Career Clinic

Q: What are the real differences between the job of a senior social worker and that of a deputy manager of a care home?

A: A senior social worker is expected to manage a caseload of complex individual cases in the community. To do this they have to work alongside other professionals and with a variety of ­community resources, including housing, transport and employability schemes.

This means they need to understand their own professional boundaries and respect the roles of others and see them as ­opportunities for the people they are helping. Their work includes family-focused activities, group work, counselling, advocacy and advanced communication skills.

They might also be managing a team of more junior social workers and other care staff. This will involve them in supervision, appraisal and staff development. These dependent staff will often be working alone in difficult circumstances or working remotely.

A senior social worker often takes on the supervision of social work students who are learning in their workplace and this is called practice teaching. The best qualifications to support this role are the post-qualifying awards for social workers and specialist qualifications in dealing with conditions such as drug abuse, alcohol abuse, dementia, learning disability and gerontology. Senior social workers are most often employed by local authorities or large voluntary and private organisations.

A deputy manager of a care home is also likely to be managing complex individual cases and managing a team but primarily in a residential care setting.

The team is likely to include domestic and administrative staff as much as other professionals. The challenges here are that staff will be working on shifts, which poses its own challenges for management and particularly in relation to staff development.

The deputy manager is likely to hold training and development awards and be a verifier and occupationally competent assessor for NVQs. The deputy is also likely to have to deputise for the home manager and have a full grasp of the business as well as the service delivery in the home.

The most appropriate career pathway for this role are the level 3 NVQ awards, specialist knowledge sets in dementia, ­nutrition, medication and so on, health and care management qualifications or an MBA. Deputy managers of care homes are employed by private companies, local authorities or voluntary organisations.

These are both important leadership roles in a workforce which is being urged by government to give choice and control to service users. People now and in the future will need two types of services: those in the community and those that offer sanctuary and safety in residential settings.



In my team we are working with some threatening people and I find some of the people in the families on my caseload pretty frightening. I understand that this is almost bound to be so when we are taking action to protect children and vulnerable adults from people who are abusive, and when the circumstances for some of the families makes them very angry, but I’m not sure I or my colleagues are handling it that well. Sometimes I feel very exposed. Is this an inevitable part of the job?

We will answer this question in the 12 June issue of Community Care. We want to publish readers’ advice too – send it to by 5 June.

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