Lara Timms, Acting Principal Social Worker, Birmingham Children's Trust
On Monday 9th September 2019, Birmingham Children’s Trust and Birmingham Adult Social Care welcomed delegates from Hamburg and Chicago for the Tri-city Exchange. This project has been running for 21 years. It offers a unique opportunity for Hamburg and Chicago’s social workers, social work managers, local politicians and educators to connect and explore Birmingham’s social work practice from a professional, academic, strategic and political position. This year’s theme was safeguarding with a particular focus on contextual safeguarding, service improvement and culture change.
The program started with a welcome ceremony which included presentations from the Lord Mayor of Birmingham and from Councillors Kate Booth and Paulette Hamilton at the Council House. This was followed by an action packed program for the week that included opportunities such as meeting with the Unaccompanied Asylum Seeking Children’s Team, a visit to Liberty House, residential home for people who have learning disabilities, an introduction to Birmingham Adult Social Care’s new approach to social work known as Three Conversations model, a meeting with the working group behind the development of the newly formed Contextual Safeguarding Hub, a presentation from Mathew Gibson at University of Birmingham, plus much more. Over the course of week, the practitioners involved were able to discuss and share ideas about social work practice from across Children and Adults services in Birmingham, Hamburg and Chicago. There was commonality as well as differences that made for healthy debate and learning and development opportunities.
To draw together the week, a conference took place at Edgbaston Cricket Ground where our delegates were able to share what they had learnt during their visit. We were joined by Dez Holmes, Chief Executive, Research in Practice/Research in Practice for Adults (RiP/RiPfA) and Professor Robin Miller, Head of Social Care and Social Work (UoB) who provided thoughtful presentations on Transitions and Innovation, Integrated Care and Leadership. Learning was really bought to life by Light Post and Loud Mouth theatre companies. Both demonstrated the powerful way in which the arts can be used to connect with vulnerable citizens as well as an effective tool to enhance learning, understanding and communication.
The key themes that emerged from our shared learning with partners over the day was the importance of strengthening transition work for vulnerable young people preparing for adulthood, the lack of early intervention services and youth offer which was starkly different to that of Hamburg and the concept of one social worker per family. There were similarities of experience for social workers in Birmingham, Hamburg and Chicago with regards to professional identity, public perception and portrayal in the media. All delegates expressed similarities when thinking about approaches to the management of risk, with Hamburg and Chicago praising the strategic approach that Birmingham Children’s Trust and Birmingham Adult Social Care had developed. The tri-city program has provided an opportunity for much reflection and practice discussion, which has strengthened local networks between children’s and adults services and this has increased the opportunities for us to connect with the global social work community. We are now looking at how we can continue this work through the use of technology, to ensure ongoing communication, learning and sharing of good practice.