Local Government Community Development Officer

The Job and What's Involved

Local government community development officers (CDOs) have the role of improving the quality of life for various groups in the community. They have to involve themselves with different council departments, such as parks, healthcare, community learning, housing and social services.

Community development is closely linked to regeneration and in some local authorities is covered by the same department.

An urban-based local government CDO would encourage social inclusion. This is a feature of government policy for community development, which attempts to prevent issues such as unemployment, discrimination, poor skills, low incomes, poor housing and family breakdown combining to create problems in the community. They would do this by:

  • Setting up educational support schemes in areas of deprivation - identifying potential learners amongst local young people, parents or families.
  • Arranging redundancy counselling and retraining for workers when a major industry closes down.
  • Supporting the sports and leisure department in developing youth projects.
  • Enabling people with learning disabilities to be at the centre of planning their own lives.
  • Seeing that disease prevention programmes are targeted at the groups most at risk, such as elderly people.
  • Making sure that members of the black and minority ethnic communities have access to health and education services.
  • Arranging support for disadvantaged individuals and families.

In rural or remote areas the CDO might combat geographical isolation and depopulation by:

  • Supporting housing associations which provide affordable housing to local people.
  • Investing in improving local transport facilities.
  • Helping the community organise a local arts festival.
  • Organising a recruitment package for a teacher for an island school, which may include accommodation and travel allowances.
  • Negotiating with bus or ferry companies to adapt their timetables to suit the school day.

In general, a CDO will be expected to

  • Take control of the budget for one or more projects at a time.
  • Keep accurate financial records.
  • Create publicity to promote the various schemes.
  • Provide information amongst the various groups and organisations.
  • Write reports on projects.
  • Liaise with local communities and networks such as Social Inclusion Partnerships.
  • Liaise with voluntary groups and charities.
  • Liaise with government departments such as Office of the Deputy Prime Minister (ODPM) and government bodies such as Scottish Enterprise.

CDOs usually work 37 hours a week, but there might be some visits to groups in the evenings or at weekends. Most councils offer flexible hours, sometimes by a part-time or job-sharing contract. An increasing number operate flexitime schemes.

A CDO is based in an office, but may also spend a lot of time at meetings in community halls, day centres or perhaps in the homes of members of the local community.

CDOs may dress casually when, for example, meeting local neighbourhood groups, but perhaps more formally for steering group meetings.

The starting salary for a CDO is about £15,000 a year.

Getting Started with this Career Choice

CDOs can work for a local authority, a contracted-out organisation or for a community agency - in the city or in rural areas. They can also work for external agencies such as the ODPM, and for voluntary and not-for-profit organisations that often provide similar services to those working for local government. Vacancies are generally increasing as local authorities allocate a higher priority to social inclusion.

Job vacancies are advertised in Jobcentre Plus offices, on local council websites, in national newspapers, in professional journals and on the official website for local government recruitment: www.lgjobs.com.

CDOs who will be working with children or other vulnerable groups, will need to have their background checked by the Criminal Records Bureau or by Disclosure Scotland and obtain an Enhanced Disclosure Form.

Most local authorities request that prospective employees complete a questionnaire about their medical history, and in some cases a medical examination may be required.

Education and Training

There is no one single entry route into this career. Some vacancies for CDOs ask for a specified number of GCSE's/S grades, some ask for A Levels/H grades, while others ask for a degree, preferably in a subject related to the particular project, such as social studies, housing or education.

A Few More Exams You Might Need

Most entrants will be trained on the job and it may be possible to work towards NVQ's/SVQ's at Levels 2, 3 and 4 in a range of community development topics.

Some local authorities also operate a formal staff development system which involves the employee progressing under the regular supervision of a manager appointed to this role.

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Skills and Personal Qualities Needed

Community Development Officers should have:

  • The ability to communicate with a wide range of people.
  • The ability to manage a budget.
  • Sensitivity in dealing with multi-cultural issues, such as religion.
  • Networking skills and a good memory for names and faces.
  • The ability to work on their own initiative.
  • An outgoing personality.
  • Skills in social research and analysis.
  • Flexibility.

Your Long Term Prospects

There may be opportunities for promotion to community development coordinator or community development manager. These posts are often advertised in regular bulletins produced by local authorities. Sometimes these internal vacancies are available only to serving local government employees.

CDOs can also go on to specialise in particular areas such as youth work, adult learning, regeneration or diversity.

Get Further Information

Employers' Organisation for Local Government,
Layden House, 76-86 Turnmill Street,
London EC1M 5LG
Tel: 020 7296 6781
Website: www.lgjobs.com

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