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WillisPalmer’s Philip King retires after 47 years working with children and families

WillisPalmer’s Executive Consultant Philip King is “hanging up his social work boots” after almost 47 years of working with children and families.

Phil is starting his retirement at the end of April and is looking forward to gardening, travelling around the British Isles, spending time outdoors and, most importantly, with his two granddaughters.

“For the last 17 years I’ve been working mainly on Child Abuse Litigation Service cases and hearing people’s terrible stories, I never cease to be amazed at the remarkable resilience shown by victims and survivors despite the traumatic events they have experienced, that they pick themselves up and get on with it despite the adversity they have faced,” said Phil.

“Despite hearing these terrible cases, I’ve learnt a lot in this area of work and, as a social worker, you want to make a difference and help people along the way. It is nice to be leaving WillisPalmer on a positive note. Over the last five years at WillisPalmer I’ve been working with a small group of experts and trained them to specialise in CALS work, so I know I have passed on my skills and knowledge to others, and I have found that very gratifying,” added Phil.

Grateful

Phil trained in generic social work but has always specialised in working with children and families throughout his career. Following a period of travelling the States at the age of 19, Phil ‘fell into’ social work when he returned to the UK and his sister introduced him to a colleague in social services where she worked.

Phil ran 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 childcare officer and started the following week. Just six months later, he was made deputy officer in charge with responsibility for virtually running the home.

Despite the accidental route into social work, Phil is grateful to have found social work as a career and says he feels lucky to have been paid to do something he enjoyed. He very nearly ended up as a geologist as he was studying geology prior to travelling America, although he’d decided by then it wasn’t the right course for him. In fact, he says now that if he hadn’t gone into social work, he would have likely gone into the medical field.

From the children’s home, he moved into field work and trained in CSW and once trained, he rapidly started moving up the management ladder. However, working as a manager took him away from direct work with children and so 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.

Establishing ISWA

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 so in 1998, he and a colleague established ISWA, an independent social work agency to provide expert social workers for childcare proceedings.

Operating mainly in The Midlands and North Wales, ISWA merged with WillisPalmer in 2017, which at that point operated mainly in the south-east and Phil took on the role of Executive Consultant, leading on the CALS work. He set up teams to carry out this work and provided quality assurance, training and support.

Having spent almost five decades in social work, Phil says that work for children and families is now more focused and things are better in terms of measuring outcomes for children and families.

Radical

“However, the management style of social work has fallen down, and they are trying to operate like a commercial business rather than a caring profession,” explained Phil.

“The reputation of social workers has fallen too. In my days, it was a positive graduate choice to go into social work and you felt like you could make a positive difference in people’s lives. However, the profession does not have that reputation now, especially if you compare the UK with European and Scandinavian countries where social work is held in much higher regard. It’s a shame, and this is despite it being a registered and protected profession. This is not down to social workers themselves though, it comes from government and management,” added Phil.

“Social work used to be far more radical and challenging and it’s not as it was which is a real shame,” he said.

His advice to someone starting out as a social worker today would be: “Do not compromise your professional standards, don’t be blinded by the agencies or authorities that you are working for, if you know something is not right, don’t do it.”

But for now, Phil is set to enjoy his birthday, his wife’s birthday and the recent birthdays of his two children over a long weekend and celebrate the beginning of his retirement where his number one priority is to enjoy spending time with his grandchildren.

We all at WillisPalmer want to thank Phil for his hard work and loyalty over the years and wish him an enjoyable, healthy, happy and fun-filled retirement.

Working Together For Children

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