring this mix of practice informed leadership skills to Birmingham. I will challenge the things that are in our way, and promote and celebrate the best of our social work.
I have had a really warm welcome, and met some amazing practitioners who spend time in family homes, challenging behaviours that affect children while offering warm support as they do so. That is social work: helping families to have better and safer lives. Not everyone is a qualified social worker, but many of our staff deliver social work to vulnerable families and their children. Family support and children centre colleagues offer a great deal to this end. Social work is also a political and sociological endeavour – we need to understand how changes outside of our control affect us and the families we work with.
I am enjoying the city – it feels easier to get things done here! The culture and best of Birmingham are right on my doorstep. This is a vibrant, diverse and exciting council and city – I am delighted to be joining both.