"Delivering Positive & Effective Social Care for children and young people in St.Helens"

Sarah O'Brien, Strategic Director of People's Services

Teams, Roles & Career Profiles

People are the most important resource we have.


We are committed to ensuring that children and families receive the highest quality service, and that all our staff are provided with excellent induction, training and opportunities for continuous professional development.


The structure of children’s Services has been designed to ensure the best outcomes for our most vulnerable children.



I have been employed at St Helens Council Children and Young People services for 11 years. Initially, I was based within the Children’s Disability Team, primarily working with young disabled people and their families to support their preparation and planning for adulthood and independence. My role involved working with professionals drawn from a wide multi-agency group, including; education, health, adult services and voluntary agencies, to develop plans with young people and families to support their transition to adulthood. In addition to undertaking assessments of need and devising packages of support, I held a wide variety of cases, including children and young people subject to child protection plans and looked after children.

As an experienced social worker, I received support from St Helens Council to complete my Practice Teacher Award, enabling me to mentor and supervise social work students on practice placements with the Council. This opportunity helped to develop my supervision and decision making skills. In 2010, I was supported to complete a Post Graduate Diploma in working with Children and Young People.

In 2012, I was promoted to a Team manager post responsible for a team of 9 social workers and 4 family support workers. The role was demanding but fulfilling, and every day was different, ranging from court work to Child Protection Conferences and Looked After Children Reviews, planning meetings and development work. My focus naturally changed from being on the frontline to supporting and supervising social workers to deliver the service to children and young people and their families and carers.

The ASYE initiative is in place in St Helens and I have been fortunate to be involved in supporting newly qualified social workers on the programme; new workers, in comparing their experiences with those of peers in other local authorities, have commented on the quality and structure of the St Helens programme.

In 2015, I successfully applied for an Independent Reviewing Officer post within the Safeguarding Unit in St Helens. My previous experience in both frontline social work and social work management has proved crucial in preparing me for the challenge of this role, the focus of which is around the independent scrutiny, oversight and challenge of the local authority’s looked after children’s service.  

I enjoy working in St Helens Council and have been fortunate to gain promotion and job satisfaction through a combination of support, relevant training opportunities and experience, enabling me to advance my career in a small and friendly working environment.

I have worked for St Helens Council for the last 7 years, I initially started in the child in need team and in order to further develop my skills I requested a transfer to one of the long term assessment teams which I am really enjoying and I have been here for about 18 months.  I get to do a lot of in-depth assessments with parents including risk, parenting and pre-birth assessments which I really enjoy as you really get a feel for people’s lives and the difficulties they have faced.  This helps in being able to plan for the future for the children that I work with.  My role is really varied and no day is ever the same.  It is a fast paced team which I enjoy and there is never the opportunity that you will get bored, on some days I may be visiting a child at home and doing a piece of direct work to help keep them safe from sexual abuse, on another day I may be in court as we may be initiating care proceedings for a child.  Other days I may be called out to a family where a child has a non-accidental injury and a s.47 investigation is needed.  Other days I may be doing a planned assessment with a parent or visiting a child to ask them about their wishes and feelings. 

I feel that my managers have really supported my professional development throughout the years.  As well as being a senior social worker I am also a mentor for newly qualified social workers within the department, I also supervise the family support workers on the team and I was offered the opportunity to complete my practice educator qualification a few years ago.   I have had a number of student placements and enjoy helping the students to develop and progress in their placement.  I have also been responsible for delivering training to professionals from other agencies as well as within the children’s services department. 

My team is really friendly and supportive and there is always somebody on hand who will offer advice or share a piece of work that they have completed previously.  I have seen a lot of changes since I have worked at St Helens and the council continues to strive to make improvements to staff development and training opportunities.  I have received some really good training on attachment difficulties and sex offenders and I know that St Helens is becoming even more committed to training and support for newly qualified social workers. 

I am looking forward to the continuing changes that will take place in order to improve the services that we provide to vulnerable families and also the new opportunities for developing my role in the future. 

