Clair Graham Guest Lecture
Clair left school with no qualifications and a criminal record, but after doing voluntary work and securing a role as a Social Work Assistant, Clair decided to return to education, and she graduated with a BSc (Hons) in Social Work in 2009.
After graduating, Clair worked her way up from a Social Worker to a Team Manager at Birmingham City Council. Nowadays, she is the Head of Service for Contextual Safeguarding working within the EMPOWER U, Exploitation and Missing Hub at Birmingham Children’s Trust (BCT).
In 2023, Clair was awarded BCU's 'Alumna of the Year', and she continues to inspire the next generation of social workers with her extraordinary story.
In her BCU Alumni Festival guest lecture, Clair speaks about her upbringing and how she overcame challenges to become the local hero she is today, as well as what it takes to become a leader, look after your health and wellbeing, and what it takes to survive in her industry.
first of all I'd just like to thank you all for coming out and such a warm day and welcome you all for joining us at BCU um today we're very excited to welcome Birmingham city University's alumni of the Year CLA grayon um CLA as you'll know from the information we sent you in advance Claire's is a social worker and she's one of ours and social work at BCU has a long history many of our students come from our region they train and learn in our city and they stay and change lives social Works mandate lies in its engagement and intervention with people addressing life challenges and the tension between competing rights confronting and challenging which many in the room will be familiar with in many ways and working with rather than for people wherever possible I think some of that might come through in what CLA talks about today um today we'll hear from CLA about her extraordinary career focus and drive the values of BCU and Social Work recognize nurturing potential in others motivation empowering and thinking differently all of which I think comes through strongly in cla's career and who she is we're very pleased to welcome CLA today to BCU as a social worker who trained here works with us here and leads changing lives in our city CLA is an incredible Ambassador for our University for social work in our future students and I'd like you to join me in giving her a warm welcome thank you guys um a big thank you to everybody that's come today got some music on in the background just because I want you to relax I think the jobs that we do are so pressuring and challenging that sometimes we need to relax our minds but also when I talk a little bit about my journey um there may be triggers for some people so if you have to leave or if you feel uncomfortable you know Ju Just leave because I understand sometimes telling people about our lived experiences and the journeys that we've been on can sometimes trigger memories in ourselves so I do feel comfortable to leave um and hopefully a member of Staff will be able to come out and see you so I just want to say a big thank you you War for taking the time out to come and listen to me um I don't know why but somebody said that I'm inspiring um I'm excited to be invited here I'm very proud very humbled at being um seen as the Illumina of the year and sometimes I think back and I just don't know how that's happened and sometimes when I reflect back on my whole journey I don't know how I'm still standing here today so I'm going to talk a little bit about how both my person and professional Journey intertwined and through my lived experience has helped me along my social work Journey I'm going to talk a little bit about leadership with some examples of what keeps me grounded and why and how personally and professionally this has led me to the journey to where I am now in addition and along the way I'm going to ask CRA to come in and speak to you a little bit about emotional resilience because I think that's really important in terms of well-being and self-care and also about how that's helped me as well and so I'm just going to talk a little bit about storytelling storytelling is what we use to help other people understand our experiences in social work we would call that narrative theory in social work we talk about nature versus nurture and we talk about life course so I'm going to talk a little bit about that the questions are often asked who I am and what is my journey and viosi says that children are born blank slave States and life rights all over them there's poverty there's deprivation poor living conditions deprived neglected neighborhoods sometimes undiagnosed special educational needs and adverse childhood experiences and hidden harm as a child these are all the things that I was exposed to along the way I've seen a lot of my personal friends that have grown up with d in very tragic circumstances some murdered some in tragic Road accidents and this starting from probably around the age of 11 I had a mother that had mental health and there were clear issues of neglect within my home and this I think was a big driver for me ending up on the streets and going missing for weeks and weeks and weeks and sometimes when I think about the job that we do um in our Empower you exploitation and missing hope I think about those young children and what's driving them out to go missing and I always say to my workers if you were working with me as a child you would have never stopped me from going missing because the drivers were too much but what you could do is give me the strategies to keep me safe while I was out there so I've experienced a lot of loss and Trauma associated with that loss and when Oprah Winfrey said in the film The Color Purple a girl child is not safe in the family home this was the truth for me and all my life I've been fighting and there are some experiences as Brave and as authentic and as courageous as I am that I will never speak about at age 14 I was permanently excluded from school there was a lot of exposure for me on the roads and in people PL people's houses and places and spaces things like seeing Firearms crack cocaine and other types of drugs and drink were present so I committed a lot of crimes as a child um in my sense that was my survival mechanism to eat I had to steal to have clothing I had to steal because there was just no money and so numerous times I would run with female gangs and run with a lot of the males and gangs as well and I was arrested numerous times by the age of 15 the court system deemed me Beyond parental control and I was placed in the care of the local Authority so when we look at all those adverse childhood experiences and what the research tells us I really shouldn't be standing here and at the time I did believe that I would never see the age of 18 that either I would be dead or in prison because that's all I'd seen so we know that our tip today from for you you guys my tip to you guys is that when you approach Children and Families always approach with the assumption that everyone is experienced some sort of trauma when you're responding engaging and connecting think about trauma and let that be the guide to your approach we talk about reachable and teachable moments such as being in custody that wasn't mine I'd been in custody many times satting in a jail C it's funny cuz yesterday I went to the U this isn't in my um speech by the way I went to um the Police Museum in town in the city center um still out Slaine and sat in the cell and just remembered as a child what it felt like to be sitting in a Sal and that'd closed the doors and all the memories came flooding back and it felt so strange to be sitting there as an adult thinking about where I am actually in my life course now but that wasn't a teachable moment for me being stabbed being shot being seriously injured they say that those can be teachable moments when you're lying in a hospital bed waiting to be operated on as a child that can be a teachable moment but the teachable moment for me was when I got pregnant and I was pregnant at 16 and at age 17 I realized that I had a child that was heavily reliant on me and I couldn't afford to go to prison and I couldn't afford to die so my next part of my journey was