This is a question that I am always being asked and when I was looking I found it hard to get the answer to this. Its pretty simple. You can become an agency worker at any time after you have your degree.
Newly Qualified social workers
I have worked with agency social workers who are Newly Qualified. However, honestly I would not recommend this. Although, I accept that the money is good and that it makes it a lot easier for me in particular to save. I can see why people want and need to do it.
However, you need to think really carefully about this. You will get thrown into the deep end when you are and agency social worker and you will be expected to have skills, knowledge and confidence to just run with this work.
Unfortunately the Newly Qualified social workers that I have seen come straight into Agency social work has not gone well. Unless they were placed in a newly qualified role which is again very rare. This has ended up with many tears or them being put off working within the Social Work remit full stop. Don’t let that happen. You will have worked hard for this degree and it is worth it. You just have to go about it in the right way.
If you take a full time job with a Local Authority they will employ you as an AYSE (The Assessed and Supported Year in Employment). This will involve many training opportunities, regular supervisions, coursework and a personal tutor for additional support. This first year is such a learning curve and you should make the most of the additional support offered.
Being qualified for one year as a social worker
I have even seen people being one year qualified going into agency social work and that have really, really struggled. I am not saying you are this person but please look after yourself. I have seen to many people break down, be sick/ or long term sick.
Whilst you can succeed as an agency social worker at this time you are still learning on a regular basis and further training and support will enhance your practice enormously.
I have spoken to many people and I myself think that you need some good/ positive experience before choosing to become an agency social worker. At times you will feel on your own and I want to see you succeed in this job. We need more well trained, good social workers who are enthusiastic about the difficult job that they do. But, who are able to acknowledge the difference they are making with the vulnerable people that we work with. After all isn’t this the reason we went into social work in the first place?
I found working with a Local Authority for a few years really helped to grow me as the practitioner I am today. I am confident and am able to trust in the choices that I make. I made use of the training available whilst being employed full time which heightened my knowledge and again in turn my practice and the way that I work.
Since being an agency social worker I have even discussed and shown others from different authorities things that I have learnt e.g Signs of Safety (Solution Focused Work) which is now a huge part of my day to day practice and I love it. Especially when working with families and having difficult conversations and not forgetting the direct work with children which all works really well.
What else should I consider?
From a great deal of research I have seen a lot of jobs that require 2 years experience mostly Child Protection roles and some which are even 3 years. Obviously the more experience the better the pay, and then you are more likely to be able to negotiate this with your agency to battle it out a bit. Tip let your agency agree this with them.
I have heard from many managers that experience is much better and what they look for when taking on an agency social worker. One of the reasons that they take them on is because they are understaffed, or the team needs support with a quick turn around.
Managers are really busy and whilst they will want to support you unfortunately, and I can’t say I blame them, but the full time employed staff will get this support as Managers need them to stay.
You have to remember as an agency social worker we are a fix and a quick way to get a social worker in post whilst they interview and shortlist full time social workers. However, if they really like you or your doing a good job you may be there a long time. I have seen some in post for over two years. This really does depend on budgeting and the Local Authority and can be very rare. Although, in a good team you can feel that you are treated no differently than the full timers and in some cases you can also be offered training.
However, please note that this is limited and can be restricted. Local Authorities pay out a lot of money for agency social workers and think of the commission our agencies take which is more than you would think.
My recommendation and tips;
- Get your two years experience as a minimum as a full time employee before taking this step.
- Make use of the training available to you to enhance your knowledge and skills e.g Court training, ABE, Signs of Safety, toxic trio etc.
- If you become an agency social worker and are Newly Qualified make sure and continue to make it clear that you are Newly Qualified and that you will require the additional support. Don’t let them assume as that’s when the challenges get harder. This role needs to be tailored to your requirements they do exist and can be good when the correct ones are found.
- When looking for an agency to help you find this role. Look around and talk to others. There are varying agencies out there and you will want yours to be supportive and helpful.
As I always say If you want any help or guidance with finding a role within the social work role that best suits you. Or if you have any general questions about becoming an agency social worker. Please don’t hesitate to send me a message.