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Head of service

Oversee the day-to-day operations of services, manage staff and work with other agencies to promote best practice in social work
Other names
Service manager, practice lead

What you'll do

As a head of service you’ll:

  • oversee, lead and motivate social work teams to ensure effective service delivery 
  • set the strategic direction of the service and identify areas of improvement 
  • develop and oversee relationships with statutory partners such as police and health services 
  • make strategic decisions around risk, crisis intervention and resource allocation 
  • set a culture of continuous improvement to ensure positive outcomes for children and families 
  • manage budgets, make decisions on staffing levels and agree funding for recruitment 
  • set performance objectives, conduct reviews and address issues within social work teams 
  • help foster an inclusive work culture that proactively addresses discrimination 

Skills and knowledge

You'll need:

  • leadership skills to guide and inspire social work teams, set strategic direction and drive positive change 
  • good problem-solving skills and the ability to make decisions while under pressure 
  • strong written and verbal communication skills to engage with teams and external partners 
  • the ability to collaborate with external partners to improve outcomes for children and families 
  • knowledge of policies and legislation relating to child and family social work 
  • an understanding of case management principles, risk assessment and safeguarding 
  • analytical and critical thinking skills to assess risk and resolve complex issues 
  • resilience and emotional intelligence to manage high-pressure situations and support staff well-being

How to become one

To become a head of service you must:

  • have completed a degree, apprenticeship or graduate training scheme in social work 
  • be registered with Social Work England
  • ideally have at least 3 years’ experience in a service manager role 
  • have a proven track record of improving outcomes for children in a leadership or management role 

If you’re an experienced team manager, the Pathway 3: heads of service programme can help prepare you to progress to a head of service role.

Career paths and progression

With experience you could:

  • progress to a higher-level leadership position such as assistant director or director of children’s services
  • move into a training and consultancy role and deliver training programmes to social workers 
  • become an expert in your specialist area of social work practice 

If you're an experienced head of service, the Pathway 4: practice leaders programme can help prepare you to progress to a practice leader role.

The upon: aspirant directors programme can help prepare you to progress to an assistant director or director of children's services role.

Current opportunities

The Find a job service can help you with your search for jobs and send alerts when new jobs become available.