Free ‘come back to social work’ training scheme launched

Government and Local Government Association pilot aims to support experienced social workers back into profession

The pilot is backed by chief social workers Isabelle Trowler and Lyn Romeo

Social workers who have left the profession in the last two to five years can apply for free training to support them to re-register and return to practice, under a new pilot scheme.

The government and the Local Government Association have launched the ‘Come Back to Social Work’ campaign in response to fears that a shortage of experienced social workers in adults and children’s services is “reaching crisis point”.

The pilot, which could be expanded if successful, will see 30 social workers offered 13 weeks’ training to help prepare them register with the HCPC and re-enter practice in early 2017.

The scheme will open for applications online later today. The deadline for submissions is 30 September. Unsuccessful applicants can still access a personal development plan and will be added to a “talent pool” for councils to consider supporting them back into practice.

Lyn Romeo, chief social worker for adults, told Community Care the scheme could benefit social workers who took a career break or left the profession for childcare reasons.

She said: “A lot of people, when they have a few years out, may not have the confidence to return, particularly if their registration has lapsed. This scheme aims to help with that, support people back and bring them up to date with a lot of changes.

“There have been efforts to improve supervision, get more manageable caseloads, and ensure there’s much more of a focus on practice instead of process-driven social work. People who are wanting to get back to real social work, the time is absolutely right for them now and I think they can make a real contribution.”

‘Returning felt daunting but I had great support’

Dawn Langsford returned to social work in April after having a few years out of practice after the birth of her second child.

By the time she felt ready to re-enter practice, social work had a different regulator to when she’d left her job, with the HCPC having taken over from the GSCC. With her registration having expired, Dawn had to provide evidence she was up-to-date and ready to practice.

“Everything had changed so much since I left, particularly the legislation with the Care Act coming in and the implications that had. Practice moves on, it’s not static, so if you’ve had a few years out of social work it can feel quite daunting,” she says.

The best way to build up the evidence for her registration was to work in statutory services. Yet Dawn found herself caught in a “limbo” – councils were reluctant to take her on as an unqualified worker knowing that she’d likely leave for a qualified post, at the same time she couldn’t get a social work role until she had her registration.

After some time working in the voluntary sector, Dawn was told Wiltshire council had started a return to social work scheme and she applied.

The council supported her with 30 days training, after which she was employed in a non-qualified role with a caseload and given a supervisor. She also had access to statutory training to update her skills, knowledge and practice and was supported in putting together her application to renew with the HCPC. Dawn is now a social worker in one of Wiltshire’s hospital social work teams.

“The scheme was really good. It gave me the confidence to come back to practice. I had a really supportive team and manager. It just reiterated that all the knowledge and skills you had previously are still there – it’s just a case of bringing them back to the fore,” she says.

“I’m really enjoying it again. I’m glad I’ve come back. I think the national scheme’s a great idea. People do take time out of social work for various reasons, it might be for family or to take a sidestep into another profession. There’s a whole load of experience out there, so making more support available to come back could really benefit the profession.”

Vacant social work posts in adult services rose from 8% to 12% between 2014 and 2015, while children’s vacancies rose from 15% to 17% over the same period.

Isabelle Trowler, the chief social worker for children, said: “Those who have left social work to pursue other avenues still have a lot that they could offer to help improve the lives of our most vulnerable children, families and adults.

“The Come Back to Social Work pilot is a great way to help us learn how to overcome any perceived barriers to re-joining the profession and to encourage more former social workers to consider a return.”

Councillor Izzi Seccombe, chair of the LGA’s community wellbeing board, said: “The shortage of experienced social workers is reaching crisis point. Many talented people have left or are leaving social work, and increased reliance on temporary workers is resulting in spiralling agency costs.

“It is experienced social workers who might take career breaks after seven years that we are particularly hoping to tempt back through this campaign.

“We know that social workers are motivated by their passion for the profession and we hope to persuade those contemplating returning that they can definitely make a difference for people.”

5 Responses to Free ‘come back to social work’ training scheme launched

  1. Andrew September 6, 2016 at 10:55 am #

    I guess it’s too much to hope that the Chief Social Workers might think about why so many social workers have left the profession and put their energy into trying to change those factors for the better.

    That would likely mean that they would have to criticise their political masters for regularly playing to the media and proclaiming when something goes wrong rather than talking about the great work that social workers do daily.

    They could also publicly acknowledge the damaging effects of the huge cuts that the Tories have imposed on local authorities.

    It would probably stop them getting their MBEs when they leave – so I won’t hold my breath.

  2. Me September 7, 2016 at 12:28 am #

    What has changed? Seriously. If there has been this change then why have vacancy rates gone up?

    From the article “Vacant social work posts in adult services rose from 8% to 12% between 2014 and 2015, while children’s vacancies rose from 15% to 17% over the same period.”

    This does not instill confidence in the changes that are previously talked about….“There have been efforts to improve supervision, get more manageable caseloads, and ensure there’s much more of a focus on practice instead of process-driven social work. People who are wanting to get back to real social work, the time is absolutely right for them now and I think they can make a real contribution.”

    Why do they not see this? or maybe, why do they choose to not see this? This scheme assumes that previously register social workers have sat around and not used the skills that they were taught and developed over their career, however long that may have been. They are assuming that those of us that have left the profession have not furthered our education in another, possibly related field. They are assuming that because we are not registered for a period of time that we somehow have lost all of that we had previously known.

    I left social work because we were and still are not treated like professionals; Management and Government more concerned with the purse strings than the safety of children and vulnerable adults; Unprotected caseloads, high paperwork expectation, hot-desking, limited supervision….

    And none of that has changed….in my new, but very related field, I am respected as the professional.

  3. Paul Owen September 7, 2016 at 3:10 pm #

    Come back! I can’t wait to go, only three years to go to retirement. I used to love this job and still really enjoy working with kids and families; when I can get away from the computer. Unfortunately it’s all about paperwork and stats now.

    ANDREW, don’t forget all the cuts the labour party made too.

    I worked it out that in 7 years, due to wage restrictions etc, I’ve had under £1000 increase before tax.

  4. Ben Collins September 11, 2016 at 1:29 pm #

    There are not very many vacancies in statutory service. A relative of mine is a well qualified social worker with good experience but has tried many times to get in a job back in a local authority and because of her age (we guess) – she is in her 50s is not even shortlisted despite being employed consistently in the Charity/not for profit sector. When is something going to be done about the statutory and non statutory sector divide? There is a terrible snobbery shown towards qualified and registered social worker who work outside the local authority sector by local authority employers.

  5. mm September 13, 2016 at 9:06 pm #

    I would not encourage anyone back into the profession of social work, its abusive and nasty. I would however fully support strike action to effect change.