Social Workers

  | James Innes

A Career as a Social Worker


Social Workers can be based within residential settings, such as children’s homes, hostels and care homes, or in a field-based capacity working within the community.  Either way, their role is very similar and involves providing counselling, advice and support to vulnerable adults or children, including offenders.  The clients they work with may be drug or alcohol dependent, suffering from a long-term illness, experiencing mental health problems or the subject of some form of abuse.  The role of the Social Worker is to assess their needs and the subsequent level of social and emotional support that they may require.

Residential Social Workers who work with children are responsible for ensuring that their clients are provided with a safe, secure and friendly environment and will organise various activities for them aimed at developing their life skills to enable them to live independently in the future.  With adults, their responsibilities may also include helping them with the daily running of their lives including handling finances and benefit claims.  Social Workers with elderly clients will be responsible for ensuring that their clients live a dignified, safe and comfortable life within their residential setting.

Community-based Social Workers work closely with a variety of clients including families where children are considered to be at risk.  They advise on drug and alcohol issues, support offenders and help people with terminal illnesses adjust to their situation. 

Social Workers form a vital part of an extensive support network which can include doctors, teachers, police and other health care professionals.  They are required to demonstrate excellent counselling skills and the ability to develop positive relationships with their clients while remaining professionally detached.  Acting on behalf of a caseload of clients necessitates good time management and the flexibility to be able to respond to the needs of a client whenever required.

Entry requirements

It is not possible to practise as a Social Worker without a degree or postgraduate qualification approved by the General Social Care Council (GSCC), after which you can apply for professional registration.  The degree can often be achieved through part-time study while also gaining practical experience in the field.

Progression opportunities

Social Workers can be employed by local authorities or by private organisations and charities.  Progression is available to senior level and some Social Workers diversify to work in training or education.  Salary is relatively good depending on experience, with Directors of Social Work being at the top of the pay scale.

The role of a Social Worker is one that is not only rewarding but also extremely demanding and often frustrating.  It can be emotionally draining, and a strong character is required in order to cope with the various issues and problems faced by the clients.

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