In London, our 33 London Authorities aim to provide an environment that supports and nurtures our highly skilled workforce through every stage of their social work careers. We believe that everyone working in our children's services departments should be given the opportunity to develop and progress and we ensure that we can keep learning from one another to improve and innovate together for London's children.
Across London's children's services, you will work for - and give a voice to - our children and young people.
Whether you are already qualified and practicing, interested in qualifying as a children's social worker, or returning to social work, rest assured that you will be provided career development opportunities in London. Below, we map out what your 'career journey' through social work could look like, and describe some of the roles you may undertake.
It's important to note that specific roles and titles will vary in each Local Council based on their individual service structure so do review London's job opportunities closely to ensure you find the right one for you.
In your first role in children's social work, you will be responsible for an allocated caseload under supervision. Working with more responsibility than in your university placements, you will get your first taste of making an impact on young people's lives in a professional environment. You will further develop the knowledge, skills and experience you built when studying social work.
Most newly qualified children’s social workers undertake the Assessed and Supported Year in Employment (ASYE) programme, which will see your practice assessed through direct observation, critical reflection, and supervision. Senior and experienced staff will support you throughout your ASYE.
After completing your ASYE, you will consolidate your experience as a social worker. With more autonomy in your role, you will be expected to undertake cases independently and demonstrate your capabilities. You will discover that the role of social worker is wide ranging, constant, and dynamic; working days are rarely the same.
As a key member of a children's services team, you will have a caseload comprising multiple children and young people. You will also work closely with partners from other organisations such as schools, health services, the police, and probation services.
As an experienced social worker, you will have spent a number of years working to support children and their families, providing a vital service to the local community. You will now have a firm grasp on the profession, and will be considering and exploring your potential options for further career development and specialisation.
As an advanced social worker, you will be well aware of your strengths, and the areas in which you would like to specialise; you will feel ready to take the next step in your social work career. Some roles you may progress into as an advanced or senior social worker include:
Practice Educator: a vital role that helps to develop the next generation of children's social workers. Practice Educators teach, supervise and assess social worker students on their placements and make recommendations as to how prepared they are for practice. Through supporting students, you stay heavily involved in supporting children and young people.
Advanced Practitioner: a role for experienced social workers, with extensive knowledge and experience. Advanced practitioners tackle complex cases that require their advanced degree of professional expertise.
Approved Mental Health Professional: a complex role, AMHPs are responsible for conducting independent mental health assessments. You have to undergo extensive specialist training, providing you with a thorough understanding of mental health, medical diagnoses, and the laws which surround mental health.
Independent Reviewing Officer: a key player in every case, IROs are required to oversee the Care Plan of every child and young person to ensure that their best interests are kept at the forefront. You ensure that the child or young person's views are listened to, and that the local authority always acts as a responsible 'corporate parent'.
Child Protection Conference Chair: a role which is independent from the social work team. Reporting directly to the Director of Children's Services, you are responsible for facilitating child protection conferences, and make sure that children, young people, and their families have the chance to express their views. You also ensure that all actions agreed upon clear, and understood by all stakeholders.
Assistant Team Manager: an experienced practitioner role with specific responsibilities for dealing with more complex cases, contributing to practice development, working with children and young people, families, carers and communities to help them make informed choices and decisions, enabling them to clarify their needs. You will contribute directly to service planning.
Team Manager: a role that involves being accountable for managing the direction, delivery and performance, including assessment and appropriate management of risk. You will be responsible for ensuring the team operates in line with best practice and meets the agreed performance targets.
Service Manager: this role holds accountability for the direction, delivery and performance across one or more specialist fields, setting the mid-term direction. As part of the senior leadership team you will provide strategic leadership, service development and effective management of statutory and regulatory services in line with best practice.
Principal Social Worker: a senior manager with lead responsibility for practice in the organisation. Still actively involved in frontline practice, Principal Social Workers understand the experiences of front-line colleagues and communicate them to management. You lead on the development and delivery of best practice across operational services and management.
Head of Service: a key part of the senior leadership team overseeing one or more service areas within the Children’s Services directorate. The role includes the strategic and operational leadership, service development and effective management of statutory and regulatory Children’s Services. You will oversee the provision of high quality services, including the commissioning of services, ensuring performance management and review mechanisms are in place to monitor progress and achieve service objectives and goals.
Assistant Director of Children’s Services: a key part of the senior leadership team and a strategic lead for children and young people’s safeguarding, family-focused child protection and children’s social care working across partnership arrangements. You will support the delivery of strategic plans, supporting the development of national and local performance measures to improve the impact of and services to children and young people.
Director of Children's Services: the most senior stakeholder on all matters relating to Children’s Services. DCSs shape the strategic direction of their organisation. You are responsible for the leadership, direction, and management of the department, to ensure that the highest quality of support is given to children and young people.
The Career Pathways & CPD Framework from Developing Together - one of our six Social Work Teaching Partnerships, who provide professional development and learning opportunities to our social workers - details the journey through your social work career. It includes the types of opportunity you will have to grow and develop your skills, along with the roles you may hold.
The PCF is another useful framework which will accompany you in your social work journey. It sets out the expectations of the capabilities of social workers at each stage of their career. This helps to ensure that all registered social workers in the UK continue to meet the same standards.
The PCF provides a consistent structure for professional development, detailing the requirements for social workers looking to further progress within the sector. The diagram below, from the British Association of Social Workers (BASW)'s website details the PCF, and how it can guide you through your social work career, from your first day of studying, through to the most senior social work roles in London.
Everybody registered with Social Work England, whether practicing or not, must complete CPD to keep their knowledge of the sector up to date. There are no requirements to do any particular sort of CPD – a wide range of activities are acceptable, as long as they show how you are applying learning to improve your practice.
There are eight subsections of the CPD standard which can help to guide social workers in choosing what you would like to record.
To practice as a social worker in London, you need a qualifying degree recognised by Social Work England. Once qualified you will need to register with Social Work England and then re-register each year.
Learn more about qualifying as a social worker.
© London Social Work for Children 2024