We asked you to share your social work career questions with our resident expert, Dame Lorna Boreland-Kelly. Here, Dame Lorna answers queries from a practitioner looking to return to social work and one looking for a more challenging role. Check out our previous ask the expert columns for advice on other topics.
I miss working as a social worker
Dear Dame Lorna,
I’ve been a children’s/family social worker for 23 years. I left my job as a level 3 social worker in a local authority in January this year, to work for a domestic abuse charity.
While I enjoy the client work at the charity, I miss working as a social worker and being around social workers.
How can I return to social work? I would like to work as a palliative social worker eventually. What do I need to do to get there?
Congratulations on having achieved 23 years in active social work practice. It is very good to hear from a colleague social worker with your many years’ experience.
I have spoken to social workers who, having had a number of years working for a local authority, left to work in the charity sector.
They told me that they missed the structures and clarity that they had experienced working for a local authority.
This is a particular problem when they are the only social worker within the charity.
My advice to social workers who wish to work in the charity sector – where they are not line managed by a social worker – is to ensure that there are arrangements in place to obtain formal social work supervision from a suitably qualified and registered social worker.
Where this is not in place, it can often contribute to a sense of isolation from your professional community.
Regarding how you can return to social work, I am assuming that you have maintained your Social Work England registration. As it is less than six months since you have changed direction, I believe that the additional six months of experience will stand you in good stead to return to frontline social work as a senior social worker.
You will find many social work vacancies advertised on Community Care Jobs. I would also suggest that you contact your last local authority employer and discuss suitable vacancies that they may have.
You have expressed an interest in palliative social work too. A good place to consider is your nearest hospice or one of the charities supporting children affected by cancer and their families. This Community Care article on palliative care social work provides a useful guide to the role.
Our annual Community Care Live event will take place in October at the Business Design Centre, London, and this will be an opportunity for you to meet and speak with employers from across the sector. We look forward to welcoming you there.
I do hope that you find this useful and will soon be in a role that you enjoy and have the comradeship of colleague social workers and managers.
All best wishes
MASH is no longer challenging
Dear Dame Lorna,
I am a social worker with 10 years of experience in child protection. I’ve spent the majority of my career in family safeguarding. I have handled cases relating to child protection, child in need, child looked after and private/public proceedings, and completed all the relevant assessments that go along with those areas.
In recent years, for childcare reasons and to not case hold, I’ve worked in the multi-agency safeguarding hub (MASH). The most senior post I’ve held there is consultant social worker.
I’ve reached a juncture now where MASH is no longer challenging. I need something new, not necessarily managerial but something different. I feel like there is lots out there, but I have no clue where to start and what to do next.
Any advice would be much appreciated.
Thank you for sharing your career history with us. You are a social worker with many years of experience, working across the many disciplines of children’s social work. The knowledge and skills that you would have gained working in the multi-agency setting of a MASH service in the local authority will have contributed to you being a very valuable member of our social work community.
In order to support you on the next steps in your social work career journey, I would encourage you to start by reflecting on where you are now in the MASH, and why this role is no longer challenging and, presumably, less rewarding than it was.
You are correct to assert that there is “a lot out there”. You will no doubt have seen a number of vacancies across the teams that you have previously worked in at social work, senior social work and consultant levels.
Having considered why you are no longer content in the role you are currently in, think about your time in the other services. Address which of these brought you the most satisfaction and reward, in terms of the work you did with children and their families.
I recently encouraged one of my mentees to develop a vision board on which he wrote out all of these issues and plotted his next move.
Of course, you have been a consultant social worker, and this is the level that you may wish to return to in frontline social work.
To commence the job search, you could start with your current employer or indeed another in the public or voluntary sectors.
The charity sector has roles in which a social worker of your experience would be well qualified to seek employment.
You did not tell us about your continuous professional development over your period of practice. This is an area that I would encourage you to address as you prepare for the next role.
Remember to think yourself into this new role and use your vision board to plan and track your progress.
You may also wish to join us at our Community Care Live event where you’ll have the opportunity to speak to prospective employers from across the sector and view a range of live vacancies.
All best wishes
Send your career questions to our resident expert, Dame Lorna Boreland-Kelly, to get more clarity and guidance on your career progression plans.
Dame Lorna has over 30 years’ experience of leading and developing social care services. She has an unparalleled level of insight into frontline social work and is well-versed in the issues that affect practitioners today. For the last two years, she has delivered careers clinics to social workers at Community Care Live.
We will publish answers to the questions you send in to Dame Lorna every fortnight. You can take a look at previous questions and answers here.
Questions can be sent to email@example.com