I did a lot of research when I started looking up the possibility of Social Work in the UK. I pretty much drove myself mad trying to find current information. It was not easy. I remember years ago when I was in university, recruiters from the UK would come to the school and actively try to recruit Social Workers to work in the UK. Actually they were still doing this up until a few years ago…but sadly, not anymore.
From my understanding, funding cuts and changes in immigration rules, were to blame as there was a cap put on the number of visas that were given out for specific categories. There was also a focus put on educating and training Social Workers within the UK. The visa that I would be applying for under the Tier 2 category. “The Tier 2 (General) category is for foreign nationals who have been offered a skilled job to fill a gap in the workforce that cannot be filled by a settled worker” (http://www.ukba.homeoffice.gov.uk/visas-immigration/working/tier2/general/). The position of Social Worker falls under the job shortage category BUT this is only in a Children and Families setting, which to me, translates into Child Protection roles. My experience is in hospital settings, which is what I would have preferred, but I am limited to working in child welfare in England. I did ask a Social Work Supervisor at a Children’s Hospital in London for any potential opportunities, but was advised that I needed UK experience before I would be considered.
I contacted recruitment agencies, signed up on LinkedIn, searched forums, searched websites for various LA’s, set up a Twitter account, contacted my alumni at the university, and contacted the social work regulatory body that I was registered with.
I first started contacting various recruitment agencies in the UK that specialize in hiring Social Workers. Either the agencies just didn’t bother responding to me, or they told me that they could not help me. I was continuously advised that I should apply directly to Local Authorities (LA’s). As a Child Protection Social Worker, you will be working for a city/town which can be further split into boroughs. Each city/town hires their own Social Workers. For example, London has many LA’s such as Camden, Ealing, Hackney, Newham etc. They are referred to as Hackney Council, Ealing Council etc. The Tier 2 visa could be a deterrent from employers because they need to sponsor you and then you would need to apply for that visa. A costly and timely process. (Again, I am going to emphasize that if you qualify for a Tier 5 Youth Mobility Scheme visa, you likely will not have an issue with obtaining employment because you are free to work in whatever job you like without being sponsored). It’s a good idea to google the boroughs in London and read each of their council websites for job postings. Just be mindful that going from one end of London to the other on the tube is quite a distance.
With regards to LinkedIn, you can try to connect with other Social Workers in the UK and inquire if the borough they work for is hiring, and if that borough has ever hired an international applicant. I did find that many recruitment agencies would connect with me on LinkedIn, but really, they couldn’t help me in locating a position because of the visa sponsorship.
I contacted the Alumni Dept of my university and the woman who keeps in contact with Alumni was kind enough to send out a mass email asking if there were any social workers who work, or have worked, in the UK. I was put in touch with a few social work colleagues who provided some additional information on the social work climate, but also advised me to apply directly to the Local Authority.
Do not underestimate the power of Twitter! It’s up to you if you want an anonymous account or not, but if you are serious about working in the UK, Twitter is an excellent way to network with the Social Work community. It also allows you to keep up to date on current events regarding Social Work. I have learned so much from my Twitter community, who have also been such a great source of support and information. I will also be meeting with a few of them now that I am in England.
I was fortunate enough to make a connection with a Social Worker who works for the Local Authority my SO resides in. It was pure luck that my SO knew someone-who knew someone-who knew this Social Worker who was recruited from the US a number of years ago. She has absolutely been an immense support and source of guidance for me as I complete the job application for this council, which has been so time consuming.
I hope that this has been helpful and if you have any additional tips or comments, please do share!