“My approach has always been that we’re in it together. We’re a team, and if we all work together, we can be exceptional.”
That is the philosophy of Tina Holt, Manager of Bedford Borough Council’s special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) programme, who is retiring after 20 years.
Tina joined the Council in 2004 as an administrator, booking sign language interpreters for the Deaf and Hearing Impairment Team.
She was first inspired to take up the role by her sister who is deaf, and it directly led her to discover her calling in life.
After five years of working closely with social work students, Bedford Borough Council sponsored Tina to study for a Social Work degree. And having completed her studies she took up a role as a social worker in the adult Learning Disability team.
She said; “I loved it from my first day.
“Often social workers can veer towards children’s services, but I was very passionate about good people being needed to work with adults too.
“The team were really supportive and within a few years I’d become an advanced practitioner, working with Mel Thomas who was a really supportive manager. I just wish I’d become a social worker earlier in life, but my life experience was really helpful too.”
Although Tina admits that social work can be a “really hard and thankless job at times”, she sees that as being more than balanced out by how rewarding it can be.
She said; “It’s about making a difference, and often about making sure people know what support is available for them which they don’t know about.
“We’re not just supporting our service-users, we’re supporting their whole families. There must be hundreds of service-users who I’ve worked with directly or indirectly over the years, but you make a difference to even more lives when you consider all their family members and loved ones whose lives you’re helping.”
Tina rose through the several more roles over the last 20 years, and was supported by the Council with her studies once again when she took a Master’s degree in Social Work Leadership and Management. She has applied that same philosophy to her own staff.
“You should give everybody the opportunity to learn new skills. You get the best from people if you give them the chance to learn,” she said.
“For example, one of my business support staff went on training that was applicable to social workers – now she’s a qualified social worker. I’d taken a similar route, and I was able to support her to do it too. Another of my team is doing the same thing, by beginning a social work apprenticeship.
“If you let people follow their passion, they’ll learn more, they’ll enjoy their job more, and they’ll be more loyal. That’s good for everybody.”