Number of staff: 5,501.
Typical salaries: The starting salary for a
newly qualified social worker is £20,612 rising to
£36,760 for a senior practitioner. Team leader salary ranges
from £30,342 to £38,767. Practice and development
consultant and district manager salary is £35,957 to
Number of clients: In excess of
Among the perks of being a social worker at Kent Council is the
possibility of going on a month-long exchange programme to the US.
The council has links with the largest children and families social
care provider in Boston and an older people’s agency and has twice
sent a group of 10 front-line workers to experience working
practices in US voluntary services.
All front-line staff are eligible – all they need do is convince
the authority of how participating in the programme would benefit
them in their jobs. Oliver Mills, social services’ director of
operations, says the scheme has been highly popular since its
introduction a couple of years ago. “Staff who have been on the
programme have thoroughly enjoyed it,” he says. “It poses questions
for people about practices here and we have improved services as a
The US host organisation also sends staff to Kent for a month.
Mills says this exchange of ideas, policies and procedures is
invaluable and helps staff to take a fresh look at their work.
And it is money well spent, says Mills: “The whole cost is
probably less than a national advert for social workers.”
The programme has been such a hit with staff that Mills may
extend it to include sabbaticals so that participants could take up
longer-term placements. The only drawback with the scheme is that
many staff with families feel they cannot leave their children for
a month. If they could go for longer, Mills hopes their families
could accompany them.
Rated by inspectors as “excellent”, Kent Council places much
importance on employee welfare and has a staff care package
encompassing 10 areas. Mills says many of the initiatives started
in the social services department. “For example, staff can have a
half-hour free health check. This has occasionally picked up
serious medical conditions and is very good for front-line staff
working in care homes who might not otherwise have access to such
Vicki Nass, team leader in family support
“The opportunity to discuss practice issues and explore
theories was wonderful and really inspired me to self-reflect and
consider my future plans,” Nass says of her exchange experience
last year. “It helped me to clarify what I do. I’ve been in family
support for eight years and this was the first opportunity in a
long time to reflect on policies, procedures and practices.”
Nass appreciated talking to other managers facing similar
challenges and finding out how they tackled them.
Initially based in a project on enhancing a school’s community
life, Nass visited other organisations while in Boston. Her
placement host helped her to become involved in projects related to
her work in the UK, adding to the value of her experiences
One such project was a training programme for social workers on
working with vulnerable teenage girls who were being pulled into
prostitution. “It is a big problem there and is starting to be an
issue here so it sparked ideas about how we could adapt a programme
As well as generating ideas she could bring back, Nass found
that the exchange reconfirmed her belief in UK social services. “It
made me proud of working in Kent.”