Prioritising your social work CPD
We know that your Continuing Professional Development is important to you. Not just because it’s a key factor in retaining your professional registration, but because you care about continually improving your social work skills and supporting those in need. If you’re working as a social worker in England, then you may know that following the switch of the professional regulator to Social Work England, you’ll now be expected to renew your registration (and demonstrate evidence of your CPD) annually. There is an online portal on the Social Work England website which will allow you to upload your records digitally and it’s important that your activities adhere to the new regulator’s required standards which are detailed below.Incorporate feedback from a range of sources, including from people with lived experience of my social work practice. Use supervision and feedback to critically reflect on, and identify my learning needs, including how I use research and evidence to inform my practice. Keep my practice up to date and record how I use research, theories and frameworks to inform my practice and my professional judgement. Demonstrate good subject knowledge on key aspects of social work practice and develop knowledge of current issues in society and social policies impacting on social workContribute to an open and creative learning culture in the workplace to discuss, reflect on and share best practice. Reflect on my learning activities and evidence what impact continuing professional development has on the quality of my practice. Record my learning and reflection on a regular basis and in accordance with Social Work England’s guidance on continuing professional development. Reflect on my own values and challenge the impact they have on my practice Source: Social Work EnglandAt Sanctuary, we’re here to help our social work community work effectively. Therefore, we’ve listed a few tips below which may help you to make your CPD a priority in 2020. Break your CPD down into different areasA great way to ensure that you’re benefiting from well-rounded professional development is to break your CPD down into different areas. You could choose between work-based learning, educational activities, professional activity, self-directed learning or other voluntary work to showcase to your regulator that you’re doing what you can to improve your knowledge and practice across every facet of your work. Work-based learningHow are you using reflective supervision and clinical audits to improve your practice and learning? Are you working and collaborating with peers in other teams to help provide positive outcomes? Are you part of your local safeguarding board or any other committees? Perhaps you’re providing support and supervision to NQSWs and other junior members of the team. Educational learningHave you participated in any training courses over the past year? Whether it’s face to face or online, there are plenty of ways for you to improve your knowledge. Events such as Community Care Live can be a great way for you to attend seminars and workshops based on areas of professional interest.Professional activityYou may be involved in regional committee groups (perhaps with organisations such as BASW) or maybe you’ve presented lectures or workshops in front of your peers. If you’re sharing your knowledge, then you are clearly contributing to an ‘open learning culture’. Self-Directed learningAre you taking time for yourself to read the latest news and information? We’re not just talking about reading lengthy textbooks – but making use of blogs, podcasts and joining in with social media conversations can help you to develop new viewpoints and learn from others’ perspectives.If you’re working with Sanctuary, then you’ll know that we provide free access to Social Work News magazine. This is another resource that you should make use of; each issue features interviews and details of social work projects from across the UK. Use it to inspire you and see if it teaches you anything new. OtherAre you involved in any other activities which could be classed as a way of improving your professionalism? Perhaps you are a volunteer for a charity/community organisation, or you’re involved in public service activities. If so, make sure you log it within your portfolio – you may be surprised by how much CPD you do without realising. Little and often is always preferableWhen it comes to CPD, it’s always important to take a regular approach to your learning. You may wish to set a New Year’s resolution that you’ll allocate a few hours each month to your professional development. We understand how busy you are, and that caseloads will always take precedence but if you focus on taking a regular approach to your CPD, you’ll find it much easier to maintain your portfolio and improve your practice. It’s also important to use your allocated time to update your portfolio. There’s nothing worse than coming to the end of the year and panicking that you’re not sure what to include. Allocating a short amount of time each week or each month will allow you to track it as you go – providing a greater frame of reference for your registration renewal. Be open to feedback from users with lived experience of social work practiceGuidance from Social Work England suggests that feedback should be a core part of your CPD log – after all, it’s only by knowing what your strengths and weaknesses are that you can improve your skills. “Feedback is crucial to social work practice. It’s important to build self-awareness and be open to receiving feedback, whether positive or critical. This will help you to grow and improve in a way that informs your practice and helps you identify areas for future learning”Social Work England, November 2019The new regulator suggests that all social work practitioners should regularly ask users with lived experience of social work for feedback. It suggests that you should ask a variety of people for feedback on different areas of your practice. It could be through formal or informal discussions, through letters of recommendation, supervision or even complaints. The key thing to remember is that you need to use feedback constructively and understand that person’s viewpoint, then consider how you can use this to develop your working style. Take advantage of free opportunities where availableWe know that budgets are tighter than ever before, so it’s vital that you take advantage of free opportunities where available. Work with colleagues to share news and information with each other or see what learning initiatives are available with your local safeguarding boards.Share your knowledge with peers and colleaguesA core part of your CPD portfolio should be your contribution to creating an open learning culture within your workplace. This means that if you learn something new, make sure you share your expertise with peers. It may be information from a training course that you’ve attended, research that you’ve read online or even just anecdotal feedback from someone you’ve been working with. Learning from another is an effective way to improve services and it’s easy to understand how something can work when it’s accompanied by a realistic scenario. If you need help with your CPD portfolio this year, make use of our dedicated careers hub which is packed full of guidance.