how was I going to exit this life that had now become my lifestyle and it had bought its own risks just like a victim leaving a perpetrator in a domestic abuse situation I was targeted and I was lifted quite rightly by the police out of my out of the area that I was living in for my own safety so there became another loss so I i' lost friends and then I lost my family I lost my community the people that I'd grown up with and then I was left with the feelings of anger blame shame a loss of conflict with myself fragility vulnerability and there were times when I felt I had nothing to lose and that it was just me against the world and you'll remember these quotes from DM mx's song that I was slipping and falling and I just could not get up but I would look at my son and feel that as long as I've got him there has to be change so my lived experience keeps me grounded and what I would remind you as a tip that it's all about mindset from the moment you wake up to the moment you rest your head at night everything is up to you your emotions your thoughts your perceptions so just a little bit about my journey and influences my children my husband my sister my family members mentors inspirational people in my life have encouraged me and given me opportunities so I ask you all who is your personal committee who is your support who are your cheerleaders who are your advisers who are your critical friends those are the ones that will help to lift you I started my career in social work so many barriers I had a criminal record and I had no qualifications it was very very hard for me to get a job in this field so what I did was some voluntary work for a year caring for older adults at a church in a day Center I then secured a job in a black afro Caribbean residential home in the private sector as a support worker because local Authority was not looking at me with my criminal record I was promoted within that organization um and went to college and somebody there and they talk about the one who is the one that inspires you that gives you the opport that pushes you there was one person in there that saw something in me and said CLA there is more to you than meets the I pushed me to go to college and ordered my steps and my nan says to me that every disappointment is for a reason so when doors were closed there were reasons for those doors closing in and when doors opened there were reasons for that too I managed to finally secure a post as an unqualified social worker in adults every opportunity that was there I grasped it whether it was training courses awareness raising picking up complex cases that as a social work assistant I shouldn't have been doing I took them and eventually I managed to go back to college and do my access to social sciences it was at College where I met my English teacher um Helena RJ who again the one inspired me to then qualify well apply for University and I was surprised because I had no intentions of going to University so I was surprised when I put my application into the University of Birmingham and Birmingham City University that both universities said yes and everybody was saying to me you OB youu OB red bricks it's the best place to go but I came to BCU and I felt at home I saw people that looked like me I saw um lecturers black females strung women and I said nah forget you OB I'm coming to BCU and I spent my three years here my first year um back then you had to do a placement in your first year and I remember going to placement with my DBS and them looking at me and escorting me back off the premises I remember the disappointment my first day at my first year on placement and because of my offenses I was escorted off the premises and I was so disheartened because back then you couldn't pass your degree without doing all your placements and I just felt like giving up but my personal tutor Dary bway fought very hard and she kept me so motivated and she worked TIR tirelessly to find me a placement and when she did my grandmother's words stay in my mind that everything happens for a reason and nothing happens before it's time I attended an interview in Warsaw wasel children services for a placement told them my story and my three-year placements were secured there there was the one person there that believed in me so who am I a black woman with wounds that have healed a qualified social worker a licensed trainer and facilitator a student assessor a teacher a lecturer a mentor a coach a wife a mother a aunt a cousin a friend our lad a Cara I knew that at every level I work to lift others so in my team I fight for staff we've lived experiences because of the experiences that I've been through I Mentor coach and guide staff in particular women from black and Asian ethnic backgrounds to grow and develop strategies to progress in their chosen career what I would say is believe in yourself believe you are where you are supposed to be and remember that as you rise you should lift others so what I want you to remember is the sky is the limit you are what you want to be and you can be who you want to be and I am not what I have done I am what I have overcome and I tell my story not for an Applause but to give hope because hearing other people's experiences helps others and I'll finish there thank you so you've heard a little bit about well quite a lot actually about what I've done um where am I know and what do I do I oversee the exploitation and missing Hub um in Birmingham Children's trust I oversee the whole service for the whole of Birmingham and actually when I started in 2019 they said CLA come along the hubs up and running it wasn't up and running there was no infrastructure there was nothing there there was hardly any staff and I from scratch I've been able to build up a really good multi-agency collaborative working relationship with a numerous partners that includes Community interest companies and the community and Faith leaders and parents and carers so what do I do I kind of look at children who are missing who are sexually criminally exploited who may be involved in gangs who may be exploited to commit serious youth violence children that go missing and children who may be vulnerable to radicalization I have both the Strategic and operational responsibility for all those children across the whole of Birmingham I work and strive really hard with my team to build trust with communities business Faith leaders the whole system because it takes a whole system to protect our children we work to empower parents we know social work sometimes our parents are blamed shamed made to feel guilty about things that are absolutely out of their control and we work to bring back the power to our parents and I'm also the lead for prevent our primary aims I've already explained that but I would also add that we raise awareness to disrupt people and places in particular the perpetrators that are targeting our children and we Advocate and Empower children and look at opportunities for our children why do I do what I do I think I've just explained it it was like a natural course that my experience that I had as a child would lead me to where I am now to be able to fight on behalf of those children to have someone stand up and say we believe we care we love we want we understand it's all about building Legacy for our children they are our future they are our future generations and if we don't care for them and nurture to them and love them and protect them who will they be it's about self-belief I believe in myself I believe in you guys I believe in everybody that we all have that vision of wanting to protect children and my strategic plan they said to me CLA you have to write a child exploitation strategic plan I was like H what's that going to say says all the buzz words that they want it to say but at the end you know what it says it says hope because that's what we need is hope hope that we will be able to continue to protect our children so why does leadership matter we need leaders that are not in love with money but are in love with Justice the reason why we do what we do in every part of our work that we do the different professionals it's all about Justice and protection it's not about the money