A day in the life of…Julia Prestney, ECL's Safeguarding Lead

We spend a day in the life of…Julia Prestney, ECL's Safeguarding Lead...

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Julia has worked for ECL for 13 years. When she joined she was part of the Learning and Development team on a part time basis, she then went on to become our full time Safeguarding Lead. Here she tells us a bit more about her role….

“When I started at ECL I was part-time as my son was little still. My role was within the Learning and Development team delivering training and a large part of this was doing our safeguarding training. When the role of Safeguarding Lead was created, my manager at the time encouraged me to apply as I would be a natural fit. That was 10 years ago!

“Looking back, it was much harder then as we didn’t have the knowledge, training and resources that we do now. It may sound cliché but it’s been a real journey, and now we are in a really good place. We’ve got consistent management who are really switched on to safeguarding and who are leading the way for a very engaged team of staff that have excellent safeguarding knowledge.

“Safeguarding is everyone’s business and it should be led by the service managers

and I can confidently say that it is here. My role is to oversee our safeguarding, it’s co-ordinating everything that comes under the ‘Safeguarding umbrella,’ advising teams on specific issues and delivering training where needed.

“We strive to ensure that our training empowers everyone at ECL to feel confident to flag anything they feel may be a potential safeguarding issue. One of our values is integrity and I see it in action every day in how our staff approach customer safety.

“For an organisation of our size we have a very low number of safeguards, we can’t even make a percentage out of it and that’s testament to the great teams that we have. When a safeguarding issue is raised, it can be hard for staff. They care about our customers and so they can take it personally. Not only is it my job to ensure that we investigate all concerns raised thoroughly and establish the details of a situation, but I also help staff deal with the situation. I encourage them to see it as an opportunity to step back and think ‘do we need to change things?’ When a safeguard happens, I go in and do a debrief with the team as someone independent from the service to talk to allow them the opportunity to reflect on what happened. It can be really beneficial for the staff to speak to someone who is not the manager, they feel they can speak more freely. I make sure that whatever has taken place doesn’t knock their confidence or affect how they feel about their job or colleagues.

“As well as responding to safeguards that come in and offering advice and guidance I also do a lot of support and knowledge development. Stuff that’s outside of formal training such as workshops. For example, this year I have done a lot of work with Day Opportunities around understanding mental capacity assessments, how to write them, what a good one looks like, understanding consent etc. I write the materials and will go in and deliver the workshop across the different services. It’s really as needs arise that I’ll do this and that’s what makes my job so interesting and I think that’s why I’ve been here 10 years.

“In the last five years I’ve started to increase our focus on taking learnings from events. It’s really important to learn from safeguards that are raised. It’s so important to review and see what we can learn from every situation and identify if we can change our working practices as a result of those learnings. I think it’s vital that people understand that safeguarding isn’t about blame, it’s trying to understand what’s gone wrong so it doesn’t happen to someone else. Lessons learnt is phrase that is bandied about so much when things go wrong but there’s real benefit to it.

“It’s more than adjusting processes. It should be looking at what we have learnt and allowing staff time to reflect on their practice, encouraging them to think about their own impact and what they might do differently. It’s about reporting the low level stuff before it becomes the big stuff. As well as looking for themes across issues that are raised to identify any gaps in our processes or reporting that we need to address. For example, if a particular theme comes out of our quality audits that comes under safeguarding then I will step in and provide some additional training.

“I work closely with HR and Employer Relations too to ensure that staff understand our values and our person-centred ways of working as well as to identify any gaps in training that we need to address and if a team needs something bespoke then I’ll write a workshop and work with that team and manager.

“When a safeguard is raised, we send a letter with my details for further conversation Over the years I have had some wonderful conversations with customers and family members who call and say how happy they are with the service which is always nice to hear. I can have some really difficult conversations too, so I have to have really strong diplomacy skills which I have honed over the years.”

What is a typical day like for you?

“I wouldn’t say I have a typical day really. What is really interesting about my job is that you never know what the day will bring, I can get a phone call that can change the whole course of my day which keeps me on my toes!”

What I love about my job

“My role is so varied and that’s why I love it. To be able to do my job well, I need a good overview of how all of the services work which is one of the things I like most.

“I’d say my favourite thing is going out and meeting staff and delivering sessions, coming away knowing that they get it. The staff and customer contact is the best part, seeing how safeguarding knowledge, processes add value first hand.

“Sometimes I am asked to go in and talk to a group of customers about keeping safe which I love as I am not ordinarily directly involved with customers. I started in the world of health and social care as a support worker for people with learning disabilities and I see it as my first love, so I really enjoy it when I get to do that.

“I also love that I work with really lovely people. From corporate colleagues to going out into services, everyone is just so friendly and welcoming. I love going into services because it’s so great to see what a great job our staff do.”

Advice to others

“When it comes to safeguarding, knowledge is key! Legislation is constantly evolving so you have to keep on top of it. If you are in a safeguarding advisory role you need to have oversight. Make time to keep up to date and have a good spectrum of resources to keep your knowledge current.”

Julia Prestney, ECL's Safeguarding Lead
Julia Prestney, ECL's Safeguarding Lead

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