Ask the expert: ‘How do I move from children’s social work to adults’?’

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

Photo: AdobeStock/Drazen

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

Dear Dame Lorna,

I am a qualified social worker with experience of all areas of children’s social work practice – teaching, practice supervising and line management.

I took a break from social work and moved into teaching whilst my family was young.

I have recently returned to social work in a children’s service but would like to move to adults’ – particularly mental health. How can I achieve this?



Dear Helen,

Welcome back to social work. As you may be aware, Community Care has recently launched its Choose Social Work campaign, including to inspire people to enter – or re-enter – the profession. I have personally supported several local authority social services departments to run programmes for returning social workers.

You have told me about your broad and varied experience of social work in the children’s sector and your wish to move into adult social work, particularly in mental health. I have given some thought to your enquiry and spoken with one of my associates, who is a very experienced adult social worker and manager.

My associate and I have concluded that you have several options to move into adult social work and mental health. However, we thought that, firstly, in children’s, you could take on cases where mental ill-health is a particular concern. You could look for training around trauma-informed practice and other relationship-based work.

You could also consider working for the leaving care team or transitions team, and let them know (if it’s a new team that you move to) that you are interested in mental health, AMHP (approved mental health professional) and/or BIA (best interests assessor) training.

Mental health services might also appreciate the skills you already have. It is possible that if you apply for a job in mental health and express that you are interested in training as an AMHP, you may well get interest from the service. If you do not wish to follow the AMHP pathway, you might consider applying for jobs in the NHS or CAMHS (child and adolescent mental health services) as a social worker. You will find that our skills as social workers are appreciated and needed in places beyond local authorities, if that is your goal.

I encourage you to review your CPD records and CV to ensure that, when you apply for a role, whether it is a transitional role or one in adults’ or mental health, you can demonstrate your transferable skills to potential employers.

I hope that you will find this reply helpful. The team at Community Care and I would like to hear how you get on.

Kind regards,


Dear Dame Lorna,

I have seven years of experience in statutory children’s social work. I don’t want to move into management and feel stuck.

I am not sure where to go from here – whether that role should be within social work or a move outside to a role where I can still use my skills and experience.



Dear Rebecca,

I am so sorry to hear that you are feeling ‘stuck’. Your brief email made me wonder if the way that you are feeling relates to your current position. I do not know which team you are in or if you have spent all seven years with the same employer.

Had we been meeting face to face, I would ask you many questions. How do you use your supervision? What learning and development opportunities have you accessed? How do you prepare for your annual appraisal? Do you have a vision board, setting out your career aspirations and how you plan to achieve these?

You wanted to know where you can use your skills. As I have told many social workers, your skills as social workers are appreciated and needed in places beyond local authorities, if that is your aspiration or goal.

I have seen many roles advertised working for schools, so this could be a route that you may wish to consider. The NHS also employs qualified social workers in many roles, including in CAMHS. There are also a number of charities who employ qualified social workers, such as those within the youth and criminal justice charity sectors.

It is very important that you keep an up-to-date CV and personal statement that will speak to your skills and ability. These should show a potential employer that you are right for the role you seek to fill and that you have the right knowledge and transferable skills.

I hope that you will find this reply helpful. The team at Community Care and I would like to hear how you get on.

Kind regards,


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.

You can take a look at previous questions and answers on our ask the expert page.

Questions can be sent to


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