Career clinic

Q: My time off over Christmas has given me the chance to think about my future. I want to remain working with service users, but at the same time want to progress. Is there a way I can move up a rung without becoming a manager and losing touch with the people we’re here to serve?

A: Your question assumes you will lose touch with service users if you become a manager. But how about seeking a management role within a children or family centre, or other day or residential service? You will be surrounded by service users and have the opportunity to lead and model the response they receive.

As a front-line manager within fieldwork services you should still also be closely involved with service users through involvement in reviews, having contact with service users at times of crisis, and covering for worker absence.

Indeed, you may want to carve out within your role direct regular engagement with service users. For example, as a team manager I was the co-worker for 18-months for a group work programme with challenging adolescents.

For more senior managers, regular service user contact is not impossible. As social services director, for example, I attended the monthly events for looked-after children organised by our children’s rights officer. This allowed me to get to know 60 to 70 children and young people, and them to get to know me.

If the issue is that you want to progress you career without becoming involved in the accountabilities and responsibilities associated with management, then hopefully there will be more senior and better paid practitioner roles in the future as recommended in the 2006 review of social work.

Ray Jones is a University of Bath visiting professor and former social services director and BASW chair

Readers’ views:
In my experience, moving into a management role does not mean losing contact with the people we serve. My team and I have close contact with our local service user organisation run by disabled people. As a result there is frequent contact between hundreds of adult service users and senior managers.

Name and address withheld

7 February question

Q: I have recently changed career direction from working with children to working in adult social work. But there is a huge amount to learn and this has knocked my confidence. I would like to feel capable and would appreciate any advice. We will answer this question in the 7 February issue of Community Care. We want to publish your advice too: please send it to by Wednesday 30 January.

Do you have your own career dilemma? Send your comments or questions to


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