Social work job interview guide
The countdown is on. 48 hours until your social work interview and a mixture of nerves and excitement are starting to set in. It’s easy to let some of the seemingly obvious preparations slip through the net so we’ve prepared this blog as a reminder of some of the key things not to forget!How do you prepare for a social work job interview?Plan your travelYour interview may be at a location you are familiar with, but if it’s not, you’ll want to know how long it’s going to take you to get there and the sooner you check, the better. Many of our clients have guest parking, but what if those spaces are full on the day; would you know where to park and have enough change to pay for your space?Travelling by carIf you work in frontline social work, you’ll no doubt already use navigation software, but the route planning function on Google Maps is good and might give you that extra info your Sat Nav can’t. To access this, follow these steps.Step 1: Google Maps.Go to Google Maps and click the blue arrow to the right of the search bar (when you hover over it, it will say Directions).Step 2: Finding your destination.Type in your address and your destination and then Google will come up with the address' it recognises in the white area below. Click on the correct one to activate it.Step 3: Choosing your route.Google will offer you some different routes to choose from. You will see the estimated journey time and the amount of miles between the start and end point. You may notice some coloured lines on your route, these represent the different traffic conditions; the red lines show bad traffic delays and the orange lines show medium traffic delays (usually slow moving).Travelling by trainFor those travelling by train, the National Rail app gives you live travel updates, so you can check if your train is delayed or cancelled before you leave the house.Travelling by tubeThe Tube Map Planner is great if you are planning a route on the London Underground. It will give you the fastest route and tell you where you need to change over.Choose your outfitSocial work is one of the few caring professions without a universal dress code which can leave you a little unsure what to wear. Our advice is to go smartly dressed to your social worker interview. First impressions are everything.Last minute prepOur careers hub is brimming with useful resources. We recommend downloading the following to help you prepare:Children's Services:Children's Social Work Interview guideChildren's Social Work Interview preparation sheetsAdult Services:Adult Social Work Interview guideAdult Social Work Interview preparation sheetsReviewing the typical social work interview questions you think you’re likely to be asked and starting to think about how to answer them reduces your chances of being caught out. With questions fresh in your mind, you could ask somebody else to run through a mock-interview with you. Have your ‘interviewer’ give you constructive feedback – not just on what you say but on your non-verbal communication as well. Refresh your memory on your professional history and think about how it relates to the job you are seeking, especially if you have experience within a specific area of work that sets you apart from other candidates.Be prepared for behavioural interview questions. Knowing how you performed in the past will give the employer a sense of how you might do in the future; you might be asked to recall a time when you worked under pressure, an occasion when you made a mistake, or how you handle conflict.Know your legislationWe cannot stress how important it is to review relevant legislation and policy ahead of the interview. An employer will want to know if you have a full understanding of your legal obligations as a social worker. For an adult social worker role, you’ll need to be able to comfortably talk about your obligations under the Care Act 2014. Likewise, children’s social workers will need to show they are up-to-date with the Children and Families Act 2014.What to take on the dayYour dedicated Sanctuary consultant will advise you on what you must take along with you for interview, but generally you should take:A copy of your DBS certificatePhoto ID (e.g. passport or driving licence)Details of the person that you must ask for upon arrivalThe job description and person specificationExam certificates, including any CPD accredited training certificatesPen and notepadEnjoy your social work interviewNow you can relax. All that’s left for you to do is to enjoy the interview. Remember, you’ve made the shortlist so you have already impressed on paper! Good luck!If you have any specific queries relating to your interview, please get in touch with your consultant.