because if it was about the money I wouldn't be here CU it actually doesn't pay that well so not be in love with publicity but be in love with Humanity Dr Martin Luther King Jr these are the words and that's what it's about then we want to ask yourselves what type of a leader are you and we talk about leadership versus management I can tell you that every single person in this room is a leader you don't have to have a management degree to be a leader leading is about leading through vision and inspiration and being humble and authentic it's not something you're born with it's a choice and it's about doing the right thing so do we all believe that we want to do the right thing yes we do management is about doing things right that's different to being a leader a leader and often I'm called a disruptor in my um service I'm a real Troublemaker that's oh clear it's clearing it's clearing this meeting oh gosh because I will disrupt because I think things need to be done right so it's not about doing things right but sometimes it's about doing the right things and sometimes that overlaps managers will plan organize coordinate and control I'm not about control I believe that we are here to serve the community not the Community Serve us not the children serve us we are here to serve and that is our job as Leaders so leaders often give direction and find a way to communicate it clearly they offer inspiration ideas they motivate and innovate they build teamwork so when you're working in whatever team you're in you don't have to be at a certain level in terms of title to lead you will be natural leaders if you use your team you spend time you build relationships you collaborate and encourage and you set examples you model and you mirror good practice behavior and attitude and you act in a way that inspires one of the ways that we need to inspire and build relationships and connections is the power of listening sometimes we listen to answer actually we need to listen to understand when we listen more we send powerful messages and we make people believe that they matter very important for our children because often children the children that the cohort of children that I work with believe that they don't matter so we need to listen more so that they understand that they do matter and when you listen the ideas that emerge when people feel respected and heard is amazing and we can make rapid changes if we just listen so what do you need to know about yourself I've told you about myself and knowing myself and understanding my experiences and my feelings and the lived experience that I've had that have made me the way that I am is kind of what what we all need to do is look into ourselves and I'm not saying that everybody's experienced trauma but you've experienced something why have you chosen the job that you do why does it matter what do you know about yourself what do you know about your values what do you know about your mindset and how does that make you the best practitioner that you can be in whatever job role you have chosen so sometimes we have to look deep within ourselves and we have to reflect and we have to be true to our eles authentic have integrity work with trust and the biggest thing is compassion and empathy how do we actually empathize put ourselves in people's shoes and be compassionate to understand what the need is to be able to Advocate and support remembering that leadership is not just about those in position with titles and Powers often when I walk into the room and I CLA gram head of service head of service doesn't mean nothing I I'm CLA Graham I'm a leader I believe in myself I've got lived experience nobody can pay me for that lived experience and I know myself but leaders need to be able to adapt and need to understand training and coaching and the importance of that so how do I learn how do you learn and how do you manage yourselves find out about reading listening or writing which which one works best for you remember we all think differently we all learn differently we've all got different learning styles think about when you're reflecting what are your values how do they verse the organizational values What conflict does that put you in where do your True Values lie what kind of a person do you want to see in the mirror each morning and then think about how do you perform performance is unique to all of us you know people say to me CLA does act like a head of service I'm like I don't know what a head of service acts like I'm just me um this is how I am I'm authentic I go into the community I talk to people I want to learn from people we don't have all the answers actually the answers are out there and actually the communities the parents the carers and the children who we serve so are you unique to yourself are you true to yourself do you Advocate on behalf of yourself to be able to Advocate on behalf of others when you do this and when you know your true self and your authentic self you will achieve best by what you're do what you're good at that's what will happen so where do you belong more importantly where do you not belong that's me I don't believe that I belong anyway I believe that I'm just here to disrupt and do the best for the children that we serve are you compatible with the organization's values sometimes I'm in a lot of conflicts with my organiz izational values there's some battles that I fight and there's some battles that I leave but I know ultimately if it's about the children I'm going to fight and then what are your strengths think about when you're managing yourself discover your strength your strengths get some feedback especially from your cheerleaders and your critical friends you know that personal committee that I told you that you need to have in times of trouble and in times of Joy put yourself with your strengths produce results and improve your strengths and remedy any weaknesses we all have areas of development let's be true to ourselves understand what they are and seek support for that so what should you contribute and how can you make the greatest contributions to what needs to be done consider your strengths your values and your performance this is all about leadership how can you deliver results that are visible measurable and meaningful how can you make the difference these these are some of the self-reflective questions that you may want to ask yourself when you're aspiring in leadership just remembering there are things that you can't control you're not always going to be liked I know that you wouldn't believe it but I am disliked by a lot of people I don't think they generally don't like me I just think they don't like the things that come out of my mouth that actually Ed the truth but remember you things you can't control our other people's thoughts what they think about you other people's words other people's actions other people's behaviors and other people's feelings but you can control yourself and how you respond to those things things you can control you can control your own thoughts your own words your own actions your own behavior and your own feelings if you're true and you're authentic to yourself and your no self you will be able to control those things and this is just talking a little bit about your personal board everybody needs support in the jobs that we do we cannot do it alone and there will be days and in particular in the job that we do some very dark days which is when I'm going to bring CRA in to talk a little bit about emotional resilience and well-being but think about who is on your personal board I kind of ma mine out in in bubbles I actually had the diagram but they weren't allowed to put it on the slides so everyone needs a team of people who can provide Provide support throughout their life these are the people that you can call on when faced with decisions Crossroads challenges or just someone just to lend an ear you might ask for their Insight on your ideas or their point of view or for feedback and encouragement the members of your personal board don't necessarily know that they're on it the members of my board don't know that they're on it but when I'm ready to call on somebody for some spiritual healing for some