Q: I am a qualified social worker with past experience as a manager in adults’ services, approved social work and residential management in England. I have been out of work for the past couple of years since a fall. Lately, I have had several interviews in Scotland but can’t evidence recent practice, and all my references are from five years ago in England. How can I get to a position where I can use my skills and my 20 years’ experience again?
A: Your situation raises several points. First, your lack of recent social work practice doesn’t appear to have affected your ability to be shortlisted for interview, which is encouraging. It is unusual for local authorities to give feedback to unsuccessful candidates, certainly in the early phases of selection, but some can give you an indication of how final-phase interviews went. I think it would be worthwhile trying to talk to the chairs of interview panels so they can confirm which areas you should brush up on and perhaps give you some general pointers.
A two-year period of ill-health due to a fall is significant, and you should be certain that you are not putting yourself at risk of further injury by returning to work in what could be a physically demanding role. You don’t give me enough information to help you make that judgement, but you should think about any limitations you might have, such as on persistently getting in and out of cars, lifting and handling and so on.
The other thing to bear in mind is the stamina required for any social work job and the need to be able to reassure the interview panel that you are fit for the job on offer, and whether full- or part-time employment is your goal.
You also need to make sure you are registered with the Scottish Social Services Council. The registration form takes you through the conditions you need to satisfy, although if your registration with the General Social Care Council in England has not lapsed you can save time and avoid duplication by asking them for a transfer form or dual registration form instead. To register in Scotland, you will also need a criminal record check up front known as a Disclosure Scotland Check, which will cost £20.
In terms of returning to the social work workplace, you might find that a college nearby can offer some further training to help. They will certainly be able to help with your IT skills (now almost a prerequisite for any job). Popular at the moment is the European Computing Driving Licence which you can do online either as self-study or with tutorial support.
Finally, it may be worth you getting some help freshening up your CV, emphasising your skills and experiences that are still relevant rather than any gaps in service. If you are looking for related but different challenges, you might also consider post-qualifying training to update your skills and possibly steer you into another field.
Alison Sanger is a social care HR consultant
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