Your social work career path
Social work is often described as a “passion” and a “calling”. Our community regularly talk to us about why they chose to join the profession; with many saying it’s because they had a desire to help those at their most vulnerable.As experienced recruiters, we know that you don’t just have a passion for your job, you’re ambitious to take steps along your career path to challenge yourself. We know that you’re keen to learn new skills because you know that it will help you to become better practitioners. And this is where we thrive; we do what we can to support our social workers at every stage of their career, from the moment they graduate through to the day that they decide to retire.With that in mind, we want to shine a light on how varied a career in social work can be. It excites us that there are so many opportunities to continually push yourself, and we’re proud to be by your side as you take that journey.Newly Qualified Social Workers (NQSW)For the first few years of your social work career, you will be officially classed as an NQSW. This means that you’ll be provided with additional training and development opportunities. Within your first twelve months, you’ll be expected to participate in the Assessed and Supported Year in Employment (ASYE) - which is a twelve-month programme of support and assessment coordinated by your employer.During the year, you’ll be continually assessed against the Professional Capabilities Framework (PCF). Once you’ve passed the assessments, you’ll be provided with a Fitness to Practice certificate which will confirm that you meet a national set of standards.Social WorkersOnce you’ve completed your AYSE and you have gained a few years’ experience, you can start to see new opportunities opening. You may consider whether you want to move into a more specific role, and this is where you can begin directing your professional opportunities in different directions.For instance, you may find that there are specific teams that you want to work in – examples include Integrated Neighbourhood, Learning Disabilities, Looked-After Children or Referral and Assessment Teams. There is a wealth of different teams available and each one will require a different element of social care support. You will quickly develop a specialism which will keep you motivated and professionally challenged.Experienced Social WorkerAs you become more experienced, you can start to see new duties emerge and more opportunities to develop new skills. Experienced social workers can often work more autonomously, and you may be given more complex caseloads which will really push you.At this stage of your career, you may be leaning towards gaining managerial or leadership experience. You may be interested in pursuing opportunities to chair meetings or lead multi-agency working. You may even be starting to look at opportunities to lead by example and work as a team manager.At this level, you may notice that your duties start to take you away from frontline social work into management. If you’re looking to challenge yourself yet remain working closely with families, then you may benefit from looking at principal social worker roles, which bridge the gap between frontline practice and strategic management.Advanced PractitionerAdvanced practitioners are often expected to provide leadership and promote innovation amongst their teams. It’s an ideal career path for those who are keen to participate in processes and help to develop policies and strategies.Whilst many social work job roles at this level may focus upon managerial positions, you can expand your horizons with specialist opportunities such as practice educators, independent reviewing officers or senior AMHP roles.Senior ExecutivesFor those who are keen to work in a managerial capacity, there is plenty of opportunities to progress even further thanks to Service Manager roles, Head of Service, Strategy/Commissioning Managers or even Director/Assistant Director opportunities.These high-pressured roles are about leading by example. There is little frontline work involved as you will be expected to take responsibility for entire departments and ensure that all services are able to deliver statutory care.As you can see, there are a wealth of opportunities to enjoy a fulfilling social work career and we’re proud to be able to offer a greater number of job opportunities than ever before.If you’d like to find out how we can help you achieve your dream job, then please get in touch or check out our latest social work job vacancies.