prayer for some advice for some critical feedback or just to cheerlead me on I know who those people are they don't know what they're doing for me and they don't know that they're on my personal board but they are critical to my success and my well-being so think about your personal board who are your peers who inspires you with fresh ideas who motivates you to make a difference and validates the work that you're doing who is your cheerleader the one who encourages you listens while you vent gets you back on track and who you can really be yourself with and then who is your career coach who challenges you to become a better you and who helps you work out what you'd like to do and how you can get there and then who is your Mentor who at a senior level supports you and is influential offers guidance and advice and helps you to develop work out your personal board because when things get tough you need to know who to call on and when things are going well you know who will be standing in the store shouting and supporting you now for me I think that I fit into someone's personal board as a connector I like to connect people I like to introduce others into the industry and broaden people's networks this is why I like to get out and about in the community and at events and connect people and get to know people but who is your connction and then last but not least who is your wellness coach who says to you CLA you've been sitting at your computer for 10 hours I've bought you lunch and you need to get up and go to the toilet we've got I've got loads of those have a nice Ira um and who makes sure that you're taking care of yourself even if I'm at work and I've got a headache I've got stuff that run out and buy me paracetamol and drinks and so who who are those people you need to know who they are so I think I might be coming to the end before I hand over to CRA but just thinking about being a social work leader or a leader in any field of work that you're in it's not necess necessarily social work this aligns to any type of work that you're doing recognize and appreciate the values of your profession remember who are you here to serve Define that and communicate it encourage when things have gone well understand your values base be self-aware have self- knowledge that means go out and don't just sit and wait for training courses or awareness courses to come to you seek them out understand the power as well that you hold actually I people think that I have a lot of power but I actually don't I and what I try to do is ensure that my parents and carers and children have more power than me cuz I'm here to serve them also constant ly reflect think about empowerment and commit to continuous learning and education and just remember there will be hard days a bad day does not equal a bad life you are not your struggles I've just told you all about my struggles and not all negative thoughts are true so be gentle with yourself trust your own resilience and strength the only way out is through and remember nothing stays the same focus on the things you can control let go of the rest sometimes I say to my staff this is all that you can do there is no point worrying about things that you cannot change just focus on what you can control and remember you can't be everything to everyone but you can be true to yourself and you're not alone remember your personal committee it's okay to be vulnerable and ask your personal committee for help feelings are not facts but recognize and acknowledge that your feelings are allowed and your worth is not contingent on circumstances remember you are enough and I will hand over to CRA he's going to talk a little bit about how we develop some emotional resilience before we go to Q&A so I'm looking forward to the questions from yourselves want to introduce no I'll be okay hello everyone so I'm cra Pine and I work with CLA at the Empower you Hub I'm one of the missing support workers there I'm a qualified social worker and I'm also a teaching raiki Master teaching aian master and I lead a healing Circle in the city um CLA spoke about emotional resilience and some of the ways over my 10year career as a social worker in working in statutary non-statutory settings some of the ways that I have really learned to do that is through my raiki practice alongside that there's all of the tools and resources that we're encouraged to access such as clinical supervision which has been a great support um accessing our light our um personal supervision with our managers making sure that we take time out to avoid burnout it was burnout being on the brink of burnout that actually led me to finding a the my raiki practice Reiki is a type of energy healing it comes from it's the universal life healing energy and it comes from a big source of feminine and masculine energy that we some people call Mother Father God or God or however you connect with a higher source of energy and when you're trained in in Reiki as I am it comes down through the crown of the head and out the hands so when I lay my hands on myself or another person or any living being the the energy which has its own intelligence will flow to where it's needed it's been a constant source of strength and support for me particularly on uh challenging days at work it helps to keep me very calm and balanced um I've been working alongside HR uh and it's being embedded in the well-being offer at the trust uh having a head of service like CLA has meant that I've been able to broaden my reach so all of our team members and our partner organizations the police bernardos the children Society they're all able to access um myself as one of the well-being Champions at the trust um the trust holds a weekly well-being an annual well-being week and myself as a raiki practitioner and people as yoga practitioners mindfulness coaches will all be offering um Services during that week across different sites that BCT um are present at I think it's essential in having tools and resources for our self-care myself it's raiki it's the foundation it keeps me it helps me sleep better it keeps me from um getting stressed when I'm going into stressful situations as a missing support worker which is on a daily basis um it helps to keep me very relaxed and be very present and be able to get the best outcomes for our kids for our families for our communities I have been able to through a specialist training program that the trust has led over the last 12 months uh trained to convert my healing practice into a community interest company so I'll be working in a much um broader uh way across the city um we have a parents group that we've developed parents who have had experience of their children being exploited or being victims of serious youth violence and the harder days uh that um that CLA mentioned one of them was last year when one of our young people was murdered sadly and it was something that it is always um a possibility um and we do our best to safety plan with our with our children but to come into work that day and to hear that this had happened to a young person that we'd all worked with in some aspect whether it was education or around his missing um was just devastating the way that we managed it as a team was CLA bringing us all together we started to look at all the different networks and find all the practical ways that we were going to move forward with this and then I was asked as as well being lead to speak to our team and our uh colleagues about self-care how we were going to move forward in terms of emotionally psychologically processing what had happened um we made sure in those few days after that we were all checking in with one another that we had uh spaces whether it was at work or at home where we could process we could talk to one another um going to our clinical supervisions I had colleagues who came to me for raiki sessions um and and it really developed a culture of putting well-being at the heart of our practice because we cannot give from an empty cup essentially it will will lead to burnout and it will lead to that turnover of staff that doesn't end up being sustainable for our children and our families um since that event last year it renewed my commitment