Q: I resigned from my last social work post a few years ago following a period of stress-related sick leave. While off, I was visited by the police, following an allegation of me “misplacing” money belonging to one of my service users. The team clerk later confirmed all monies were accounted for. However this chat now shows up on my CRB check (although it does state no action was taken). I would now dearly like to get back into social work but am not sure if anyone would have me! What is my best course of action?
A: There is a lot of concern about the number of social work posts that are vacant, and also about the heavy use in some organisations of temporary agency social workers, so your interest in returning to social work should be welcomed.
All that valuable experience you had acquired before you left social work a few years ago will stand you in good stead. But also seek opportunities to bring yourself up-to-date. There may, for example, have been changes in the legal and policy frameworks since you were in practice.
Some employers run “returners programmes” – it might be worth checking this out locally. Alternatively, bring your experience and knowledge up-to-date by becoming a volunteer. You could also look at the Social Care Institute for Excellence website and use it to explore current best practice.
You should think carefully about what type of role you now want to seek and how to avoid becoming overly stressed again. You should be explicit in your applications about your previous experience of stress, and how you see this being avoided in the future.
You mention an allegation that you had misused money from a service user. You note that this was resolved, but you really should seek a statement from the police saying that their investigations were concluded with no allegations outstanding. You should also get a similar statement from your previous employer.
It is much better for you to anticipate and address any concerns that might be held by a potential employer, and you certainly should not fail to declare the information. But do describe your previous positive experience, your strengths, and any additional skills or relevant experience built up in recent years too.
Ray Jones in professor of social work and Kingston University and St George’s, University of London, and was previously director of social services in Wiltshire
I’d put my cards on the table with a volunteer group to show some recent activity, putting six months in on a bottom-level social work job and working up from there. Anon
You need to be open and honest in any job application. You might find it easier to get back into social work via the private or voluntary sector, where the stress levels tend to be lower to start with. In the meantime, I would try registering with the GSCC. Anon
21 May question:
I am a part-time social worker and single mother of two young children. I have been practising for 12 years now and have always received glowing reviews. However, I have been continually overlooked when it comes to promotion in favour of less experienced, full-time colleagues with no family responsibilities. It feels like I am being discriminated against Ð what can I do? This question will be answered in the 21 May issue. We want to hear your views too. Send your comments to firstname.lastname@example.org by 14 May or go to www.communitycare.co.uk/carespace
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