Universities offering social work degrees
Since the title of ‘social worker’ is a protected one, you will need to gain certain qualifications before you can practice. Social worker qualifications are regulated to ensure vulnerable people in our communities receive a minimum quality of service. It also means, as a social worker, you have been provided with the right level of education to keep you safe. Qualified social workers should also register with the Health Care and Professionals Council (HCPC) before they start practicing as a social worker. Most social workers will gain a BA (Hons) in Social Work. As an undergraduate, the qualification needs to be primarily in Social Work, but is can be combined with another subject. As the public sector begins to lean more towards integrated care, it’s not uncommon to find degrees combining Nursing and Social Work or Children’s Education and Social Care. Social work coursesBelieve it or not, there are over 160 social work courses in England with further variations in Scotland and Wales. You’ll need to decide what interests you most – adult or children’s social work and then make a shortlist. At that point you’ll want to carefully consider the entry requirements. Don’t be put off if you are a mature student. You might find there is some flexibility if you do not have the minimum qualifications. Most universities will expect you to have 2 A-levels though and for you to have achieved an A-C grade in GCSE Maths and English. If you are studying full-time, the course is usually 3 years costing around £9,000 per year. Part-time studying takes either 5 or 6 years depending on the training provider. During this time, you will be expected to complete practical placements with social work teams. There are scholarship options available and specialist graduate fast-track programmes. Assessed and Supported Year in EmploymentMost recruiters will want you to achieve a 2:1 or above in your degree. But don’t worry. If you do not achieve a 2:1, you can participate in an Assessed and Supported Year in Employment (ASYE). An ASYE is a 12-month employer-led programme that will give you additional guidance as a newly qualified social worker. It’s also recommended for those who want a bit more support in their first year. Alternative qualificationsYou don’t have to have an undergraduate degree in social work. Many social workers choose other subjects as their undergraduate degree and choose to do a 2-year Masters in Social Work.Of course, you can do a Masters in Social Work with a Social Work undergraduate degree. It gives you the chance to specialise in a field. Think AheadIf you are a non-social work graduate with a keen interest in supporting people with mental health issues, Think Ahead could be for you. It is the fast-track programme for those considering a career in mental health social work. You must already have a degree and it doesn’t need to be in social work. The programme is taught at several institutions across the UK and is full-time, Mondays to Fridays, for its entire duration – including the Summer Institute, Year One, and Year Two. To learn more about getting into the profession, download our advice and support document for NQSWs and students.
What is Step Up to Social Work?
Each year, the Department for Education, at universities and colleges throughout England, runs Step Up to Social Work. It is an intensive, 14-month, full-time programme to train social workers.Working at a local authority, you gain hands-on experience as well as theoretical learning. At the end of the programme, you’ll gain a postgraduate diploma in social work. This allows you to register and practice as a social worker. FundingTo offset the cost of lost income, you’ll receive a bursary of £19,833 for the 14-month duration of the course. Eligibility criteriaApplicants must hold the following higher education qualifications in any subject apart from social work:a minimum 2:1 level 6-degree qualification, ora minimum 2:2 honours degree plus a higher degree (level 7 or above), for example, a Master’s degree or a Postgraduate Certificate in EducationApplicants must also live in England and have:GCSEs in English or English language and mathematics at grade C or above (or approved equivalent)A minimum of 6 months experience of voluntary or paid work with children, young people or familiesYou can find out more about what qualification levels mean on the Government’s website. Of course, whether you are a good fit for Step Up To Social Work also depends on several other factors. The Department for Education recommends applicants should:have the right emotional resilience understand social work theory and research be aware of the different forms of harm to childrenbe intuitive and logical their decision-makingbe able to record accurate child and family assessmentshave an understanding of the knowledge and skills statements for child and family social workers gain an understanding of the Professional Capabilities Framework for social workers (entry level)They must also complete an enhanced Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) check before being accepted onto the programme.Course expectationsAs a trainee, you will have to complete 170 placement days of social work experience at local authorities.The course will cover social work ethics and practice, child development, the legal framework for social care and assessment of risk. This is in line with the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC) and the Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education (QAA). Career opportunities after the programmeSuccessful trainees will be awarded a Postgraduate Diploma in Social Work. They will be able to register as social workers with the HCPC.Already, the course has proven popular with social work employers. Over 80% of graduates have been successfully recruited into social work jobs and we are pleased to say we know many of them.Find out why social workers love working with Sanctuary - register today!
Interested in a social work career?
