As a Social Worker, you will help, support and protect people who are vulnerable or at risk, or have social or emotional problems. Helping people to help themselves and not rely on professional support is your goal - you will have the most amazing oppportunity to change people's lives for the better!
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Social Workers help, support and protect people who are vulnerable or at risk, or have social or emotional problems. As far as possible, they help people to help themselves and not rely on professional support or intervention. There are many different types of Social Worker, and their typical work activities depend on their employer and their area of work.
Whichever role you decide to specialise in, as a Social Worker you will have the most amazing oppportunity to change people's lives for the better - to make a real impact in the lives of vulnerable members of our society.
Here are some examples of different types of Social Worker:
Children's Social Worker
As a Children's Social Worker you will be employed by a local authority Child Protection Team. Your specialism and number one priority is the wellbeing and safety of the child who has been assigned to you. You will play a vital role in deciding the eventual outcome for vulnerable children and their families.
You role could include:
- managing complex vulnerable child caseloads
- carrying out assessments on vulnerable children, including Children in Need (CIN)Assessments and Looked After Children (LAC) Assessments.
- devising an individual care plan for a child, and helping to create a positive outcome for a child and their family, where possible
- preparing court cases
- creating complex child protection plans, for children who have maybe suffered neglect, abuse, or bullying
Social Worker - Adoption Assessment
As an Adoption Assessment Social Worker you will be responsible for the care of children who have been placed or are going to be placed with adopted families. Not only must you make sure that the right child is matched with the right family, you must also help them both with the settling in process during the first few months.
Your role could also include:
- assessing the placement needs of a child
- writing court reports
- reporting to the Fostering Team
- make regular home visits to check how the child and family are settling in
- assessing the cases of adults who have applied to become adopters. This might include speaking to the referees supplied by the applicant.
Mental Health Social Worker
As a Mental Health Social Worker, you will give advice and practical support to people diagnosed with mental health problems. It is your main responsibility to safeguard vulnerable people. To do this you will talk to clients, to find out what their needs are. You will also need to assess why the client has become ill. Reasons could include family problems, debt, housing problems, or bullying. Then you can begin to construct a personalised care package for your client.
Some Mental Health Social Workers specialise in the care of people who are based in psychiatric hospitals. This could include working with people who have acute mental health problems.
You might choose to specialise in Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service (CAMHS), helping children and young people who have mental health issues.
Forensic Social Worker
As a Forensic Social Worker you will be responsible for the application of social work within the legal world. What exactly does this mean? Well, you could be giving advice to lawyers, paralegals or law students on social work issues. Or you might need to asses whether someone is able to stand in court and testify – you may even be called as an expert witness yourself.
Basically, you will be using your expert social work knowledge to help the legal experts make the best decisions for the client. You will assess, decide and recommend what the best form of treatment is, in cases where someone has broken the law.
Your duties could also include:
- undertaking important pre-admission tests and assessments to decide on the best form of treatment
- liasing and maintaining good working relationships with local authorities and other social work departments
- liasing with a patients family to keep them informed and to involve them in any important decisions
- maintaining accurate records of the work and decisions carried out
Being able to read, write and speak Welsh may be an advantage when you’re looking for work in Wales.
Personal Qualities and Skills
To become a Social Worker, you will need to:
- listen carefully and empathise when necessary
- ask the right questions to find out about clients' needs
- gain the trust of people from all kinds of backgrounds
- be flexible and adaptable
- assess needs and circumstances
- communicate clearly, both orally and in writing
- gather, analyse and understand information
- be observant, read situations and identify problems
- be non-judgemental and avoid imposing solutions
- act quickly and calmly, eg, if a child is at risk from abuse or neglect
- work through conflict sensitively and come up with effective solutions
- work well under pressure
- have a positive attitude when you are faced with difficulties
- make difficult decisions at times
Travel throughout the local area is usual, therefore a full driving licence can be a requirement of the job.
Pay and Opportunities
The pay rates given below are approximate.
- Starting: £29,000 - £31,500
- With experience: £33,000 - £36,000
- Senior Social Workers earn £39,000 - £41,000
Hours of work
Social Workers work around 40 hours from Monday to Friday. However, early starts, late finishes and work on a rota basis to cover nights and weekends may be required. Part-time opportunities are also available.
Where could I work?
Employers throughout the UK are local authority social services departments, and voluntary or charity organisations such as Barnardos and the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC).
Other employers include private companies that care for older adults, homeless people, those who are terminally ill, or people with mental health problems.
Where are vacancies advertised?
Social media websites, such as LinkedIn, Twitter or Facebook, are a great way to network, find vacancies and get in contact with possible employers. Make sure that your profile presents you in a professional manner that will appeal to potential employers.
Take a look at our General Information Article
Entry Routes and Training
If you want to become a Social Worker, you’ll need a degree in Social Work. Some universities offer combined Social Work and nursing degrees, enabling you to qualify for both professions.
To get onto a relevant degree you will usually require 3 A levels or equivalent (such as a BTEC, City & Guilds or Cambridge Technical level 3 qualification). Studying a subject such as health and social care would be a great help.
The Frontline graduate programme is another great route into the profession for high-achieving graduates. It consists of a five week summer school followed by two years on-the-job training. Find out more at www.thefrontline.org.uk
Completion of a relevant Social Work degree or Master’s degree entitles you to register with the relevant Care Council for your country as a Social Worker.
