A Cambridgeshire social worker has said they have always had a “drive to make a difference”, which led them to their job supporting families across the county. 

Lauren Hayes said she always wanted to be a social worker and how even as a child she would try and make things right when others were unkind in the school playground. 

Having now been a social worker for a few years, Lauren has shared an insight into her job and her “excitement” for a new Social Care Academy offering training opportunities in Cambridgeshire. 

Lauren said: “I have wanted to do it for as long as I can remember, it sounds really silly, I gave up on being a vet as a child and then all I wanted to do is social work. 

“I think just the drive to make a difference, I have always been somebody that has got quite strong views around social justice, as a child I was always the sort of person who was doing some really silly restorative stuff on the playground if someone was being unkind. 

“A house near me was vandalised once when I was a teenager and I made one of the lads go and apologise to the homeowner. 

“I think people who have known me since I was little have always said there was never any other job for you.” 

Lauren said she spent four years training to be a social worker and has now been working for two years, initially as a children in care social worker, and now in the fostering team supporting foster carers in the county. 

She explained that her work involves supporting foster carers, including liaising with others such as children’s social workers, schools, health workers and independent reviewing officers, to make sure foster carers are best supported to look after children placed in their care. 

Lauren said: “It is always busy, I suppose that is a challenge, but I think Cambridgeshire is full of incredibly dedicated staff who truly want the best outcomes for the families, so there is a real sense that everyone is in this together and are very supportive. 

“Everyone goes out of their way to help each other, I think I feel very lucky to be in Cambridgeshire.” 

This week Cambridgeshire County Council announced the launch of a new Social Care Academy, which aims to offer more support and training for social workers to try and improve the outcomes for children and young people in care. 

Lauren said she was “excited” to be involved with the new academy both in terms of gaining new training, and providing training to other social workers as well. 

She said: “For me I think [the benefit] is the real focus on learning and development. 

“This is such an exciting time this has come, my five year plan was studying then doing the newly qualified and I sort of come to, ok what now? 

“People work towards this for so long but nobody then wants to come to a stop, we all want to keep learning and developing, everybody wants to be up to date with their skills. 

“I think the other really nice thing about the academy is it is not just targeted for social workers, it is across social care, so that is your child practitioners and your family workers, that knowledge and that skill base is shared and people can network and really build strong foundations for our families.” 

Lauren said it was also important how the new academy recognised the emotional impact on social workers who are helping vulnerable people. 

She said: “One of the things that has really been spoken about [and] that I am excited about, is that space for reflection, there is a real understanding that we work with people at some of their most vulnerable and some of their most challenging times in their lives and that does take its toll. 

“There is an emotional impact for workers, and so one of the things the academy is looking to do is to develop that reflective space and that safe space for thinking it through and really processing what is going on for a family and thinking about how we can support them. 

“[There will also] be some training for specific staff members to offer that support to workers in the council so that there is that recognition of the emotional aspect of working with people at some of their hardest times.” 

The county council has said the new academy will be able to provide training for around 70 people at any one time. 

Cllr Bryony Goodliffe, chair of the children and young people’s committee, said the academy will be funded through a joint investment of over £1million from the county council and the Department for Education. 

She said: “We are going to make sure that social workers and social care practitioners at all levels in our children’s social care teams are being equipped to do their jobs to the highest standards from the moment they join us. 

“It is really important for us to provide high-quality support, advice and protection so that we offer better outcomes for Cambridgeshire children, young people and their families.”