in making sure that I was really taking care of my well-being it didn't make me want to walk away from from this work rather it it strengthened my belief that I was exactly where I needed to be and that I needed to almost double down on all my tools and resources and Inspire and support my colleagues to do the same so we've really been building that culture of well-being and Empower you with Claire's support um I've never had a no to any kind of out there idea that I've put for for well-being days and that's just been Testament to how CLA is really looking at being Innovative and finding new ways of reaching um our children and families and our parents Group H we've been given funding for me to Pilot um a raiki training for them so they will receive a qualification and they'll be able to start practicing raiki on other people so it'll be a tool they'll have for themselves for their own selfhealing and also to be able to give to their family members uh to their friends and really be able to strengthen um themselves to to move forward from any personal challenges that they're facing through whether it's through the education system or their dealings with social care um or whether it's things that their children are experiencing out in the community so you see a display here in front of you these are the raiki Masters um it's really a demonstration of a something that can be placed in your own personal space so for me this is what is on my altar at home but it's just about creating those spaces whether it's that your desk at work or whether it's at home where there's a focus on your self-care and your well-being it's key to really building in those spaces and those tools within yourself to really support yourself to make this um a career and a and a practice that is sustainable that we need people for the long-term long-term change takes it takes time um 5 to 10 years I I've said to CLA I'm I'm in it for the Long Haul so I I'm I'm very committed to my own well-being and in supporting the well-being of others um I have some information along the front and if anybody wants to talk to me afterwards about um the different services that are are available I do uh I will be at the well-being week at the trust but I'm I'm available to speak to uh to offer free well-being sessions to teams in all different disciplines um but it it is it is really just been the foundation for me to continue in this in this career at such a challenging time as well yeah thanks CRA so I'll just add a couple of well-being strategies and everybody will have their own my my table at home in my bedroom is full of lavender c um candles um incense Sage all those nice smiles and sometimes I get home and I just light all the candles and I have a nice bath and I just turn the lights off and just inhale and exhale to relieve some of the stress and the pressures I also like to eat a lot so um having a good takeaway also helps and I think one of the good things about us in our team is humor you know sometimes it's hard to laugh in difficult situations but we find the space to have some humor that's really important so just ending with the fact of what CRA said really we've we've had a number of deaths that was a particular significant one within 72 hours we'd had around seven incidents um two of which were fatalities um and a number of our children seriously harmed and I think it was at that point when I was standing outside smoking my cigarette as I do um um that staff were coming to me and they were they were literally breaking down and crying and I was saying oh we have to do something different which is why we've got CRA with the well-being but we also um implemented clinical supervision which isn't actually across the whole organization it's actually just in my service but it's because I recognize the pain that my workers were in and said something had to be done so just to end then um a reminder really that whatever you're doing in the profession that you're in your legacy is every life that you touch every child that you connect with every vulnerable adult that you connect with every vulnerable person every family that you connect and you engage with your legacy is every life that you've touched so remember our leadership skills remember our authentic selves remember where we're coming from remember to reflect on our values our ourselves knowing ourselves and remember always to care for ourselves because as Cyra said you can't pour from an empty cop thank you you Claire um so yeah if anyone's got questions just raise your hand and I'll try to reach you thank you very much Claire and CRA emotional resilience and well-being is is essential in my opinion it needs to be the in the heart of uh the profession um and it's been overlooked for so long um hence why we have early burnouts and stuff and people you know um being being mentally unwell so I'm I'm pleased to see there someone like Sara in the the service and I and I hope it develops and I hope BCU for example gets the students get a taste of your um of your service CRA in terms of raiki uh and some free samples and they're able to access it and and the CH and the lectures as well as as for you CLA and also SRA I want to talk to you afterwards because I'd like a free session um CLA I mean when I received the information regarding yourself um immediately from reading it I knew it was inspirational but listening to you as as has made it even more inspirational and remarkable from the background you're coming from of trauma and you mentioned some of the trauma you will never ever speak about so you can only imagine what that is um uh Gang Related offenses extensive criminal offenses which which I imagine you have um and I would imagine as well that they're long spent um how long spent they were when you decided to get involved in education and placement I don't know but I wouldn't have thought it would have been too relevant at the time but maybe it was because you you experienced a lot of prejudice but what you did experience is the openm open-mindedness of BCU now you tell me which University in Birmingham or in the country would have taken you on as a student with your background absolutely yeah and that's a testimony to BCU it's a testimony to them because most I would suggest most universities would have rejected you out of hand yeah and and my question I mean I worked in children's homes teenagers from 13 to 17 to 18 for 16 years with the local Authority okay and and bearing in mind typical burnout is three to four years of employment in that profession especially back in the day emotional resilience was was not something that was talked about it wasn't even thought of you had to look about your own emotional resilience if you knew what it was okay training supervision was non-existent now as a as a black woman as well I think that needs to be spoken about yeah your rise from from from from um from difficult circumstances your achievements as a as a black female must have been challenging yeah and you must have faced sexism and racism along the way but you overcame them to be where you are and you're an inspiration and a testimony for us to follow right my question is sorry to go on for so long no thank you right my question is right how how many opportunities are there in BCU and other universities especially for someone with your type of background to choose a profession either social work or similar to social work or is there still a block so I don't really know how to answer that question I'm wondering whether David needs to answer that question or a representative from the University I I I just think from my own experience is um BCU and and this is why I always come back here I will never let my University go because I know the opportunities that they gave me and so I always give back so when I come back I'll come back I'll teach um I'll do some lectures I might do some internal moderating for them I might help them with um looking at their courses on the content um and I'll always have their students so when I get a student and I say what you need from the go convention like nah n you're not come in here not not really um but BCU is my priority and that's because they gave me the