Juggling learning needs

Scotland is in the midst of a national consultation and debate
on how to bring forward the best leaders and managers in social
care. The Scottish executive’s 21st Century Working Group is
looking at the need for a coherent framework for developing leaders
and managers in social care – a framework which looks at roles,
competences and qualifications, training, development and

Meanwhile, in England, leadership has been identified as key to
the development of the social care workforce over the next five
years. The social care training body Topss has recently put its
proposals on developing leadership out to consultation.

Our research sought out experiences and views of those in the
front line to answer some of the questions posed by the debate. The
findings were used to make important changes to the support and
training of the managers in South Lanarkshire Council.

But we need to get management induction programmes right before
we move on to more specialist training as there is evidence that
staff who are already in management posts often feel ill-prepared
for the role. Good planning and induction for our managers will
provide the foundation for a move on to meaningful continuous
professional development.(2)

Since the main question posed within the research was “Are
social work managers prepared to manage?” the logical approach was
to ask social work managers if they felt prepared to run their
service. The two main aims of the research were to then use the
findings to inform a future in-house management support and
training programme and also to contribute to the wider debate on
the subject.

The findings revealed 86 per cent of respondents had undertaken
some form of internal management training but for four out of five
this happened only after they had taken up their management

All the managers felt ill-prepared for their new managerial
roles. They also raised concerns that in-house courses focused on
human resources tasks, such as maximising attendance, recruitment
and selection, and discipline and grievance. The research found
that these areas of training are not high on new managers’ agendas.
Instead, management of people, managing risk and managing finance
are viewed as the priority issues.

South Lanarkshire Council had established links with Strathclyde
University for external management training. This provided managers
with the opportunity to undertake a certificate, then a diploma and
move on to masters level in advanced social work management. It was
found that despite these links just under one in 10 managers had
gone on to undertake any external management training. Just 8 per
cent of those held the social work post-qualifying advanced award
certificate in social work management and 1 per cent held the
Diploma in Social Work Management from Strathclyde University.

The research found that most managers had no formal external
management qualifications. Those with such qualifications had been
employed in social work for 15 years. None of the other managers
who had come from other professional backgrounds and were working
in social work had a recognised management qualification.

Although this raised concerns about managers pursuing the
continuing professional development opportunities open to them, it
was even more apparent that the main area for concern was the lack
of in-house training for new social work managers. This should
involve a comprehensive induction and training programme that
provided managers with the foundations and confidence to move into
the more formal academic routes of management training.

Better in-house management induction and training was seen as a
key by 43 per cent of those surveyed. Interviews with managers
found that the training should be in three areas.

  • In-house succession planning, giving potential managers some
    exposure to the role before being considered for a management
  • Induction training programme, where new managers were allowed a
    four to six-week settling-in period where they had no operational
    responsibilities and were fully trained, supported and briefed on
    their role and the expectations of the organisation.
  • Mentoring, where an experienced senior manager was identified,
    who would be available to the manager for the first six months to a
    year for consultation and support outside formal supervision.

As a result of the research South Lanarkshire Council changed
the support and training given to social work managers. The new
training and support programme now includes a comprehensive
induction pack, induction training, and action learning sets which
include access to mentors.

Management training has now become a central part of the
training agenda in South Lanarkshire Council. The programme of
change is ongoing with plans to include management training for
more senior managers and more joint management training with
partners in housing, health, education and police.

Succession planning has also been put in place for managers in
residential and day care services and it is hoped to roll this
policy out to include operational fieldwork staff. Forty managers
from residential and day care services have now achieved Scottish
Vocational Qualification Level 4 – the registered managers award in
health and social care.

There is already evidence of progress as a result of the
research. A group of new managers who took part in a six-month
action learning set reported that they now felt more prepared,
valued and supported by the organisation and welcomed the council’s
training and support initiative for new managers.

Marian Price is practice learning centre co-ordinator at
South Lanarkshire Council training team. Her role is to develop the
learning centre’s resources and practice learning opportunities for
the new social work degree and provide induction, training, support
and continuing professional development opportunities for social
work managers. She has worked in local authority social work for 15


This article looks at the findings from research into whether
Scottish local authority managers are properly prepared to manage
their service. The findings led to South Lanarkshire Council
embarking on an in-house induction and training programme for new
managers linked to a framework of continuing professional

About the research

A range of research techniques was deployed to pull together the
data: desk research; questionnaires; and face to face interviews. A
total of 142 of the 198 social work managers employed by South
Lanarkshire Council took part in the study, equating to 71 per cent
of the managerial workforce.


  1. Council for Excellence in Management & Leadership, Managers
    and Leaders: Raising our Game, 2002, www.managementandleadershipcouncil.org
  2. Marian Price, Are Social Work Managers Prepared to Manage?,
    unpublished thesis, 2003. Copies available from the author for a
    donation of £20 which will be divided between the British
    Liver Trust and National Kidney Research Fund

Contact the author

E-mail: marion.price@southlanarkshire.gov.uk
or phone 01698 527487


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