Ask the expert: what is the best way to get into management?

    Social work careers expert Dame Lorna Boreland-Kelly offers advice on different routes available for practitioners to progress in their careers

    Photo: AdobeStock/DrobotDean

    We asked you to share your social work career questions with our resident expert, Dame Lorna Boreland-Kelly. Here, Dame Lorna answers queries from practitioners looking to advance their social work careers. Check out our previous ask the expert columns for advice on other topics.

    If you would like some careers advice from Dame Lorna, send your questions to

    How can I fast track my route into management? 

    Dear Dame Lorna,

    I am on the Think Ahead programme and about to complete my first year. My placement last year has been in a comomunity mental health team, although I did 30 days in a children’s assessment and intervention team.

    From July, I will be employed as an unqualified worker until my Social Work England registration comes through and I have secured a job as a community forensic social worker.

    However, I am really keen on career development and have been thinking if a move to children’s would be better long-term for quicker promotion.

    From discussions with colleagues in this NHS setting, I am informed that I could wait up to five to 10 years before I was to become a senior social worker. When I was in my children’s placement, social workers were becoming seniors within 18 months of qualification.

    I have the ambition to enter senior management and. as this is my second career, I do not have much time to go the long route.

    I was interested to know what my prospects of going into management would be if I were to stay in mental health. Or would a shift to a more generic adults’ role for a council, or to a children’s role, be my best option?

    I have the opportunity to start a postgraduate diploma in child protection – would this help a shift into children, or would it not be needed?


    Dear D,

    Thank you for your email. You have asked that our reply to you should remain anonymous and we are respecting your request.

    It is to be commended that you are thinking about your future and how you will progress in your social work career.

    You have entered social work through a fast-track course that is designed to train social workers to work with people living with mental health needs. Your placements will have been selected to train, guide and support you in this area of practice.

    It was good to see that you have been successful in gaining a position in this area of work and that you will be able to commence working in the field as an unqualified worker until your registration has been gained from Social Work England.

    I am not able to predict if moving to children’s services would be a faster route to you gaining promotion.

    In your email, you told us that during a placement in children services, you gained a perception that social workers were becoming seniors within 18 months of qualification.

    While I am equally unable to comment on this, I suggest that it may assist your understanding if you read the recent care review led by Josh MacAlister and the Department for Education’s response to this.

    In the light of the care review, the DfE is proposing that children’s social workers’ progression should be tied, in future, to a five-year early career framework, which may well mean that a switch may not result in you being fast-tracked to a more senior role any quicker than you would in the mental health field.

    You also asked if a shift to a more generic adult role working for a council would be a better.

    In my opinion, all social workers who seek to advance into senior roles are best placed by exposure to a thorough understanding of the field in which they seek advancement. Gaining experience can take time, however I do understand your reasons for seeking a fast track to promotion.

    In relation to undertaking a postgraduate diploma in child protection, I am very supportive of continuing professional development. I believe that this should be seen in the wider context of career progression.

    These qualifications should be underpinned by prior knowledge and experience when seeking role promotion.

    There is a lot for you to consider and I and my colleagues at Community Care Careers wish you well in your move into practice and for promotion in the future.

    All best wishes,


    Photo: AdobeStock/Bernard Bodo

    I want to expand my skills and do something different


    I have been a child protection social worker for nine years, with five years as a locum, and am now looking for something different. I’ve lost the drive on the assessments and the section 47s and am looking to expand my skills.

    I am a senior practitioner and really want to get into a deputy or assistant management role. I have put my CV out there but not getting much joy at the moment. I would prefer to work as a locum due to finances.

    I have also been working as a Form F assessor, assessing foster carer for the last six years. Any advice of what I can explore next in my career would be great.



    Dear Florence,

    Thank you for your email.

    I note that that you have been a child protection social worker for nine years, five of which you have been a locum.

    I am very sorry to hear that you have lost the drive for the work that is required to carry out assessments, including section 47 assessments. I always advise that, in this situation, the person reflects on what has led to this loss of drive.

    I note that as a senior practitioner you now feel ready to take a step into management. You have said that, although you have sent out your CV, you have not been successful in gaining a role.

    In your letter, you have made reference to having six years’ experience as a Form F assessor. However, you have not stated if this is current experience.

    Without being able to see your CV and how you have completed it, linking your experience with continuing professional development, and how these now equip you for moving into management, it is difficult to offer advice on how best you can successfully progress.

    I would suggest that you consider seeking permanent employment as a senior practitioner in a local authority and use this as a springboard to progression into management. I would also suggest that you consider funding some postgraduate studies in the areas that you aspire to move into.

    We will be running our careers clinic at Community Care Live in October and would be happy to review your CV with you. Should you wish to take up this opportunity, you will need to book an appointment to do so.

    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 on our ask the expert page.

    Questions can be sent to


    One Response to Ask the expert: what is the best way to get into management?

    1. MaxP July 29, 2023 at 8:26 am #

      We see adult social workers gain senior/principal positions after 3 years of qualifying; not even 3 years within that particular area.
      Very often they are the ones most friendly with team managers conducting interview, and best prepped to give the correct scoring answers.
      This has led to seniors/principals not having the respect of other more experienced and knowledgeable social workers in the team, and the senior/principals not being approached for advise; just merely used to make a decision and hold responsibility.