Updated 21 June 2021
Lots of people take career breaks for a variety of reasons. The good thing about a social work degree is that it is generic and provides with lots of transferable skills. When returning to social work after a long break, it is important to be clear about the kind of role that you are applying for and that it can fit within your life, as well as the criteria you need to tick off to ensure you’re eligible to be employed again. Those criteria are:
1. Are you currently Social Work England registered?
In order to return to the register, social workers need to meet the following requirements, depending on how long they have been out of practice:
- Under two years: no requirements
- Two to five years: 30 days of updating your skills and knowledge
- Five years or over: 60 days of updating your skills and knowledge.
- These requirements also apply to someone who has never been registered with Social Work England and who has never practised (or who has not practised in the last two years) but who holds an approved qualification which is over five years old. Social Work England has more guidance on returning to practice.
2. Have you applied for a return to social work programme?
Please visit the Local Government Association’s Return to Social Work website. The LGA is currently not running a programme but it is possible that it may launch one for 2021-22 in due course, so regularly check the website.
3. Have you practised in a statutory setting for over a year or more?
This will be a deciding factor in your application as employers will look to see evidence of your practice within a statutory setting, ie a council.
4. Do you have the right to work in the UK?
You will need to show documentation to evidence that you have the right to work in the UK. More guidance is available on the government’s website.
It is always best to be honest about why you have had time off in interviews and in CVs. Employers and HR do review references and compare them to CVs to ensure the dates match up. Be confident about your career breaks and be willing to discuss them as that will instill more faith in your employer that you are reliable and that the breaks were for legitimate reasons.
Depending on the type of role you’re applying for, recruitment for permanent employees takes time, so employers may look at someone with frequent career breaks and make the decision to choose someone else with no gaps.
However, if the break can be linked to social work, like volunteering or something relevant to the role you are apply for, then this might work in your favour.
Keep up to date
No matter the reason for the career break, it is important to stay up to date with current trends in the profession. Being signed up to Community Care’s e-newsletters, or other magazines, websites or blogs to do with social work, will keep you up to date with current trends so you can talk about this in your interview.
It will show employers that you are passionate about the profession and will keep you on par with other candidates who have not had career breaks. Be willing to put in the time to do your research and even consider paying for some training or mentoring to get you up to speed even quicker.
Make sure simple things like your Social Work England registration is up to date – this shows your seriousness. Some authorities offer return to social work programmes so make sure you do your research and jump at any opportunities.
Speaking to friends, past colleagues, and past managers is also a good way to ensure that you have the most up-to-date knowledge of the processes and policies for any job you are applying for. Being on employment platforms like LinkedIn not only help with networking, but gives you access to relevant information people share about their organisations.
Make sure your CV is up to date and current. There is nothing worse than reading an old CV that is not relevant and succinct. When it comes to CVs, less is more, and this in itself exudes confidence in your practice. Remember, you just want employers to shortlist you initially. You will then be able to talk about your skills and experience in your interview. Make sure any updated training or volunteering is within your CV to show you have remained up to date.
Processes in the profession do change and can change quickly. Remain humble about any processes you have to follow upon your return. Once you are back in employment, your opportunities immediately improve, and you can develop within your role.
This article is part of Community Care’s Careers Zone, a part of the site giving social workers and social care professionals advice and guidance about the next steps in their social work career. Like many other Careers Zone articles, this one was produced in collaboration with practising social workers and managers, and in association with the Local Government Association’s workforce and policy team. See all of our tips on the dedicated careers page. Download our social work CV template and advice page here.