Introducing Merton’s new Director of Children’s Services – Rachael Wardell
Rachael Wardell Merton’s new Director of Children’s Service comes to us from West Berkshire Council where she was Corporate Director for Communities. She brings a great deal of invaluable experience to Merton:
Her career to date includes eight years in local government starting as assistant director in Wokingham Borough Council children’s services and early intervention. Prior to that she spent seven years at Ofsted, where she was responsible for children’s policy projects in early years and social care and an earlier seven years at the Legal Aid Board. And, as a mum of four children, three of whom are teenagers, she is well aware of the joys and pressures of family life. She reports that her home is currently ‘full of exam preparations’ with one of her children taking her GCSEs this year, and one taking his A’ Levels in preparation for leaving home to go to University.
Rachael said of her first few weeks in Merton:
‘Merton has been very friendly and welcoming. I have spent time visiting teams from a range of service areas and am struck by how clear colleagues are about their roles and what they want to achieve, as well as their pride in successes to date in our work with children and families. I have already met a range of partners from Merton’s Children’s Trust and it is clear that partnership working is well embedded in our work to support families’.
In her first few weeks in the role Rachel has taken forward some current priorities including consideration of the new arrangements for our local safeguarding partnership, making sure that these are in line with requirements of the Children and Social Work Act, and building on the ‘outstanding’ strength of our current Merton Safeguarding Children Board. She has worked with the elected Members in our Children and Young People Overview and Scrutiny panel to set priorities of work for the coming year. She is also taking stock of a number of business processes (including meetings and paperwork), and is aiming to reduce and streamline where possible.
Rachael takes ‘relationship based’ practice very seriously and is focused on delivering services which help families to raise their children well – whether these are birth families or other carers. And, she is keen to maintain and develop Merton’s ‘Think Family’ approach to supporting children and families.
Of her future key ambition for Merton’s children and families Rachael said:
‘I am motivated by an ambition to close gaps in inequalities: Children who are vulnerable or who face disadvantage can have outcomes in health and well-being, education, and in their futures, which are as good as their advantaged peers’.
Please read Rachel’s introduction to this edition of Young Merton Together.