Skip to main content

Return to social work and revitalise your practice

Posted by: , Posted on: - Categories: Education and training

I was very pleased to be able to support the first national Come Back to Social Work programme which was led by the Local Government Association and funded by the Department of Health and the Department for Education.

I attended their final session a few weeks ago and was really impressed with the success of the programme and the impact it's had in bringing excellent people back into practice. I am delighted that one of the participants, Ahmed Abd-Elghany, has written this guest blog to share his positive experience. 

Ahmed: '[The programme] was about what‘s new, what's changed and the skills we can transfer from outside social work... building confidence, resilience and self-esteem.'
For the last few years I was looking hard to find a way back into social work. With the high demand and need for social workers I thought, with my experience, a few refresher courses would make it easy for someone like me to return.However, I was not sure where to start and the courses didn’t come cheap - this was a setback for me and I am sure for many others in my situation. 

In fact, I came across many avenues and funded programmes targeting non qualified people with degrees in any other discipline but social work!


Although there were opportunities to train, these programmes totally ignored the already qualified individuals who had taken a break for one reason or another. It didn’t make sense. I thought: surely it’s cheaper to help those with the right qualifications come back to practice rather than start from scratch?


I didn’t stop trying but the answer was frequently “Sorry you are already qualified”, or “Can you go back on the register first?” That’s when I started drifting away from the profession.


When I saw Come Back to Social Work advertised, I thought thank goodness someone out there has read my mind.


Applying for the programme was an opportunity not to be missed. I was very privileged to be selected with 20 like-minded social workers to participate in 30 days training, lectures, coaching and mentoring sessions.


I must admit it was overwhelming to start with, but we got through it. It’s not like doing another social work degree, it’s more like a refresher course where you can reflect on your learning and practice.


It was about what‘s new, what's changed, and the skills we can transfer from outside social work to our practice - building confidence, resilience and self-esteem.


We were able to meet new people, including those whose names I had previously only read in books or seen on TV, senior social workers from different local authorities, even the Chief Social workers  (I gained lots of likes on Facebook!) and 20 social workers from different parts of the country who were the stars of the programme.


The programme helped me to think about creativity and innovation, utilising skills gained during my community development work with minority ethnic and faith communities.


Even though my experience and training were more linked to working with young people and families, changes in legislation and the shift towards working with communities made me think more about working with adults or generic social work and think more holistically about my  social work approach.


Since I was able to link with local communities, give talks about social work promoting a positive image about social workers and social services, some community leaders we were able to identify the need for social work positions in large community and faith institutions - in particular those deemed hard to reach by professionals and were willing to part fund a social work post.


I certainly learnt a lot, built my confidence, met like minded people, got back on the register with HCPC and have a clear vision about where I want to be and what I want to do.

About Ahmed

Ahmed is a qualified and registered social worker, specialising in building bridges between different ethnic and faith  communities with a focus on Arabic speaking communities. He has served in local government, housing associations and the non-profit sector.

The impact of his community recreation work was formally recognised with an invitation to 10 Downing Street.

Sharing and comments

Share this page


  1. Comment by Alcus Dunn posted on

    I was very encouraged reading about the Come Back to Social Work Program. I have been a social worker for over 25 years primarily working with Children and Families. I retired in 2010 however in 2015 I decided to return to practice to do Social Work with Older People and vulnerable adults. I am now an HCPC registered Qualified Social Worker, and hope to attend Middlesex University to become a BIA assessor in May 2017.
    Though I was not a part of the Coming Back to Social Work program, I feel that this program is good for the Social Work profession.

