What do I need to do before becoming an agency social worker?
When I decided to become an agency social worker I really wish that I would have been clearer on what I needed to do but also how long each things would take to do. I handed my notice in before I had really thought about the following steps. This left me feeling panicked, rushed and not being able to get paid for the first few weeks after starting. This could leave you in a really tough situation.
Checklist to becoming an agency social worker
I have tried to put these in the order of importance but some do cross over one another .
Step 1- Make sure that you are HCPC registered and that this is in date
- If you are a Newly Qualified Social Worker the sooner you get this sorted the better as it will help to prevent delay in getting a job. If you have signed up with HCPC previously easiest way to check your registration is to look at your HCPC card and check the date of expiry. You can also check this on the online register if you need to. You can apply for this to be extended on the website. Applications normally take 10 working days from receipt of the complete application. If further checks are required it may take longer. Once your application has been processed the online register is updated straight away. You will be sent a certificate and registration card in about 2-3 weeks and your agency will ask you for a copy of this.
Step 2- You will need to select what agency you want to sign up with
- There are a wide range of different agencies out there and it is really important that you feel comfortable with the one that you chose. If you have any questions or would like support around this please don’t hesitate to contact me. I have worked with a number of the top agencies for social workers and am happy to help you with this and have some great contacts. Some agencies have better relationships with certain authorities and are often provided information on the jobs at an earlier stage. Once you have chosen the agency you will be allocated a ‘Recruitment Consultant’ who will support you in finding the role you are looking for.
Step 3- You need your DBS to be completed
- Once you have signed up with one or more agencies they will need to have a DBS (Disclosure and Barring Service) completed and checked. This is a new version of the old CRB check (Criminal Records Bureau) which we are more familiar with. This can take up to 4 weeks however, agencies can usually get this done much quicker. You need to fill in the online application form which the agency will send to you. Make sure that you fill this out very carefully as they do send these back if they are not completed thoroughly. Make it clear to the consultant what type of role you are looking for and roughly what pay as this will save you a lot of time later on.
Step 4- You will need to update your CV and send to your chosen agency
- Make sure you focus on relative experience and previous roles in detail. Try and relate them to the key skills you need as a social worker. It is also important to write about the placements throughout your degree as these will focus on many of the required areas.
Step 5- You need to send the relevant personal documentation to the agency
- e.g. passport, driving license, DBS, graduation certificate etc. They will also request a recent bank statements/ utility bills within the last three months. So make sure you know where they all are.
Step 6- You need to decide what employment status you are.
- You have to consider whether you are going to be signed under the umbrella company that your agency will recommend as a sole trader or whether you want to set up as a limited company. You really need to decide what is best for you and this takes time and can delay this process. These options vary for what is best for each individual social worker and what they are willing/ not willing to do. Each have different benefits and many agency social workers chose different options. This will need to be finalised at an early stage or otherwise everything can be delayed. An example of this is if you chose to set up as a limited company you need to set up a business bank account and have all of your details which can take a few weeks. This is something that really confused me, took time and got me in a bit of a muddle as I left it late to arrange this, which caused a delay in being paid.
Step 7- Now you are ready for your agency to set up your interviews.
- In social work there is normally a high turn around of staff members when working with children and families in particular. Don’t feel pressured to go to an interview if you know that you don’t want that particular role. If you want some tips of what to expect at the interview for an agency social worker role click here. It is okay to say no to the agency that you are working with if the role is not for you. Often, they will set up an number on interviews in a few days. Make it clear the location and how far you are willing to travel as they do sometimes expect that you will travel quite far. But you don’t have to. You don’t need to discuss pay or whether you are accepting the role during the interview your consultant will finalise this with them afterwards.
Step 8- After your interview
- After being offered and accepting to take the role (which usually happens very quickly) you are then asked when you are available to start. Sometimes, roles are only required from a certain date if it is a particular post but normally they will be happy for you to start as soon as possible. Make sure you take the right amount of time for you and don’t feel rushed in into saying earlier than what you had planned.
Step 9- You will now sign the contract with the agency.
- This should be done after you have agreed on the role you are taking, minimum duration and also your pay. If you have set up a Limited Company it is very important that this is is IR35 Compliant. I highly recommend that you research this prior to signing the contract. It is important at this stage to notify your agency and the authority you are joining whether you have any required time off or holiday.
Other questions that you will need to a consider;
Number 1; How often do I want to be paid? e.g. agencies normally pay you weekly. If you set up a limited company you can choose whether you want to pay yourself on a weekly, fortnightly or monthly basis from your business account. If you are with an umbrella company they would normally pay you on a weekly basis.
Number 2; What money do I put aside for holiday/ sick pay? As you are an agency social worker you do not get paid for the time off that you take. I have met some agency social workers that due to this, they do not take regular breaks. I am not recommending this. To be an efficient social worker you need to have time for yourself, spend time with your family and friends you need to feel as refreshed as possible in this job. If you got sick unexpectedly but putting some money aside on a regular basis can help prevent this apprehensive feeling.
Number 3; Do I want to set up a private pension? I usually feel very comfortable when on a fixed term contact with local authorities and that’s because we are always going to need social workers. I felt more comfortable knowing that every month some money was going aside for my pension and that I didn’t have to do anything to know that this would continue unless I opted out. I know many agency social workers some who have set up a private pension and others that have not chosen to do this. Some put some money aside in a different account on a regular basis instead of doing this. It is something to definitely consider.
Number 4; Should I take out public liability and or professional indemnity insurance? (relevant if you have started a limited company in particular). This is something that I really urge people to really consider. There are many options available and many social workers take this out to further protect themselves. It had to do a lot of research into this when I set up my limited company. Please contact me if you would like any further support around this.
Number 5; Should I join a Union? This is relevant to both social workers and agency social workers. I have found that everyone has very different and personal views around this. I have met some people who have had both good and bad experiences with a variety of different unions. I am of the opinion that this is very beneficial just in case you require this support. Unfortunately, I have seen many practising social workers who have required this support and who have been incredibly grateful when this was needed. But this choice is completely up to you.
Number 6; Do I need an accountant? This is relevant to agency social workers who have set up a limited company. There are a variety of options that are available to you but you need to consider the cost of this v’s the work that is requires and what you are willing and how involved you want to be.
Please contact me if you have any questions about how to become an agency social worker.