Readers’ Take: should DCSs come primarily from a social care background?

As a leadership body pushes for more diverse professional backgrounds for children’s directors, we look at whether our readers agree

Photo by Community Care

Will the Social Work England-convened working group improve the recruitment and retention of social workers?

  • No, it looks like it will just be a talking shop (71%, 133 Votes)
  • Not without the DfE involved (23%, 43 Votes)
  • Yes, it has the right people around the table to make a difference (6%, 11 Votes)

Total Voters: 187

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Councils have been urged to look beyond social work when bringing in new directors of children’s services (DCSs).

A report by leadership development body the Staff College, examining reasons for the high turnover of DCSs, found that two-thirds (64%) had a background in social care and 55% had been a director specialising in social care and safeguarding prior to becoming DCS.

It further quoted directors saying that “you are seen as a risk if you are not from a social care background” and that this “reduces the talent pool”.

In response, the college said there was “a need to consider the loss of talented colleagues from disciplines other than social work” and to “nurture the talent pool across the full workforce”.

In another part of its report, it stressed that “the DCS role itself does not actually need technical expertise in service delivery”, but leadership skills.

But do social workers agree?

A Community Care poll, which drew 254 votes, found that most readers disagreed with the college’s proposal: 83% of respondents felt children’s directors should, primarily, have a social care background, while 15% said that background wasn’t important as long as directors have the necessary skills.

Just four respondents said directors with a social care background were currently overrepresented.


Readers commenting on our article on the college’s report felt that someone who hadn’t been a qualified social worker would lack the understanding and expertise needed to take on the role.

“Clinicians don’t accept non clinicians leading them. Why are we so happy to give away our professional expertise?” said Yoni Ejo.

“If you have never been a social worker I do not believe you truly understand the work.”

Jenni Randall shared her experience working with DCSs, saying, “The best directors I have worked for have been social workers first and managers second. Other professions do not have the expectation that they will be managed by someone from another professional discipline. We keep returning to this argument, it’s time to stop.”

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