What’s it like working for Lika?
As an independent foster care agency operating across London, Lika Family Fostering often has positions open for social workers and other support staff.
If you’re thinking about applying for a role at Lika, you probably want to know a bit about what it’s like working for Lika — especially because we’re a therapeutic agency that follows the principles of Systemic Family Therapy. That means our approach is different to a lot of other agencies and local authorities.
So, I’ve been asked to tell you a bit about my experience working with the agency. Hopefully this will give you firsthand insight into what it’s like working at Lika.
When did you start at Lika and what do you do?
I started at Lika in May 2019 and I am a supervising social worker. I’m a qualified social worker. I have a background of working with children, and with adults, and local authorities mainly.
As a supervising social worker, I primarily support the foster carer.
Why did you want to work at Lika?
I wanted to work at Lika because I knew they are very therapeutic in their approach and that they use a lot of systemic practice in everything they do.
Incidentally, (Lika founders) Kate and Linda taught the systemic element of my course when I was training to become a social worker. So, I knew them before I started working here. (But they didn’t really know me because I was just one of a hundred students.)
But I’d been to their lectures and I’d heard them talk with great passion about systemic practice — about the changes that can be achieved through systemic practice, about how you can work differently with children and with individuals in general.
And I really, really loved their passion and their stance and their vision for how they wanted to deliver social work in a different way. So, when I heard about the position coming up at Lika, a position working with basically my professional heroes and idols, I jumped at the opportunity.
So, it was a combination of factors: it was the fact that I wanted to work in a systemic organisation with people who I knew were going to be good leaders, and because I just felt that I could do really meaningful work at Lika.
Lastly, I guess I was also interested in moving away from local authority work, which was far too pressurised for me — where I never felt satisfied that I could achieve the outcomes that I wanted to achieve for children and for families, because I couldn’t spend enough time to actually see and make changes happen (because I had too high a workload).
Everything felt very “tick boxy” (at my local authority). I was working with 20 families in my first year of being an approved social worker, compared to working with 10 foster carers at Lika. So, I knew that I would have a more manageable workload, that I would have support, and that there would be a team behind me who would help me.
What is it like working for Lika?
The management team
I’ve been at Lika coming up to two years now and I still absolutely love it. It’s a real team feeling. There is a helpful hierarchy, a structure so that you know who your managers are; you know what they’re responsible for. That’s helpful when you need advice and guidance or when you’re seeking kind of approval for decisions, etc.
So, you’ve got that layer of management to help and support and guide you, but equally it really does feel like a team. There is never the sense that someone’s opinion or views are more valid or are more worthy of discussion than someone else’s. Everyone’s ideas are welcome.
I can see very often how my ideas influence what Lika does. If one week I’m speaking about, for example, we have too much traffic on WhatsApp messages, and my idea is around how we could resolve that, a week later I would see Linda send around an updated policy around the use of WhatsApp, which includes some of the ideas that we discussed in the team.
That’s amazing, being able to really shape what makes the organisation and what we stand for and how we work.
I actually also receive regular supervision, which is just so important and so helpful in social work practice. You get a space to reflect on what’s going on for you:
- What are the different carers’ dilemmas bringing up for you?
- How are you reacting?
- Why is that?
- How do we best move forward?
It really helps inform your practice and helps you become aware of your own emotions or your biases, or how your background and your values are influencing what you’re doing. Having a reflective space helps you think about what should I be doing? Why am I doing this? Why am I drawn to this idea and not that one? Which is really essential in good social work practice.
We work with absolutely amazing carers. Most of my carers are really brilliant and dedicated and I’ve been able to build really strong relationships to them. That’s been really meaningful. And providing regular supervisions to them means being able to build that trust and to guide them, to be able to respond to their needs and to support them to be the best they can be, so they can be there for these really traumatised children.
Systemic in practice
It’s just the most rewarding and amazing experience seeing a carer start doing things differently, or starting to do things that maybe we discussed in supervision and then seeing how that has a positive impact on a child.
For example, I was talking to a carer a long time ago about a child who had a really negative view of herself. I started talking to the carer about different ways that she could ask this child questions; they’re called circular questions, whereby the child would be in a position to say things about herself that she is proud of.
For example, a playful way of doing it is to say to the child “if the little dog who lives with us could see a difference in you between today and when you first arrived here, what would he see? What good things would he notice?”
The child might be inclined to say, “Oh, I’m much calmer” or “I’m crying less”, or whatever that might be. And what that means is the child is saying and noticing positive things about themselves, rather than the carer just saying, “Oh, well done. You’re so much more settled now, compared to two months ago”.
It’s much more powerful if you yourself verbalise the change that has happened compared to someone just telling you, “This is what I’ve noticed”. So, part of my role is to coach the carers to come up with questions and ways of talking to children that help the children make a change.
And a few months after that first conversation about circular questions, the carer told me the child, for the very first time, had said they were so proud of themselves because they had got into the choir for the Christmas recital.
Now the child says things like, “I’m really proud of myself. I really wanted to hit you there, but I didn’t”. And the carer can say these things to me quite playfully, when maybe a few months before, violence in the placement was a real dilemma and a big issue.
Those moments are really, really rewarding — helping the carers through the tough times, hanging in there to then see the positive changes, but also helping coach the carer to use the systemic practice and the systemic principles that we use in our practice so that they can use it with the child and to then see the changes it makes. That is absolutely amazing.
The short answer?
What’s it like working for Lika? I love it because I’m able to work the way I love working, which is putting relationships and the quality of relationships at the centre of everything I do.
How does the company treat its staff?
The greatest thing, I think, about Lika is I’m really encouraged to develop my practice and to learn and to engage in training. I love that.
There’s real fairness in everything we do. I feel like everyone pulls their weight.
There’s really respectful language and tone throughout; there’s honesty and transparency throughout.
Coming from a local authority background, where I honestly used to get shouted at in meetings, and I used to get pretty much bullied, really (and told things like “you don’t have to carry the whole world’s weight on your shoulders” or that “if the baby dies, it’s not your fault”), working with Lika is very different.
There is a real and deep care for the wellbeing of the staff, for ensuring that everyone feels fairly treated, that everyone feels that they have a manageable case load. And when someone feels overwhelmed, the team will step in and think about “how can we support you during this time? What can I do? How can I help out?”
So, we’re treated very, very well, and we treat each other very well.
Just for an example of how thoughtful Lika is and the managers are: there was a time about a year ago when we were really busy and really stressed out and Kate and I had a day together in the office one day during the week.
She texted me the day before and said: “I’ve got a gym pass. I’m going to the gym tomorrow for a workout at lunchtime. Do you want to join me? I’ve got a free pass. We can let some of our negative energy out, with all the stress that’s going on.”
Things like that are just absolutely amazing: the fact that they’re thinking of you and that they value your wellbeing and your welfare.
What do you love most about working at Lika?
What I love the most, most, most is that I truly get job satisfaction — that I can truly say that the work that I do is aligned with my professional and my personal values. And that is just, for me, really fulfilling.
I love my colleagues — they’re so much fun. And I love the carers and the dedication they bring. Honestly, I am so in awe of them.
Find out about current positions vacant at Lika on our Careers page.
Lika operates in the London boroughs of Croydon, Sutton, Bromley, Merton, Lambeth, Westminster, Wandsworth, Lewisham, Southwark, Islington, Camden, Hackney, Tower Hamlets, City of London, Haringey, Newham, Redbridge, and Barking and Dagenham, Hammersmith and Fulham, and Kensington and Chelsea.