Social workers who have left the profession in the last two to five years can apply for free training to support them to re-register and return to practice, under a new pilot scheme.
The government and the Local Government Association have launched the ‘Come Back to Social Work’ campaign in response to fears that a shortage of experienced social workers in adults and children’s services is “reaching crisis point”.
The pilot, which could be expanded if successful, will see 30 social workers offered 13 weeks’ training to help prepare them register with the HCPC and re-enter practice in early 2017.
The scheme will open for applications online later today. The deadline for submissions is 30 September. Unsuccessful applicants can still access a personal development plan and will be added to a “talent pool” for councils to consider supporting them back into practice.
Lyn Romeo, chief social worker for adults, told Community Care the scheme could benefit social workers who took a career break or left the profession for childcare reasons.
She said: “A lot of people, when they have a few years out, may not have the confidence to return, particularly if their registration has lapsed. This scheme aims to help with that, support people back and bring them up to date with a lot of changes.
“There have been efforts to improve supervision, get more manageable caseloads, and ensure there’s much more of a focus on practice instead of process-driven social work. People who are wanting to get back to real social work, the time is absolutely right for them now and I think they can make a real contribution.”
‘Returning felt daunting but I had great support’
Dawn Langsford returned to social work in April after having a few years out of practice after the birth of her second child.
By the time she felt ready to re-enter practice, social work had a different regulator to when she’d left her job, with the HCPC having taken over from the GSCC. With her registration having expired, Dawn had to provide evidence she was up-to-date and ready to practice.
“Everything had changed so much since I left, particularly the legislation with the Care Act coming in and the implications that had. Practice moves on, it’s not static, so if you’ve had a few years out of social work it can feel quite daunting,” she says.
The best way to build up the evidence for her registration was to work in statutory services. Yet Dawn found herself caught in a “limbo” – councils were reluctant to take her on as an unqualified worker knowing that she’d likely leave for a qualified post, at the same time she couldn’t get a social work role until she had her registration.
After some time working in the voluntary sector, Dawn was told Wiltshire council had started a return to social work scheme and she applied.
The council supported her with 30 days training, after which she was employed in a non-qualified role with a caseload and given a supervisor. She also had access to statutory training to update her skills, knowledge and practice and was supported in putting together her application to renew with the HCPC. Dawn is now a social worker in one of Wiltshire’s hospital social work teams.
“The scheme was really good. It gave me the confidence to come back to practice. I had a really supportive team and manager. It just reiterated that all the knowledge and skills you had previously are still there – it’s just a case of bringing them back to the fore,” she says.
“I’m really enjoying it again. I’m glad I’ve come back. I think the national scheme’s a great idea. People do take time out of social work for various reasons, it might be for family or to take a sidestep into another profession. There’s a whole load of experience out there, so making more support available to come back could really benefit the profession.”
Isabelle Trowler, the chief social worker for children, said: “Those who have left social work to pursue other avenues still have a lot that they could offer to help improve the lives of our most vulnerable children, families and adults.
“The Come Back to Social Work pilot is a great way to help us learn how to overcome any perceived barriers to re-joining the profession and to encourage more former social workers to consider a return.”
Councillor Izzi Seccombe, chair of the LGA’s community wellbeing board, said: “The shortage of experienced social workers is reaching crisis point. Many talented people have left or are leaving social work, and increased reliance on temporary workers is resulting in spiralling agency costs.
“It is experienced social workers who might take career breaks after seven years that we are particularly hoping to tempt back through this campaign.
“We know that social workers are motivated by their passion for the profession and we hope to persuade those contemplating returning that they can definitely make a difference for people.”