If you find work as a Social Work Assistant or similar role, your employer may support you to study for the degree on a part-time basis.
An Intermediate or Advanced Level Apprenticeship is also great place to start. Take a look at our information article
As a newly-qualified Social Worker, you will receive additional support and supervision for the first 12 months in the job. In order to maintain professional registration, you will need to continue to develop your skills and knowledge throughout your working life.
With experience, you could become a Team Leader, Principal Social Worker or move into management.
This is an area of work where experience of working with people in need is important; two years' experience is a usual requirement.
Rehabilitation of Offenders Act
This career is an exception to the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974. This means that you must supply information to an employer about any spent or unspent convictions, cautions, reprimands or warnings, if they ask you to. This is different from other careers, where you only have to reveal information on unspent convictions if you are asked to.
For entry to a degree in social work, the usual minimum requirements are:
- 3 A levels or equivalent
- 5 GCSEs at grade C/4 or above including maths and English
To join a MA or MSc in Social Work, you’ll need:
- an undergraduate degree in any subject graded 2:2 or higher
- GCSE English and maths at C/4 or above
Various BTEC level 2 and level 3 qualifications can help you to get onto a relevant degree course. Subjects include*:
- inducting others in the assisting and moving of individuals in social care
- supporting activity provision in social care
- activity provision in social care
- assisting and moving individuals for social care settings
- induction into adult social care in Northern Ireland
- health and social care
- preparing to work in adult social care
- promoting food safety and nutrition in health and social care or early years settings
- supporting individuals with learning disabilities
*Exact titles may vary.
City & Guilds also offer various level 2 and 3 qualifications in areas that will help you to stand out from the crowd:
- food safety and nutrition in health and social care and early years and childcare settings
- preparing to work in adult social care
- induction into adult social care
- health and social care (level 1)
A Cambridge Technical level 3 qualification in health and social care is also a great way into this career.
Some universities accept the Welsh Baccalaureate as equivalent to 1 A level.
It is illegal for any organisation to set age limits for entry to employment, education or training, unless they can show there is a real need to have these limits.
The degree in social work lasts at least three years and includes 200 days of practical placement. A list of approved centres is available from the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC).
The social work degree can be studied full-time, part-time or by distance learning. If you are already in relevant employment, for example, within a social services department, you might be able to work towards the degree on a part-time basis.
If you are thinking of applying for a degree in social work, but don't have the relevant academic qualifications, there are relevant courses that you could take. This includes studying for a recognised Access to Social Work course or a QCF-accredited BTEC Level 3 Certificate, Subsidiary Diploma, Diploma or Extended Diploma in Health and Social Care. These courses are available to study part-time.
If you already have a degree, you can qualify in social work by taking a relevant Masters degree, studied full-time, part-time or via distance learning programmes. Further information on courses is available from approved centres.
Bursaries, administered by the NHS Business Services Authority (NHSBSA), may be available for full-time and part-time students who are not funded by their employer.
Funding for experienced and qualified social workers to do further training and research is available from the Social Workers Educational Trust.
- 20% of social workers work part-time.
- 32% have flexible hours.
- 7% of employees work on a temporary basis.
Professional institutions have the following roles:
- To support their members.
- To protect the public by keeping standards high in their professions.
For more information on the institution(s) relevant to this career, check out the contacts section.
Local government vacancies
myjobscotland: Scottish local government vacancies
Skills for Care & Development (SfC&D)
Skills for social work, social care and children's services
Address: 2nd floor, Westgate, 6 Grace Street, Leeds LS1 2RP
Tel: 0113 2411240
Scottish Social Services Council (SSSC)
Address: Compass House, 11 Riverside Drive, Dundee DD1 4NY
Tel: 0845 6030891
Aquestion Of Care
This site is a 'Skills for Care and Development' initiative
Children & Young People Now
Publisher: National Youth Agency (NYA)
Compass Guide: The annual guide to social work and social care
Publisher: Compass Career Opportunities Ltd
Address: The Barn, St James' Square, Wadhurst, East Sussex TN5 6AP
Tel: 01892 784804
Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC)
Address: Park House, 184 Kennington Park Road, London SE11 4BU
Tel: 0845 3006184
NHS Business Services Authority
Local Government Chronicle (LGC)
British Association of Social Workers (BASW)
Address: 16 Kent Street, Birmingham B5 6RD
Tel: 0121 6223911
British Association of Social Workers (BASW) Scotland
Address: Princes House, 5 Shandwick Place, Edinburgh EH2 4RG
Tel: 0131 2219445
Social Workers' Educational Trust
Publisher: British Association of Social Workers (BASW)
Address: 16 Kent Street, Birmingham B5 6RD
Careers Wales - Welsh Apprenticeships
Tel: 0800 028 4844
Welsh Local Government Careers
Social Care Wales
Address: South Gate House, Wood Street, Cardiff CF10 1EW
Tel: 0300 30 33 444
The Northern Ireland Social Care Council (NISCC)
Northern Ireland Enquiries
Address: Millennium House, 19-25 Great Victoria Street, Belfast. BT2 7AQ
Tel: 028 9536 2600