opportunities and I I I would think that that that's what they still do and that those opportunities are still there because we've got individuals within this University that will continuously fight to do what's right for their students and support them so I think those opportunities are here I don't think they are everywhere and I think even if there's blockages and challenges and barriers that they will still find a way to get you somewhere within the university to do something so that you've got something achievable at the end of it that that's just my opinion David I don't know if you want to say anything um I would say we have had opportunities and experiences and we we have met students and applicants where they have had I don't know the exact same Journey but they've had I'm going to use your phrase or extens an extensive history um and we have tried to meet them where they are and we have spoken to them about where they're at in their journey and that has often been that they have joined us and sometimes it's been about more preparation for them to be ready for when they're joining us and that's partly because of all the things C and CLA have spoken about and how challenging that can be but we have also I know I myself and a number of our team as well when people have been ready to go to the the same Journey that um CLA mentioned with Dorothy taking her in terms of placement um we have accompanied students before I know I've done it myself with the trust once where the we had cleared somebody to join us and maybe a partner agency wasn't too sure but we've helped both walk through that and that has led to some other people have been awarded by BCU will be alumni but a few students of the year as well so yeah I think it's fair to say that is still is still relevant but thank you and I think just to add that the offenses that I had as a as an under 18 had we had some of the legislation that is now in place I would have been seen as a victim rather than a perpetrator so I think times have changed as well so things that have happened as me being a child in care and and going through those adverse childhood experiences as a means of survival would have meant now had those things happened I would have been seen as a victim and that would have helped support my long-term career Journey at the time it wasn't there so that's what created the barriers yeah most definitely thank you thank you good evening CLA thank you so much um I feel like you've just you've shared and exposed so much that we probably all needed to hear at some some point um point in time anyway I sit on the um I'm a co-oped governor uh for BCU I joined about just over a year ago with the intention of so my mom went to the PO poly Technic years and years ago I remember taking me to Aston you know going oh where you going now Mom she's taking me to University um and I almost felt like this was my opportunity to do some giving back given um what my mom's been able to achieve since that point in time so as I was listening to you I was thinking what would I say about this evening to the rest of the committee that I'm going to be on in a couple of weeks time and I was thinking this's there's something for me in how do we how do we help how do we help people not just across West Midlands but those that would want to come to BCU to really understand the extent of the opportunity that's available to them because you know we probably could have filled this room right if we'd have said you know prospective applicants who perhaps have never thought about going to University or you know they perhaps think about going to University later in life or they've had some really challenging life circumstances that have led them to think it's not for them so what my question is what do you think we can do at BCU to open up this University as a world that is accessible to people who might come to higher education from a whole range of different life circumstances I think it's that piece of work starts before you even get to the university I think perhaps we probably need to get people into the schools or the colleges to have those discussions so that they know that the opportunities are there because we're going to have to reach in to get them to come in I don't think if we just said oh you know someone with lived experiences here to talk about the things that they've done and how they've managed to get to University that people are going to come I think we have to reach into them and I think we probably have to do it before we even get to the stage of being at the University it needs to happen before so we probably need to get into the colleges into the school reaching so that we can give that inspiration and that hope and so that they can see people that are like them that have got there so that when the open day comes they can think actually I'm going to go and take a walk down there and have a look because this woman or this man came to my college or my school and told me that they were a bit like me and they had similar circumstances and they made it so I kind of think it needs to happen before rather than at the time because I don't think they'll know to come do does that make sense and I I think that's probably something that we might want to think about and approach colleges um six forms people that are thinking about going into University the other thing that is a challenge though is most of the kids that are like were like me aren't in those spaces so I wasn't in school so at the age of 14 I never went back to school until in my 20s so how are you how would you ever reach me to tell me that there was hope and inspiration that and that I could be so that that's an additional challenge that we might have to think about how do we reach the children that aren't in those spaces to hear and that's another challenge thank you any good evening Claire and thanks for inviting me to this wonderful evening honestly sitting here just feel so overwhelmed listening to your story story and it's going to be a source of in inspiration for me and the children that I work with I'm a independent living officer for Birmingham Children's trust um and cl I've known Claire for a long time so just answering that question about how do you reach out to these children I am one of those iros and I'm not ashamed to say that as a Asian parent I'm a very pushy parent and I do the same for the children that I work with and I every child that I'm an IRA for I you know I encourage them to think about University as said never I mean I as a uh Asian woman who came to this country have experienced education in this country and I I'm just so grateful for what I have achieved here it's purely because hard work pays and you know if you work hard you can achieve anything there are no barriers there are barriers yes but I think they are achievable if you work hard and that's what I say to children so in order to reach out for those children what I would suggest is you could perhaps you know work with our virtual school and um every looked after child um has a personal education plan and we have person education plan meetings which are done U which are done every term and those are attended by the child the parent the social worker and that's where you can have some input through virtual school and encourage those children because these are children who have no interest in education they have so much going on in their life there's so much trauma that education is way down on their list and unless you're in the right place you cannot engage with education and I know of some very bright children who definitely can you know go go to university and do very well but what I see in my in my job day in and day out is that we have very low expectations of our children and when we have low expectations of our children they live up to those expectations and I Aspire highly for my children that I work with and at times I upset people like CLA and I don't care that's the truth so I would also think about your reachable teachable moments um Malachi is in the room up here Malachi um does some really good work in the community um with our children that people would say are hard to reach but actually we can't