Do you have a strong desire to help others, to support people at their most vulnerable in making important life decisions? If this is you, social work could be a rewarding career choice for you. It’s also one that offers lots of opportunities for gaining qualifications in specialist areas of support. If you want to become a social worker, you will need the relevant undergraduate or postgraduate social work degree. Why? Because the title of ‘social worker’ is carefully protected and it requires specific knowledge and experience. Gaining your social work degreeThankfully, there are many universities in the UK where you can study. You can search for social work courses on the Health and Care Professional Council website. Each curriculum gives students the theoretical and practical skills they need to work as professional social workers. Courses are delivered in partnership with local authorities to ensure that students undertake up to 200 days of practice learning the field. Safeguarding To safeguard you and the people you support, you will also need to pass background checks by the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS). The DBS makes criminal record and other checks to ensure unsuitable people are not allowed to work with vulnerable adults or children.Student social workers must also register with the correct regulator for the UK country they are studying in. These are: England – Health and Care Professions Council (soon to be Social Work England)Northern Ireland – Northern Ireland Social Service Council Scotland – Scottish Social Service Council Wales – Care Council of WalesThese are also the bodies that qualified social workers must register with in order to be able to practice. Newly qualifiedAs a Newly Qualified Social Worker you are likely to need further training and guidance during your first two years of work. During this time, you will have a limited workload and be given additional feedback and supervision. Jobs with a social work degreeHaving a social work degree allows you to take on a range of specialist roles in statutory, voluntary and independent social work settings. As you gain more social work experience you will be able to specialise in areas of support, and work in either permanent or locum roles. As a register social worker, you are likely to support one or more of the following groups of people: Older people Children or adults with disabilities Children, teenagers or adults with mental health problems Young offenders Adults with learning disabilities People with alcohol, drug or other substance misuse problems Refugees and asylum seekers People who are socially excluded Children who need to live apart from their families Foster carers and adopters People, including children who are at risk of abuse or neglect, or have been abused and neglected CarersAs your career develops you can take on more responsibility in:Management and leadership roles Becoming a practice supervisor or educator Specialist activities, for example child protection chair, senior AMHP, independent reviewing officerSanctuary Social Care works with clients throughout statutory, voluntary and independent settings. Typically, most social workers will be placed at local authorities, but there are other more unusual roles such as social work jobs with the national armed forces charity SSAFA.To find out more, download our Advice and Support document for NQSWs and Students.
Placements during your social work degree
Placements are a vital part of any social work degree. They allow you to gain real-life insight and experience. They also give you the opportunity to learn from more senior social workers.At the start of the course, you will be given a local authority for the duration of your course. At your placement, you will gain the practical experience to complement your classroom based theoretical studies. Most degrees will expect you to complete around 200 days practice over three years. In your first year it’s usually around 20 days, 80 in the second and 100 in the third. This can vary though. During your placement, you’ll learn how to approach a broad range of issues faced by those you will end up supporting. You will also learn how to build peer networks and professional relationships. Where will my placements be? These can be in a statutory, voluntary or independent setting. Most often they are within local authorities. But they can also be in care homes, palliative care services, or voluntary organisations working with victims of abuse or substance misusers. Can I choose my placement?The first placement is usually arranged by the local authority identified as your host. You do get to express an interest in where you wish to be placed and this is taken on board. Your next placements are made following discussions with you and what your learning requirements are. Your final placement is usually within a team where you hope to find employment upon graduating.What support will I receive?This will vary. But from the social workers we support, most felt supported during their placement. There’s always an induction process, where the student is introduced to the workings and structure of the team and what is expected of them. Group and one-to-one supervisions are also held during the placements to make sure you feel supported. As a student, you will also be provided with a primary point of contact – a person you can contact should you have any issues. How will I be assessed?Students are usually allocated a Practice Assessor for each placement. You will have to complete a portfolio for each placement to evidence your learning. Students also have to meet the National Occupational Standards and adhere to the Codes of Professional Practice (CoPP) during each placement. How can I be prepared?You’ll have a mixture of feelings about your first placement; excitement and nerves. But a little preparation can set your mind at rest. Once you know where your placement is, look at their policies and procedures. Usually these will be on their website, but you can request them too. You’ll also need to arrange a pre-placement visit before you start. As a quick checklist, remember:There’s no such thing as a stupid question – ask away!Get stuck in. Future employers will remember you for being involvedDon’t be afraid to share ideas. Take feedback as constructive – even negative feedback!Remember you’re a student. You are not expected to know everything. Write down as and when you put theory into practice to help document your learning