I have worked for St Helens Council for the past 8 years, during which time I feel I have had various experiences and opportunities. I initially worked as a family support worker were i gained knowledge and experience of working with families. This really opened my eyes to the social and economical factors that affect the families in St Helens. My role involved working across the Borough, offering advice and practical support. I was then successful in gaining a secondment opportunity delivering evidence based parenting programmes. This helped to develop my confidence in terms of supporting parents with the challenges of raising children. Through my role I was able to see the positive changes that can be achieved, for example the support that i was able to offer a family contributed to the decision to rehabilitate their six children home.

I was keen to engage in further professional development. I had always enjoyed working families however i wanted to develop my skills in terms of assessing families and being part of the decision making and care planning process and so in 2011 i decided to work towards my social work qualification.  I was offered a placement in the Looked after Children Team. The team was very supportive and i engaged in lots of training and shadowing opportunities. I thoroughly enjoyed my time in the LAC team and I was very pleased to be offered a long term post. The team provides such as varied role from working with children, teenagers, parents and foster carers. Every day presents different challenges and experiences.

I have now been a qualified social worker for a year and half and I have just completed my ASYE, I have found some aspects of the role daunting for example my first experience of attending court. However i was encouraged to attend the Court skills training as well as having the support of my manager who initially attended with me. This has enabled me to feel much more positive and confident about this aspect of the job. I have found the ongoing support particularly through the regular supervision and monitoring sessions very beneficial. Both have provided important opportunities to reflect on my practice as i continue to develop my knowledge and skills.



Across all teams, social workers will be given the opportunity to become a mentor for newly qualified social workers, become a workplace supervisor for social work students or qualify as a Practice Educator.

In Children’s Social Care we have redesigned our services around the needs of children and their families. 

We have streamlined our structure to ensure that social workers can work long-term with children and their families, build relationships and make effective and positive changes.

Front Door:

All contacts will be received and assessed by this multi-agency team. Advanced Practitioners make decisions based on the contact outcomes.

Early Help:

Delivers services to children and families (at Level 2) through a range of staff including Partnership Co-ordinators, Family Intervention Co-ordinators and Family Intervention Workers.

Assessment Teams:

We have 4 Assessment Teams each with an Advanced Practitioner and Team Manager to support and supervise social workers. In addition, Family Intervention Workers will be part of the team providing practical support and direct work for children and their families. Social workers will work with Children in Need, those on Child Protection Plans and those subject to care proceedings. Following a final Order being made, children will transfer to the long-term Looked After Children Service.

Long-term Teams:

The teams will focus on ensuring excellent outcomes for all children cared for on a long-term basis. Each team will have an Advanced Practitioner and Team Manager to support and supervise social workers. The service will include a dedicated Contact Team, a Care-leavers Team and an Adoption Team.

Fostering Team

The team provides a dedicated service to recruit, train, approve and support foster carers ensuring children are matched to local high quality carers.


Adoption Team 

The Team is part of the Long Term Looked After Service but provides specialist support to children with a plan for adoption


Children with Disabilities Team

The Team provides a wide-ranging service to children who have a disability, their families and carers. The Team undertake support functions and, where necessary, Child Protection Assessments and act as the lead professional for Looked After Children who have a disability.

There are very close links with Adult Social Care Health with clear transition arrangements in place to ensure children receive a seamless, high quality service.

Social Worker:

For newly qualified social workers we have a high quality comprehensive programme of induction, training and ASYE support.

Senior Social Worker:

These are social workers who have 3 years plus experience. We have a clear progression procedure ensuring social workers are paid at the appropriate level for their experience, and opportunities to develop their career. Senior social workers will be expected to mentor newly qualified social workers and support students who are on placement.

Advanced Practitioner:

Will support and supervise a small team of social workers with direct supervision from a Team Manager.

Team Manager:

Has overall responsibility for casework within a designated team, working with the Advanced Practitioners to ensure high standards of social work.

Service Manager:

Each Service Manager has responsibility for a specific area of work including Front Door, Assessment, Long-term Looked After and Children with Disabilities.