Life as a Homeless Youth Specialist at ECC, by Cherry - Working for Essex

Life as a Homeless Youth Specialist at ECC, by Cherry

Essex County Council is serious about social work, passionately committed and Ofsted-rated ‘outstanding’. Our Children & Families team offers careers few can match for impact and variety.

We met with Cherry, who is a Homeless Youth Specialist at Essex County Council to find out more about what she does and how this makes a difference.

Cherry, what does your role as a Homeless Youth Specialist entail?

Generally in my role my first point of contact is with the family and young person, determining whether there is a risk of homelessness. I can only determine homelessness after I complete the Child and Family Assessment, therefore part of the initial assessment would involve me meeting with the family to understand their individual situation in more detail and the potential options available to them. There are then various regulations and processes that I must follow to support young people until they are housed and every situation that I attend is different; it’s so important to provide the specialist advice to help young people, it can be challenging, but also very rewarding.

What was your background before you joined Essex County Council?

Whilst training to be a social worker most of my placements were in Assessment & Intervention teams so from fairly early on, I had a lot of experience within frontline services and that is where my passion lies.

After I graduated my first social worker job was in a 0-16years Looked after Children’s team, where I did a lot of court work and joint work with the adoption teams. I then went on to work in a corporate parenting team where I did care proceedings and children in care, including preparing for leaving care.

I then joined Essex County Council as an agency social worker within the Assessment & Intervention Team in July 2020, before quickly moving into my permanent post as a Homeless Youth Specialist in March 2021.  

How does your role as a Homeless Specialist Worker differ from other social care jobs you have done?

I have worked with housing to a certain level in a lot of my other roles but in this role, it is very much the core of our external relationships. You need training in housing legislation and working systemically with adolescents and their family, as this is needed for reunification and in the early stages when trying to get them back home.

I received all the relevant training whilst in the role and there are plenty of additional resources and training material available within the organisation, which I utilise when I want to expand my knowledge further. 

What would you say to someone considering a role in your team?

For me it was the opportunity to learn something completely new and the development and challenges that this role would bring. I think with most other areas of social care they are interlinked with other teams. However, this is a specialist role where you have the opportunity to be dedicated to one area which is actually quite unique!

It is a challenging role, but the challenges are different to other areas of social work that I have experienced. For example, you don’t have to manage generic care proceedings but then you have a whole new set of challenges with housing and navigating your way through those relationships. You still have to have the ability to engage with parents and teenagers and therefore you still experience first-hand the difference you are making to those families.

What’s the most rewarding part of what you are doing?

When you hear that a young person you have been working with has moved on. Earlier today I heard about two young people that I placed who are now stepping down to a low to medium accommodation. It`s so nice to hear progress like that and knowing how far they have come. That is a great feeling!

Find out more about the Children and Families function at Essex County Council here.

We know there is more to life than work.  We are a motivated and enthusiastic team – but we want you to find an exceptional work/life balance.  As such you will be encouraged to make the most of our commitment to flexible working arrangements, including the chance to work from home. 

So, if you want a better quality of life – complemented by a high degree of job satisfaction – then we would be delighted to welcome you to our friendly and inclusive team. Find out about all our latest vacancies here.