Getting that promotion
Regardless of how long you’ve spent practicing as a social worker, everyone dreams of being recognised for their efforts and celebrating a well-deserved promotion. You may be a newly qualified social worker with strong ambitions to eventually become a Director of Service. Or you may be looking to secure your first role as a Child Protection Chair. Whatever your dream is, we’re here to help you take those vital steps on the career ladder. Not only can we help advise you on the best social work job roles to help you on your way, but we can offer our support and guidance to encourage you to apply for that next promotion. We believe that it’s important for all our candidates to push themselves to dream big. Promotions aren’t just about rewarding hard work and dedication. They are about recognising that someone has the capability, the drive and the passion to take on more responsibility and improve outcomes for both children and adults. Confidence is key to successIt may sound like a cliché, but you’ll find that those who rise the ranks are often the most confident colleagues. It’s not about arrogance or ego, it’s about putting yourself into a position where you are noticed for your ability to handle more tasks. In recruitment, there is a statistic which states: “Men apply for a job when they have 60% of the listed job attributes, whilst women wait until they have 100%”This stat was uncovered by Hewlett Packard following the publication of an internal report, and it’s a stat which has been repeatedly published over the years to explain why there are so many more men than women in senior roles. In an article for the Harvard Business Review, author Tara Sophia Mohr explored this further and discovered that many 41% of women and 46% of men “didn’t see the hiring process as one where advocacy, relationships, or a creative approach to framing one’s expertise could overcome not having the skills and experiences outlined in the job qualifications.” Although the article was written in 2014, it’s still as relevant today as it ever was. In a female-dominated profession such as social work, it’s increasingly important that we challenge ourselves if we wish to see an increase in female and BAME leadership positions. We need to understand that job descriptions are looking for the most capable person for the role, not necessarily the person with the most qualifications. It’s also important to remember that if you don’t succeed this time, it doesn’t mean you’ve failed. Every job application and interview should be considered a learning experience. With each opportunity you can learn more about yourself which will place you in good standing as you move ahead. Last year, we spoke with practitioner Nasheen Singh from Westminster Borough Council as part of an article in Social Work News magazine. Nasheen told us that no one should be put off from applying for senior positions. Her advice was to: “Think about setting a career plan, set your goals and start downloading job descriptions for senior positions and look at what is required and have a go at applying.”This is wise advice and it’s something we regularly come back to. It’s important that you believe in yourself and push yourself to apply for those senior roles. Promotions and career advancements are open to everybody; you simply need to show that you have the desire and the capability to cope with new tasks and greater responsibility. Top Tip! Why not use supervision sessions to talk to your line manager about where you see your career going and ask them to help you gain the skills you need to move ahead. Ask your mentor to hold you accountableIf you read our previous blog article about how mentoring can boost your career, then you’ll know how it can help you to take the next steps. A great mentor isn’t just there to help you improve your practice. Your mentor should be able to give you the confidence to apply for newer, more challenging roles, and hold you accountable to your dreams. You may say that you dream of managing a team, or even running the department, but are you doing anything to make it happen? Your mentor will regularly check in with you and will ask you that specific question. Knowing that you need to have an answer may spur you on to apply for job roles that you may have felt were out of reach. Make the most of your opportunitiesWe know that you’re busy – after all, with so many pressures facing social work teams, it’s impossible to keep on top of your current caseloads. But that doesn’t mean you can’t make the most of the opportunities which present themselves to you. If you’re working in a team which has a high staff turnover, then why not see if you can uncover some creative ways of working which would increase stability and boost team morale. Not only will this show you in a positive light to your senior managers who would appreciate your efforts, but it could improve your working environment. Alternatively, if you’ve benefited from some recent training, make sure that you’ve demonstrated to your colleagues how it’s positively impacted upon your practice. Sharing knowledge and information with peers is a key part of your CPD portfolio and will show that you’re a team player. Top Tip! You don’t just have to share your knowledge with your co-workers, you could even raise your profile via Social Work News magazine. We’re always looking for contributors to share their thoughts and insights into topical matters. You never know, featuring in the magazine as a thought-leader or columnist could inspire someone to contact you directly. If you’d like some personal advice on how you can improve your career prospects then please get in touch with one of our consultants. We can not only help you adjust your CV, but we can suggest the right social work job roles which will help you get to where you want to go.