Climbing the social work career ladder

Climbing the social work career ladder
Climbing the social work career ladder

posted 30 Apr 19

Search Health & Social Care is proud to represent and source jobs for social workers throughout the UK. We recently sat down with Carmen, a qualified social worker who has built a portfolio of job experience with us.

Carmen discusses some of the challenges and rewards of her job in social work and dispels a few myths about the profession along the way.

Building valuable experience as a newly qualified Social Worker

Real talk, job opportunities for newly qualified social workers do not always present themselves immediately. Yes, there are regular recruitment drives, but quite often the demand for many social work jobs is such that post-qualifying experience is essential.

Find your next social work job

Find your next social work job

View jobs

Carmen believes this shouldn’t deter newly qualified social workers from pursuing jobs in the industry, saying: “Often the skills developed in non-qualified social worker jobs can prove to be very valuable in terms of building relevant skills and experience, which can lead to securing an ideal career opportunity. I should know, I’ve experienced this first hand.”

How Carmen broke into the social work job market and developed her career

Carmen graduated as a social worker in 2015. Her motivations for exploring this career path came from her personal experiences, which ultimately cemented her decision to help vulnerable adults and children. Overriding a particular desire to work in a specialist social work job is a genuine urge to work with and improve the lives of, those she works with. “Social work is more than a job, it’s a vocation,” she says.

Carmen notes that practical experience during the social work degree is essential, saying, “Theory is great and provides us with the background knowledge, but every social work case on the job is different and will have complexities that were not discussed at University.” However, she believes she benefited from an inspirational practice educator, saying, “My first placement for practical job experience in social work was youth justice which I loved. I was also placed in a job role as a school social worker, which was fascinating.”

“In a school with a high number of students under child protection, my job was to ensure that individual case’s support and protection plans were upheld. Due to staffing issues, I ended up as the only social worker in the school, which certainly felt like I had been thrown in the deep end,” she continues.

After gaining valuable experience from her two social work job placements, Carmen decided it was time to move on from her job as a child protection social worker and expand to different roles in the wider social work arena.

I will always deeply admire child protection social workers as they play such an important role in welfare, and often under very mentally and emotionally challenging conditions.

Carmen, Social Worker

A leap from child protection social work to family support worker job

Carmen initially registered with Search Health & Social Care for temporary social work jobs, and her degree and experience stood her in good stead to secure jobs as a senior family support worker on a multi-agency safeguarding hub (MASH). “The biggest learning curve in this role was about thresholds, knowing when to escalate issues and understanding all the different agencies and contacts I could call on,” she recalls.

Support Worker jobs

Support Worker jobs

View jobs

A family support worker’s role is to manage a caseload of individual families, often referred by social services, police, or education. Working through a specific support plan, the role involves aspects of social work but on a more intensive level - helping families through challenging circumstances by identification of needs and working together towards positive outcomes.

Often the first point of call for families, their work feeds back into the MASH for ongoing assessment. Working in job roles as a family support worker is an important step on the career ladder in social work, although it is not necessarily just a ‘stepping stone’ role.

Carmen says, “Working as a family support worker really opened my eyes. The job role involved anything from picking a child up from a foster family to supervising contact, and assisting social workers with visits. Often it is necessary to accompany social workers to validate everything said at a meeting and provide support in what can be quite challenging environments.”

Jobs within social worker teams have given Carmen many opportunities to call on a wide range on skills. “I speak six different languages, including my native Romanian. So I was able to take on an assessment for a non-English speaking girl who was a suspected victim of sex trafficking. Because I spoke to her directly, it helped the process.”

Career development as a Social Worker

Career development as a Social Worker

Having had several temporary support worker contracts and social work jobs, Carmen has been exposed to how different authorities operate, which means that every role has been diverse and insightful. “I like the flexibility and the opportunity to build experience. On my most recent contract alone, I have worked in three different jobs in social work, and each one has taught me something new.”

With all the experience gained throughout both academia and post-graduation, Carmen secured a contract as a qualified social worker, at first for a specific project completing review assessments to manage a backlog.

Having never worked as an adult social worker before, she applied the same approach but read and re-read the Care Act (putting the vulnerable person’s wellbeing and needs at the forefront of safeguarding) and the Mental Capacity Act (concerned with decision-making processes on behalf of adults who lack the capacity to make decisions themselves).

Since then, Carmen has progressed into a level 3 social worker role, working directly in the hospital to ensure that referrals have a care plan once they are discharged. “Where possible we look for the least restrictive solution, allowing clients to remain in their own homes, either through direct payment or a care broker, though this isn’t always possible,” she says. In some cases, she must work with families and other agencies, including advocates working directly with the client, to agree on a solution in their ‘best interest’.

Working in adult social work involves a different skill set: “Working with both children and vulnerable adults involves pressure, but in adult social work, the focus is more on decisions coming from the service user,” she says.

Her recent role as an adult social worker has allowed Carmen to broaden her knowledge, and she aspires to progress into management and combine her social work experience and love of dogs to run a residential safe service for victims of domestic abuse and their pets. “Often a pet can be a reason not to leave an abusive relationship, and can also become victims themselves,” she says. Alarming statistics support the need for such a service, and with a portfolio of experience, she feels she has established a great foundation to develop her career in this direction.

Carmen is unequivocal in her belief that Search has provided her with an exceptional service.

The team has been amazing. They have steered me through some very difficult decisions by listening patiently, providing brilliant career advice, and unwavering support. I owe a lot to them. I will continue to recommend the wider Healthcare team, to anyone looking for either qualified, newly qualified, or unqualified jobs in social work.

Carmen, Social Worker

Progress as a Social Worker with Search Health & Social Care

Search Health & Social Care specialises in temp and perm recruitment across numerous areas of health and social care, including jobs for social workers and support workers. In addition to representing organisations from charities and local government to private healthcare companies and the NHS, we are also immensely proud of the dedicated and passionate social workers, support workers and healthcare professionals we provide jobs to.

Whether you’re an experienced professional or want to gain valuable and paid social work job experience as you pursue your qualifications, contact the Search Health & Social Care team to discuss our current opportunities.

Search social work jobs with Search Health & Social Care