reach them they're not hard to reach it's it's us that can't engage them and I would say that every moment every second every intervention every connection that you have with the child Inspire it's you don't have to wait until you're in custody or you're pregnant or you become a father or you're on a hospital bed and recovering from a stab wound or a fire wound a Firearms wound you know you can Inspire in every interaction that you have with young people and that's what I would say to that as well hi thank you um we're student social workers completing our masters my question is from BCU yeah yes how come I haven't seen you guys you have you've never invited us how come you haven't come to my tea you haven't invited us no it's a open in K kij is the one that send to places oh okay welcome BCU students um so we're just about to go on our second placement now on our last placement um some of us are going to BCT and we're going to be there for the well-being um induction period that we have so my question is you're um asking us to reach out to be involved in these things but where do we start we're newly qualified social work we're not we're going to be newly qualified social workers but we always hear the burnout and people quitting being in local authorities that that's the fear that we have in terms of going into the social work so yes you've done very good work in the community but where do we start um where do we find our footing um do you have any advice for that come to our team any just just come and work with us come with us we we've had student social workers that have been placed in our team but equally have visiting student social workers as well we want you to come out and do visits with us see the some of the realities because the the the things that you you're not necessarily going to see in are the placements the kinds of challenges not just from what our children are facing but from what we are facing working within certain systems um and finding ways to Advocate to push for change to um to challenge decisions that you don't agree with especially as a newly qualified social worker it can be a difficult thing to to it could be very daunting but having the right team around you with the right values um and and having a strong grounding in your own self-care is going to be essential yeah just come to our team any sure what what we what I I guess the difference from our team to the statutory teams is that we work very different ly so although we have a statutory response the statutory teams work within certain constraints we can be a little bit more flexible so we could send you to go and do some work with Malachi to be out in the community doing locality assessments engaging with young people in on the road and talking to them our parent and carers group is another Arena that you can come our youth inspectors we have 20 youth inspectors young people who have been either affected or involved with or vulnerable to exploitation gangs and serious youth violence we have just trained 20 of them to become ocn accredited youth inspectors that means they can come to the university they can come to Children's Services police services and inspect and write a report about their services I would love you guys to have been on our residential with those young people because that also is a different experience that you wouldn't experience in a statutary service and meeting our parents and carers and learning from their experiences of the system helps your practice to practice differently and to be more empathetic and compassionate that's the added bonus of being in a team like hours whereas the statutory teams have to do their Duty we can be we're not supposed to be but being the disruptor that I am we can be more creative and in Innovative and do different things so we can connect you with those groups to give you that experience we've got other community interest companies that you can go out and visit do detach work we've got our youth services you can go out and do detach work with to get that outside experience of actually assessing risk and seeing harm outside the family home is different to assessing risk and harm within the family home which is what our statutory te teams do we are out in the community assessing Parks um we just got the the law the law will be changed I think next month for nitrous oxide we were pivotal in that the es scooter bikes we were pivotal in changing how they put those es scooter bites back out on the street because we've seeing school children in school uniforms rolling up and down delivering drugs Here There and Everywhere We captured everything and brought it back to them and they changed CH the way that you can now get hire a e scooter you have to have facial recognition if it goes outside of a certain Zone it locks up and we were pivotal to all of that because of the work that we do in the community there's been a number of shops on lazelle's road that we took photographs of and you know reported and now they're closed down and we're on to some other shops on Coventry Road that the same things are going to happen to them and that's the difference in the terms of work that we do because we're looking at how do we prot prot our young people within the community than what your area teams will do so we welcome you because we need volunteers because we're doing this as well as we're doing our day job so I work like seven days a week CRA Works evenings sometimes I'm called my son's in custody CLA I'm like New Town shopping center doing my shopping and I'm just driving in my car to the custody Suite to be an appropriate adult for a child because that's what we do because that's the connections that we have with the parents in the community so we work very differently but we would welcome you all because we need volunteers so thank you we'll see you next week yeah hello um as you all heard my name is Malachi I wasn't going to speak with my name got called three times um but it's just inspiring to be here um and I just wanted to mention that um this is like probably the second time I've met clear face to face it's always being like social media as we do nowadays but the thing that stood out to me is um I'm all about finding the right connection so I'm doing the work in the community and I have my battles with the schools I have my battles with the U Behavior schools also um but and I've always kind of seen like I'm doing my work and then you've got the professionals the social workers and I always thought there isn't an understanding of the work I do and in cla's in a position where I identified and I thought you know what I can come to CL there and talk how I talk express it and articulate it how I think it should be said and clear understands and that is like built a massive bridge for me to connect with the services with the local authorities to get them to understand what's happening on the front line and if CLA wasn't in that position that would be a very big door that I had to go through had to stand up there and talk or write loads of emails but it's like so people in the right places in the right positions will open the right doors and I think we're all on the same page of if that connection works then we're doing this a benefit for the young people because the the issue that I have is um and I'm undiagnosed ADHD so I specifically um work with young people with ADHD and autism is they're labeled the naughty kid they're misunderstood so when I go into these behavioral schools um just like CLA said she's a disruptor so I right so when they see my name in the email or I'm coming to school to Mentor a child where they've shut the door on me because they don't want me in school but then a parent has referred me for their child and they can't say no so when I get into the behavior school and see the way that the kids are um you know acting out behaviors that the staff are doing it hurts me because then on paper the young people are labeled the aggressor the rude child when I'm seeing a staff member with them the same actions and I pull them up about that so a lot of the children like last night I'm communicating with young people and you know two children who don't know each