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Social work policy and practice is constantly evolving, so how do you return from a career break?

Only those who have worked in social work will truly understand how rewarding it can be, despite the challenges. The personal satisfaction of helping vulnerable people is why many find themselves drawn back into the profession. 

There’s certainly a demand from employers to welcome those with the appropriate skills and experience within both children’s and adult social care, as Chief Social Worker for Adults, Lyn Romeo reaffirmed during the launch of the Government’s ‘Come Back to Social Work’ campaign:

“For 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.”

The answer as to how easy it is to return to practice though largely depends on how long you have been absent for, where you intend to work in the UK, and what you are proactively doing to make the move. 


In England, if you have been out of practice for up to two years you will not be required to update your skills and knowledge before you can re-register with the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC). If you are returning after a period of two to five years, you must spend 30 days updating your skills and knowledge and for those over five years, it is 60 days. This can comprise a combination of supervised practice, formal study and private study.
It will depend where in the UK you are looking to register. In Wales, The Care Council for Wales regards readmission to the register as a new application. And in Scotland, the Scottish Social Services Council does not have a return to practice requirement. Instead, social workers must undertake 15 days of post-registration training as learning (PRTL) within their three-year registration. 

Shaping your own route 

There’s no single route for re-entering the profession. If you’ve not practiced for several years, you will need to think more creatively about how you might gain some tangible experience. This is not just for registration purposes, but to demonstrate to an employer that your skills are relevant to the needs of those you would be supporting.

You’re unlikely to gain voluntary social work experience at a council due to the statutory nature of the work, but it is possible to arrange work shadowing opportunities. Some councils are keen to offer this as a way of supporting those returning to the profession. You will still need to evidence your registration though and have all the relevant DBS checks. 

You could also consider closely related voluntary work; for instance, as a support worker within a homeless shelter, refuge or family centre. 

Keeping up-to-date

We all know how quickly legislation changes, and with that social work practice. There are some very practical things you can do to make refreshing your knowledge that much easier. Here are a few pointers…

To read the rest of the article, you can find it on pages 22-23 in the latest issue of Sanctuary Social Work News along with more interesting and engaging features!

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