‘It’s quite refreshing to have something new’

Katrina McJannet, a principal social worker for Somerset County Council, reveals what it’s like to make the move from social work to management


Why did you decide to become a principal social worker?
What attracted me to it is the move up from a social worker, in terms of responsibility and starting a career path into management, but without being very dry.

Sometimes my thoughts about management is that it’s a very dry role, very desk bound and you’re managing a team and not doing the case work anymore.

But as a principal social worker you work alongside the team managers but the emphasis of the role is on building quality and on supporting, mentoring and supervising social workers. I also keep a small number of cases so I saw it as a bridging position between social work and management.

What differences have stood out for you since you became a principal social worker back in April?
There are a lot more meetings!

I spend a lot more time travelling because Somerset is quite large. We are divided into smaller geographical areas but our head office is in Taunton, which is about an hour and a half from Mendip where I’m based.

Also, being part of the strategic planning is something that wouldn’t cross your mind as a social worker because you’re so focused on the work as it is and reacting to families and situations on the ground. You don’t give much thought to the strategic overview – what teams look like, recruitment, retention of staff, budgets, finances, that kind of thing. So that’s been a big eye opener.

What do you enjoy most about the role?
I like the challenge of it. The fact that it is a brand new job so not only is it a new post for me but the job itself is brand new and I find that really exciting.

There’s a lot of development involved and that fits in with me as I like to do lots of new things and try things out so I’m really enjoying that.

I think you probably get to a stage in your social work career where you start to feel a bit worn down, so it’s quite refreshing to have something new, yet – because I love and enjoy the case work – it’s great that I keep part of that with my new job as well.

What’s the hardest thing about the job?
The toughest thing is refusing to authorise reports because you don’t think they are up to scratch.

That’s hard because I know as a social worker that we all work really, really hard and put loads of effort into everything we do so it’s really tough when I have to do that.

It can also be tough to find the right words to say it so that it doesn’t feel deflating and is actually encouraging and supportive.

What should social workers looking to move into more managerial roles do?
Have a student. I would recommend it to any social worker.

The opportunity to have a student is brilliant. It makes you reflect and gives you some management and supervision experience – the sort of things that will help you get to that next stage.

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