other were messaging me um I've got a good communication on Snapchat with them telling me that they they want to run away so and my protocol clear cuz it's going to go missing so do you get the connection so if I didn't have clear in that in in that that that space I'd be thinking okay what email can I send to somebody and wait three days do you get what I mean so um yeah I just wanted to mention that like without CLA there be no me and without me obviously there' be no connection for the kids to go to so um yeah my name is Malachi from ambitious lives and you can get any information from me from the website but thank you all for taking time out to come here oh yeah I'm question is cuz we all forget um how can I um being in the front line how can I actually um you know working with yourself in the professional practice actually create more understanding for the schools to work with myself yourself parents and the schools because they're not working together there's and that is a major issue um so I just wanted to know if you guys you know you have the young people and you work with the parents or the schools is there ways that I can improve that connection um so it can be more you know strategic and more solid we're trying I think the problem with statutory Services is that they don't recognize and acknowledge that Community is part of the safeguarding partnership and that Community interest Grassroots companies are profession within their own rights and are part of the partnership So within the strategy that I've written I've written it into the strategy and I've written it into the plan and the plan's been adopted and the strategy has been adopted by Birmingham children safeguarding partnership and other the Strategic Partners so now that means if it's in a plan and it's in a strategy and we have to do it so it's about the next steps so you'll see that um I'll be starting to invite Community interest companies to strategic part partnership meetings so you'll be around the table there already at our whole service partnership groups I'm going to add you Malachi um and it's important for statutory service such as the police and health and education because they're all around that table and Children Services probation um Red Thread loads housing that you're around that table because when you're around that table visually it says to them you are a a professional B part of the partnership C should be respected and that's where our next steps are taking us it's written in the strategy it's in the plan that means it's been adopted we must do otherwise we haven't fulfilled what we said so those are going to be our next steps hi CLA hi um Claire is the second black female who's been excluded from school who's got a degree from BCU so that's that's that's really good in my books um I've been in education 30 years I'm a teacher and um the I understand exactly what you say about the constraints of Strat um statutary Services um because for the last 18 months I've been working independently as a behavior strategist so Malachi I think we need to talk um but what I would like to ask CLA because you are such a woman of wisdom and such a great leader what would your advice be to other leaders within Birmingham city council considering the financial state of the city so that those children who me need us most don't get left behind oh that's hard question I would say draw on your resources outside just because we've we're in a financial position um and and and I guess for me that's why I've got the relationships and the connections so my team's only small but it's huge because I draw on my outside resources I don't just look within so when people are saying to me oh we've got no one to work with our children around exploitation I'm like I've got people because I've made connections and built relationships and they don't necessarily have to come from within the organization that you're in it's about what relationships have you build outside that to pull your resources together so yes we're in financial constraints but what relationships and Partnerships do you have outside of that that you can pull on so I know that I could probably go to health because we got a good relationship and say you know what I need you to fund another coordinator you and police put some money together to do that for me but because we've got the relationship they'll probably do it I know that I could go to my community interest companies and so I've got 40 children waiting they need intervention now and they'll say CLA we've got three other community interest companies we'll split the 40 between us so it doesn't necessarily have to be within the organization and I think when we think about strategic planning and long-term Visions that's kind of where we need to get to cuz we're not always going to have money so and money's being caught from every service left right and Center so how do we come together collaboratively as a partnership to pull our funding together to help each other do what's right for the children doesn't have to come from within we can look outside but we have to build the relationships and the connections first that's what I would say thank you last question okay hi CLA Hello nice to see you again I've um been truly inspired tonight because although I've worked alongside you for many years I think I've never heard your journey and your story and I think now you know why I'm so horrible well you know CLA I think you are some whenever whenever I think about contextual safeguarding and Empower you I think of CLA because I know you kind of started that and you've kind of taken you know everyone along a journey and you know you have BCT has had a recent offer an excellent outcome so you know you've been part of that um you've heard some students so some of the students here are going to PCT but not necessarily your team on the 6th of November um and what I'd like to say is that I've changed my role as a team manager in Birmingham Children's trust recently and recently joined BCU my role here is the one one role is the placement coordinator so I do send students to various providers Etc something I've noticed is that in the application there's a lot of people now openly sharing their lived experiences whereas previously they'd be really they shied away from it they felt guilty they felt embarrassed they didn't know whether it would impact on their application and I think hearing you say what you said just kind of confirms a lot of what students are thinking and some of their worries um and I'm a really strong Advocate I mean I'll probably realize it tonight but I've been pushing for certain students to enter certain you know Provisions because of their lived experiences because I can the potential in terms of how they can help and also develop their own learning outcomes and as a placement so my appeal to you is Clea CU I know if anyone can it's probably you is that you do provide a lot of last placements to PCU and heavily increased you know we've had loads this year so thank you very much but what I will ask is if we can develop something in the future around our first placement students coming out to Birmingham city university has got the largest population of students within the West Midlands and we are always looking for placements and I think working with you and your team would be absolutely amazing even if it's a small shadowing opportunity for a few days I know David and Caroline probably have to think about the shadowing opportunities and how we look at that but you know I think it's something in the pipeline and I think it'd be a fast fantastic opportunity in the future we welcome then thank you okay thank you everyone CLA any anything to say thank you the end of it um I appreciate you all taking the time out to come and listen to me tonight it's a cold night windy rainy um and I appreciate you coming and and I hope I hope that you've taken something away from tonight I hope I've helped um Inspire Empower Advocate um and shown you all that the inevitable can happen um the possible can happen The Impossible can happen um and just a big thank you really for coming and listening to me thank you thank you to SRA as well thank you