Isabelle Trowler: ‘Cherish the responsibility you have to make a positive difference to others’

The chief social worker for children and families advises the practitioners of the future to recognise the privilege they have in shaping others' lives, in the latest letter from our Choose Social Work campaign

dear future social worker image for Community Care's Choose Social Work campaign

Dear Future Social Worker,

I’m so glad you made it this far.

Whatever trials and tribulations you experience, the life of a social worker is a life well spent. I can promise you that from now on, you are an incredibly powerful person who will, intentionally or otherwise, help shape the future of other people’s lives. This is a profound responsibility.

Power dynamics shift depending on who you are, in relation to who you are working with; and when you are wielding the power of the state, remember it is not necessarily benign.

Recognise the power you hold and own it. It is a distinct privilege, and you will learn over time how to use it to best effect. Cherish the responsibility you have as you witness the positive difference you can make to those whose lives are often much more difficult than yours.

Learn to be grounded by your value base and know your bottom line. Make sure you’re working in a context within which you can succeed and that genuinely interests you. Enjoy your work. Stay focused on what you think is the right thing to do.

Organisations are powerful beasts, and you need to find a way to operate successfully within them. You won’t always get your way but, as you learn to manage “up”, you will develop ways of building respectful and constructive relationships, even with those with whom you vehemently disagree.

Finding common ground doesn’t mean you have to compromise your principles.

Isabelle’s letter is part of Community Care’s Choose Social Work campaign, which will champion the brilliant work social workers do every day, inspire the next generation of practitioners, and counteract the negative media coverage of the profession.

Read about why we’re launching this campaign, and the five steps you can take to support it.

Would you like to write your own letter to the next generation of practitioners? We’d love to hear from you – email

You might hanker after public recognition and respect and want the same positive headlines that other professions receive. But we work within the most private spaces of people’s lives.

These are stories of the utmost intimacy, often involving shame and desperation, often involving great joy and progress and change. But they are not our stories to share, so don’t feel disheartened by the hidden nature of our work.

You will receive the greatest rewards by helping people achieve their ambitions.”

Listen hard to what people want from you. Always start from where the person is, not where you think they should be. Work alongside and build on strengths. This principle remains regardless of your role. I still apply this every single day of my working life. It will hold you in good stead.

As you grow your knowledge, skill and confidence, you will see the many routes that social work opens to you. Few leave the profession. In 2023, we have had more registered social workers with Social Work England than ever before.

Not everyone wants to work in the statutory sector; it is often seen as over-stretched and unfulfilling. But I would advise you to spend some time there. You will learn how to best respond to the highest levels of social need and risk; and if you can, stay. Help make it better.

There are excellent statutory services that make a difference for local people even with very limited resources.

And finally, learn how to use what you have – yourself. That is the very core of being a social worker. Never lose sight of your own agency and individual capacity to make a difference. Recognising that, is the most empowering experience.

I wish you all the very, very best for the future.


Isabelle Trowler is chief social worker for children and families within the Department for Education

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One Response to Isabelle Trowler: ‘Cherish the responsibility you have to make a positive difference to others’

  1. CaptainFog July 27, 2023 at 12:53 pm #

    A increase in pay would be appreciated too Isabelle