  2. Comment by Hayley Kelly posted on

    I was one of the candidates of the Come Back to Social Work Programme. I left social work in 2014 due to personal circumstances and when I planned to return in 2016 I realised I had to complete 30 days of updating my skills and knowledge to continue my HCPC registration.
    When I started the Programme in September 2016 I had not much much confidence in myself and my abilities. During the programme which involved training workshops, reflective supervision, coaching and action learning I manage to built up my confidence to return to my social work practice. I was also made aware of the PCF(professional capabilities framework ) KSS( Knowledge and Skills Statement) for Adult and Children Social worker. We also looked at the HCPC standard of practice.
    I have managed to complete work shadowing in Adult Services but could not to get a post in Adult Services and are now looking to return back to Children Services where I have worked for more than 10 years.
    Currently I still find it difficult to get a post in Social Work as most Councils wants social workers with current experience.
    However , I am a persistent person and have learned to never give up.
    I am still in contact with my Come Back to Social Work Colleagues and together we inspire each other. During the programme it became evident that most of us have gone through our own challenges in life and manage to build up strength and resilience for others. Social work is not a easy job but worthwhile and we are needed ; children need us, vulnerable adults, older people, refugees, unaccompanied minors needs us etc.
    I am thankful for this opportunity to have been part of the CBTSW.

    • Replies to Hayley Kelly>

      Comment by Gemma posted on

      I wish I could find another course like this to return to social work. I find it hard to believe that there are not more courses like this to help those to return to practice after a career break when the need is so great.

      • Replies to Gemma>

        Comment by Mark Osterloh posted on

        Hi Gemma - thanks for getting in touch. Here's some news of interest for you from the Local Government Association

        "The West Midlands, East of England and London will be the first regions to take part in the Local Government Association’s Return to Social Work programme.

        The LGA, in partnership with central government, will work with these local areas to promote and support the recruitment of 100 experienced social workers into critical roles, providing a high quality training package for individuals who have left or taken a break from social work practice.

        The Return to Social Work programme builds on the success of the LGA’s pilot Come Back to Social Work campaign, which sought to retrain 30 social workers from both adult and child and family social work, who had left the profession.

        With social worker vacancy rates at their highest in four years, this programme is crucial to increasing the number of social workers in the sector. Latest figures show there were 5,540 vacancies for child and family social workers in 2016, some 12.6 per cent of the workforce. Similarly, vacancy rates for adult social workers sat at 11 per cent in 2016.

        Those wishing to take part in the programme will be able to register their interests online in advance of the offical application process. Dates to be confirmed.

        Successful applicants will be provided with 15 weeks’ training to prepare them to re-register with the Health and Care Professions Council and be ready to return to practice work within councils from early 2018."

  3. Comment by unni posted on

    I am a registered social worker qualified from outside UK. I am looking to join as a qualified social worker but I don't have any experience in the UK. I would like to attend a refresher or bridge course to work as a qualified social worker in the UK. I don't know where I can start, could you please help me?

    • Replies to unni>

      Comment by Mark Osterloh posted on

      Hello Unni - thank you for your enquiry. We suggest that you visit the Health and Care Professions Council website: to find out what is required of you to register as a social worker in England. We also advise getting in touch with your local authority and local university as they may be running refresher programmes for qualified social workers who wish to register.
      Best wishes, Mark - blog management for Lyn Romeo

  4. Comment by Vicky posted on

    Hi. I relate very much to the experience that Ahmed described. After realising I had to undertake 30 days training I set out to look for a suitable course. I thought surely there'll be many, many options, and I even expected there to be many that were funded. Just like Ahmed, I believed this because I felt it would be a cheaper more logical thing to do than the current 'step up to social work ' which is a 14 month fully funded post grad diploma, and also gives candidates a bursary of £19,000, without them having a clear understanding of the nature of social work.
    I took a three year career break for family and personal reasons. I'm raring to get back into it but feel lost as to what step to take next.

  5. Comment by SB posted on

    I left social worker more than 5 years back. I read that I have to completed 60 days of training/supervised work etc before being eligible for registration with HCPC. Has anyone done it yet?

  6. Comment by Sia Daramy posted on

    I have set up a closed Facebbook page called Return to Practice for Health and Social Care Professionals. The aim of this group is to network and support 'Returners' you are all welcome to join.

  7. Comment by Aliuska P Ricardo posted on

    I graduated in September 2015 and due to pregnancy and being quite unwell I have not practised. I would be interested in this programme if that's possible. Can I have some info on how to apply? Please. Thank you.

