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Meet the Team – Philip King

Way before gap years were even “a thing”, WillisPalmer’s Executive Consultant Philip King decided to create his own.

Aged 19, and a significant way through a geology degree, Phil decided that education was not for him right then, despite, ironically, doing very well on the course before that point.

“I saved up and flew to the USA where I hitch hiked across the country,” said Phil. “I stayed on the west coast for a while and worked in catering but when my Visa ran out, I knew it was time to come home and get ‘a real job’."

However, at that point, Phil had no idea what that ‘real job’ would be. His sister worked for social services and introduced him to a colleague who arranged to show Phil round a 25-bed children’s home, a reception and assessment unit, where children from birth through to 17-year-old teenagers lived in care. Phil was offered a job as a child care officer and started the following week. Just six months later, he was made deputy officer in charge with responsibility for virtually running the home.

“They didn’t invest in training back then, especially in residential work. I moved across to field work and then went to a polytechnic department of social work to study for the CQSW,” explained Phil. He studied generic social work, and while he has always worked with children, Phil was also qualified as an Approved Mental Health Professional and carried out specialist training in learning disability services.

Once trained, he rapidly started moving up the management ladder, but didn’t enjoy the managerial roles as it took him away from direct work with children. In 1984, Phil decided to go freelance and became an Independent Social Worker, working primarily as a children’s guardian where he represented the welfare of children in family court proceedings.

“It wasn’t great timing as we had just moved house and my wife was pregnant but becoming an Independent Social Worker gave me a creative and flexible approach to working directly with children and young people,” added Phil.

At that time, Children’s Panels came into force and Phil and a childcare solicitor established a training agency to deliver training together to solicitors to become part of the Children’s Panel for solicitors.

It became apparent while working as a children’s guardian that in depth quality assessments to help courts to decide what should happen to children were lacking. Phil was being drawn into that work more and more and away from being a children’s guardian and he decided that what was required was a pool of experienced skilled Independent Social Workers to carry out high standards of assessments.

As a result, ISWA was born in 1998 – an Independent Social Work Agency co-founded by Phil and a colleague, to provide expert social workers for childcare proceedings. The company operated mainly in The Midlands, parts of the North and Wales and in 2017, ISWA merged with WillisPalmer, which at that point operated mainly in the south-east and Phil took on the role of Executive Consultant.

During his time at ISWA, Phil recognised that there was a shortage of Child Abuse Litigation specialists, and trained Independent Social Workers in this area, including Sylvia McKenzie. The merger enabled Phil to concentrate on Child Abuse Litigation work and he has since created three specialist WillisPalmer social work teams in this area in England, Wales and Scotland. Phil oversees the teams, quality assures the reports and provides training and support to the three teams.

Phil has reduced his hours at WillisPalmer with a view to retiring in the next few years “to enjoy more grandparent time and travel in our camper van”.

His greatest achievement during his career was being part of The Children Act 1989, not only by being a children’s guardian in courts at that time, but also by providing training to Children’s Panel solicitors and acting as an adviser to the Law Society on the development of the Children Panel for solicitors.

Contact Executive Consultant Philip King at phil@willispalmer.com

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