Readers’ Take: How well are overseas social workers supported to work in the UK?

With overseas recruitment on the rise, we look at whether social workers think international practitioners are adequately supported

Photo by Community Care

The number of overseas social workers applying to work in England has almost tripled in the past three years, but are they getting the support they need to get settled?

Recent Social Work England figures showed that the number of international social workers applying to work in England had risen from 611 in the 2019-20 registration year to 1,684 in 2021-22 – a 175.3% increase.

This was mainly driven by applications from Zimbabwe, India and South Africa, with Zimbabwean being the second most common nationality in the registered population since 2019-20, behind British.

However, organisations supporting practitioners during relocation have raised concerns over the lack of support foreign social workers receive when settling in their new life and roles.

One such concern was some councils giving social workers a full caseload upon arrival, not allowing them the time to get accustomed to their new professional, cultural and geographical terrain.

A Community Care poll, which amassed 565 responses, found that social workers were also concerned about the support in place.

Almost half (47.8%) of respondents thought international social workers were supported ‘badly’, while over one-third (39.8%) said there was room for improvement in the existing level of support.

The rest (12.4%) were of the opinion that they were being supported ‘very well’.

Bad support risks ‘outcomes for children and families’

For Dr Muzvare Hazviperi Betty Makoni, who supports international social workers through her organisation, Social Care Empowering Training and Consultancy, overseas practitioners not only start “on a negative” financially compared to their colleagues, but some are also immediately allocated complex cases and a rising caseload.

She praised those councils that provided practitioners with temporary accommodation, to allow for a smoother transition, and appropriate training to understand social work practice in the UK before giving them a caseload.

Petros Careswell, who is in charge of South Gloucestershire Council’s overseas recruitment and training programme, has also warned against placing social workers straight into a team.

“That not only puts them under significant pressure, but we were also worried about outcomes for children and young people and families when the social workers aren’t fully familiarised with social work in our context,” he said.

“We felt it was important that we take the time to not just train them, but build them up in a measured way to a full caseload. That way, they can learn and then take that knowledge forward into their permanent roles.”

What are your thoughts on the recruitment process of overseas social workers? Let us know in the comments below.


6 Responses to Readers’ Take: How well are overseas social workers supported to work in the UK?

  1. N. Robinson March 29, 2023 at 3:34 pm #

    I’ve tried to restore my registration for over a year and all Social Work England have done is put obstacles in my way. I now have to attend a short social work refresher course before I will be considered. I have previously practiced and it’s been made so difficult for me.

  2. Over Seas March 29, 2023 at 9:13 pm #

    As well as expediency requires.

  3. Mark March 30, 2023 at 8:30 pm #

    As an international social worker only 10months in the country and working with a local authority, it has been a nightmare from day 1..after being promised a caseload of 15 and then after 2 weeks being given 24 cases which a senior practitioner left, it has been a real struggle..numerous meetings with AD, SM, TM and HR but nothing has changed..I have literally seen at least 2 social workers leaving every couple weeks. My advice would be to stay away from LAs and if your new…stay away from safeguarding

    • David March 31, 2023 at 12:42 pm #

      Sadly such is the state and management of social work in the UK, hence the difficulties local authorities have in recruitment and retention. Poor support for Social Workers

  4. Charles Bell April 5, 2023 at 2:38 pm #

    Many years ago there was a memorandum of understanding concerning policy and practice for international recruitment which was signed up to by just about all employers and their representative organisations across social care but very much focused o recruitment in childrens social work. ADSS, as it then was, backed the arrangements as did GSCC and their Scottish, Welsh and Irish equivalents. The few agencies specialising i international recruitment understood good practice and played their part. So much knowledge and experience has been lost. Zimbabwe is a social worker factory but does next to nothing about social care at home.

    The time is now OVERDUE for a registration authority to initiate a review of that which existed before and has been allowed to die.

    For a number of years I recruited SWs principally from Zimbabwe and Romania. In those days there was no skype so it was live interviews here in the UK necessitating the need to get visitor visas and find money for fares etc. I reckon I had about a 90% success rate at interviews. I insisted o employers committing themselves to an induction spread over about six months. There would always be a relocation package specific to their needs. Emphasis was also placed on te fact that international recruitment involved bringing families to the UK. In particular Romanians have done rather well with several now being Directors with a signifiant number of others in Assistant Director or simlar posts….having spent twenty years of their lives working for this country. The UK continues to promote reverse colonisation by buying trained and skilled staff from developing countries whose own needs are rarely met because of migration. The same happens in the medical and health sector…and others.

  5. Trust Zadzi April 7, 2023 at 8:12 pm #

    As an overseas Social Worker I believe more can be done by Local authorities to put in place robust support plans for newly recruited Social Workers coming from overseas . I used to practice in Zimbabwe and my observation is that Social work interventions in the UK are fast paced, high volume. As such adapting to the social work procedures and regulations can be quite demanding for someone coming from a totally different setting. Therefor I suggest it is imperative for employers to allow at least a month’s period for newly recruited Social workers to adapt and acclimatise to the culture, systems and social Work terrain before giving them a full caseload.