The London Borough of Newham successfully recruited 66 qualified social work practitioners across all of their services in 2023, with roles evenly spread across different teams. However, it was apparent that there were significantly fewer applicants for social work roles within the Children with Disabilities (CwD) service; a trend that many local authorities are familiar with.

Helen Cusick, CwD Service Manager at Newham, wants to tackle the misconceptions around supporting children with disabilities. She cites a lack of awareness of the immense value that social workers within the CwD service can bring to the lives of the young people they work with, and the fulfilling impact that their work can have on families.

Helen, Social worker at Newham

“I think that there’s a misconception that working with children with disabilities isn’t dynamic or exciting, but this couldn’t be further from the truth. Our social workers deal with interesting and unique cases, building specialist knowledge that will be invaluable if they aspire to become managers in the future. Working in CwD is about being an advocate; it’s about hearing the voices of those who need it most. We enable families to learn and grow together, improving quality of life for children and young people who might otherwise be left behind.”

“Working in CwD is never dull. It is getting stuck into long term, life changing work – with outcomes and values that reflect the reasons most of us became social workers in the first place, it fulfils our need to do this job.”

Helen Cusick, CwD Service Manager, Newham

Sandra and Juliet are two social workers at very different stages of their careers with Newham. They spoke about their experiences working alongside children and families whose lives are influenced by disability. 

Sandra  joined Newham’s CwD Service as a newly qualified social worker in 2022. She loves her role and knows that she made the right choice in joining the service.

“I grew up in Newham so it’s always been home for me, but I knew I wanted to work in CwD after encountering families living with disability whilst I was working at a GP surgery. My work here is SO rewarding, families are always thanking for me for the work that I do, I’m not sure that all social workers get that gratitude. Parents often pour their hearts out to me about their struggles, as some parents can feel really isolated. I love being a listening ear for them, and even more importantly being a person who can make their voices heard."

Sandra, Social Worker, Newham

Sandra from Newham

Sandra is thankful for the nurturing environment that Newham has provided for her to hone her craft. She believes that CwD has been the perfect place to spend the early years of her career due to the wide range of experiences offered, rather than a focus on singular processes within social work.

"I love my job and working in CwD at Newham has been a great experience for me so far. I’m the type of learner that always asks questions, and since starting here everyone has been so supportive of me, I know I can contact any member of my team for help.”

“Taking a job in a CwD service is a really good opportunity for a social worker to get a broad understanding of how the system works, quickly. You get involved in all of the different aspects of social work. I have completed Assessments, worked on CP and CiN cases, gained experience of court work and can be involved in the looked after process. CwD is unique in this respect. It’s also really busy, but in a good way!”

Sandra, Social Worker, Newham

Juliet has spent the last 7 of her 10 years at Newham in the CwD service, where she was recently promoted to Senior Social Worker.

Although she has been on a very different journey to Sandra in the CwD service, Juliet speaks just as highly about the value she has found in working with children and young people with SEND in Newham:

“I was born and grew up in Zimbabwe, and my mum’s niece had cerebral palsy. As a family we supported her, including physically carrying her around into adulthood. I developed a close understanding of her as a person, and this grass-roots first-hand experience is what ultimately inspired me to become a social worker working with children with SEND and their families. I am passionate about helping children with special needs, but also about helping the family around the child. I become part of their support system, and I understand their challenges because I have been there myself and have my own lived experience.”

Juliet, Senior Social Worker, Newham

Newham Dockside Office

Juliet has held several roles during her career at Newham, always working closely with children and young people with SEND. What is it about the Borough and the families she works with that has kept her motivated for so long?

“I love working in Newham, it is such a diverse local authority and although there are many challenges for our residents I know it’s here that I can really make a difference. I embrace getting to know the different cultures and religions of the families I work with, and working around such diversity genuinely enriches my social work practice. Families here have been so welcoming to me and understand I am here to help."

"Newham has supported me to move into statutory practice, to undertake a systemic post-graduate qualification and now to take on a Senior Social Worker position. My ambition is to soon qualify as a Practice Educator so I can support newly qualified social workers to begin their journey working with children and families affected by SEND.”

Juliet, Senior Social Worker, Newham

Finally, we asked Juliet why a social worker should consider a Children with Disabilities service as their next career move...

“It’s very rewarding supporting a young person long term and through the whole process. You do need patience and tolerance and to be able to build trust with families and to strategise how best to support them – but you will build broad experiences that will enable you to do whatever you want in social work in the future!”

Juliet, Senior Social Worker, Newham

The London Borough of Newham are currently recruiting for Social Workers, Senior Social Workers and a Team Manager to join DCYPS, their Children with Disabilities social work service. Find out more about Newham and apply for their roles.