  8. Comment by Nevresa posted on

    Hello, I guess I am on the same boat as everyone here. I am qualified social worker from abroad, I am also HCPC registered. I have 2 years of experience working as SW in UK prior returning back home, where I stayed for 5 years during which I have only been connected with SW through volunteering. Coming back to UK I have found big obstacles even though I am registered, I have not been able to find work as QSW due to the gap I have. I would also be grateful if somebody is able to let me know where I could find refreshment course in London for SW. I am desperate to return to SW as this is my true calling and my passion.

    • Replies to Nevresa>

      Comment by Mark Osterloh posted on

      Hi Nevresa

      Thanks for your enquiry - althought the application window for 'return to social work' is currently closed you can register your interest for future schemes here:

      Best wishes

      Blog site editor

      • Replies to Mark Osterloh>

        Comment by Nevresa posted on

        Hello, I have tried to register my interest, but the site doesn’t allow to finish the registration saying that the post is not available anymore. I would love to register and get involved in courses in future. Regards

        • Replies to Nevresa>

          Comment by Mark Osterloh posted on

          Hi Nevresa

          I see what you mean! The navigation and registration pages are either not clear or are not functioning properly. I would suggest you send an email outlining your interest to this address:

          Best wishes

          Blog site editor

  9. Comment by Naheed Akhtar posted on

    Hi i am in desperate need to also return back to social work, I graduated in 2012 and due to personal circumstances I was not able to practice and to be honest trying to get my foot in the door was so difficult.

    I have friends who have qualified and would love to do what they are passionate about (social work) we know there's a demand for this and people who have been trained and have the certificate but don't have the experience that local authorities are looking for.

    What's the best way to return back to social work? How can we rebuild this gap? I am currently doing a formal distance learning course as well as some private study to help me refresh my knowledge and get up to date with current changes.

    Many thanks in advance.

    • Replies to Naheed Akhtar>

      Comment by Mark Osterloh posted on

      Hi Naheed

      Thanks for your comment. We would suggest you send an email outlining your interest to our LGA colleagues:
      Hopefully they can advise on future opportunities.

      Best wishes


      Blog site manager/editor

  10. Comment by Deborah posted on

    I was a children's social worker for a local authority for 14 years working in child protection and LAC. I left 21 months ago to take time out. I live in the north west, Cheshire. I have endlessly searched for refresher courses/come back to social work training etc but can not find anything. Agency's ring 3-4 times a week but I feel I need to update before entering back into children's social work. I have kept informed by joining BASW, Community care and I completed a CSE course with PACE, a further ACE CPD accredited course online and a year ago a 3 days course on form F assessments but still feel I lack confidence to go straight back into being a social worker for a local authority.
    Why are there so many vacancies and not enough drive from somewhere to put in place within local authorities training incentatives for really experienced social workers who want to come back.

  11. Comment by Dawn Baker posted on

    Very glad to have read all the uplifting comments about returning to Social Work.

    I am now very clear about what I must do.

    That's a strange comment below. Why wouldn't I be a real person.

  12. Comment by Andrea posted on


    I am in the same boat as many. And have registered my interest. Does anybody know when the next programme will begin? If ever and why such a big gap between this last programme and then nothing?

  13. Comment by Helen Martin posted on

    Hi there, I contacted Return to Social Work and it seems that it is only for returners to Children's Services. I had a Social Worker role in Children's Services (non statutory). I would like to return to Adult Services - - does anyone know of any routes into Adult services (not the 'Return to Social Work' scheme-that's children's) I am based in Sheffield. I have also contacted my own LA who could only offer Children's

  14. Comment by Sharon Hewitt posted on

    I left social work for personal reasons and now wish to return, but underdstand that i need to be supervised for 60 days in order to register with HCPC. Could someone help or point me in the right direction please.


Leave a comment

We only ask for your email address so we know you're a real person

By submitting a comment you understand it may be published on this public website. Please read our privacy notice to see how the GOV.UK blogging platform handles your information.