Locum Vs Perm: Why should you go locum as a Social Worker?

As an experienced social work recruiter, I am often asked to explain the benefits of working locum vs being permanent.

In this post I will share my thoughts on the subject, which may hopefully help if you are considering a move into the locum world. (I am always available on the phone if you’d like to discuss anything here further, 07450 555 802)

The main advantage to working as a locum is the higher rates of pay. In some cases there are huge differences between permanent salary and an hourly locum rate. With this however, you will be expected to “hit the ground running” often with little supervision or guidance. Managers are paying for experts, so you will be expected to act like one from day one.

Pay rates differ massively dependent on your level of experience, your references, the team, the service, and the Local Authority. As a guide, if an Authority is paying much higher than everyone else, you can expect high caseloads and complex cases. (Feel free to get in touch to see what rate you should expect to achieve).

We have seen an increase in hourly rates for Locum Social Workers as supply and demand is at an all-time high with a very real shortage of Social Workers available.

Another perk of working as a locum is the flexibility.  Locums can try new things, new teams and ways of working. It can also be an opportunity to “try before you buy” if you plan to go permanent again in the future.

Being locum is an excellent opportunity to broaden your horizons and really hone your social work skills. You learn every day in social work, and working with different people, and different managers can help turn you into a highly skilled social worker.

Things to bear in mind as you make the steps into working as a locum:

  1. You will in almost all cases, be required to hand your notice in before you find a new post. It is very rare that a hiring manager will look at a candidate with a 2 month notice period, with 4 weeks likely being the most anyone will accept and 2 weeks being the industry standard. It’s very rare that managers are able to forward plan their locum requirements, with a locum post more often than not, being a reactive action (someone has handed in their notice), rather than a proactive forward plan.
  2. You will in some cases get more complex cases or higher caseloads than your permanent counterparts (You are being paid more so you should expect this, the manager also wants to see a return on their investment)
  3. Do not burn your bridges! Social work is a very small world, make sure you exceed your manager’s expectations and keep your references to an excellent standard. You never know when applying for a new role, if the hiring manager knows of you, or knows someone who might! (Managers may also be locum and could move around to a LA that you are interested in!)
  4. There is no absolute certainty that you will always be in work. However, if your references are good, you have good experience, and have a good consultant (Key) – the chances are you will never be out of work for very long. In my experience, I have had some locums stay in their positions for 5 years plus, some move on twice a year to new experiences, and some move on more often that that (I don’t recommend this!). In most cases, a new role is secured before leaving the current post.
  5. If you keep your options open, you are much more likely to keep in work. If you only want a MASH team and will only work for 2 boroughs, your catchment area is much smaller than if you are open to teams and distance to work.
  6. Play to your strengths. If you are a front-line Children’s Social Worker in a CP team, keep to these kinds of teams. The chances of you getting into a fostering/adoption team with no direct experience is very slim – You have more chance of doing this as a permanent worker.
  7. You’ll need at least 2 years of relevant experience to be competitive in this market (In most cases), but we do recommend you get as much experience as possible before making the move to locum. We certainly don’t recommend moving to Locum the moment the AYSE is completed – Get the fundamentals, build on your experience and learn as much as you can before you go on the locum market.
  8. Career Progression as a locum is difficult. If you are looking to take the next step in your career to a management role, your application will be up against a number of highly experienced locums who can hit the ground running.

It’s a big decision to make and a scary move, into an uncertain future when you leave your permanent role to work as a locum.

Social Work Partners does all we can to make this transition as stress free as possible and are here to help and guide you through the process. We will always be honest with you and our opinions and views, on how easily we believe the transition to locum work will be for you; we will NOT play with your future.

I hope this helps shed some light – Feel free to call me on 07450 555 802 if you would like to discuss in more detail or email me [email protected]  to arrange a time for a confidential, no obligation chat.

David Edwards-Brown