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Career Options in Social Work

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Career Options in Social Work

The role of a Social Worker is not only rewarding, it’s also incredibly varied. We’re not just talking about your day-to-day duties, but also the career path you can follow and the different areas you can specialise in.

With just over 100,000 Social Workers spread across the UK, there is an ever-growing demand for qualified professionals which puts you in the driver’s seat.

In this blog, we run through everything you need to know about life as a Social Worker ­- from your daily duties and responsibilities, to specialisms and qualifications needed.

What Is a Social Worker?

A Social Worker aims to improve the lives of vulnerable people and their families by helping them live independently, promoting their well-being and protecting them from harm or abuse.

Most Social Workers choose to specialise in either adult or children’s services.

  • Adult services can include:

  • Older people

  • People with learning or physical disabilities

  • People with mental health issues

  • People with substance abuse issues

  • People in the criminal justice system

  • Refugees and asylum seekers

  • Children’s (and family) services can include:

  • Children who have experienced abuse

  • Children at risk of abuse

  • Children with mental health issues

  • Children with disabilities

  • Young offenders

  • Foster carers and adopters

Deciding which area to specialise in can be a tricky decision. Some Social Workers have a natural interest in working with the elderly or with children, for example. Whereas others will base their decisions on the topic rather than the patient, for example, mental health issues or substance abuse.

Either way, don’t be worried if you decide you want to change specialism part-way through your career. You will have gained invaluable skills that will quite often be transferable between clients and specialisms. In some cases, you may need to do some additional training and we’re happy to talk through your options when the time comes.

Where Do Social Workers Work?

Social Workers provide support and care across a range of different settings. You might specialise in helping foster children find safe and nurturing homes, so will visit prospective parents’ homes as well as interim care facilities.

If you focus on supporting people with substance abuse or mental health issues, you could end up working anywhere from a hospital to a school or even a prison. Social Workers providing care to elderly clients might do in-home visits or spend their time in residential care homes.

Employers can include Local Authorities, the NHS, private businesses or voluntary/charitable organisations. You can work on the front line and directly support clients, or move up to a supervisory role and put your people management skills to good use.

Social Workers also have the option of setting up their own, independent consultancies and working directly with patients or registering with recruitment agencies as Locum workers.

Social Worker Duties and Responsibilities

While no two days will ever be the same in a Social Worker job, there are some consistent duties and responsibilities across most roles.

They include:

  •         Visiting clients and patients in their homes or residential setting

  •         Assessing client’s needs before making recommendations and/or referrals

  •         Providing information and support

  •         Liaising with family, other healthcare professionals and service providers

  •         Keeping detailed and accurate records

  •         Writing reports

  •         Attending meetings ­which also may include contributing to court cases

Social Worker Skills and Attributes

It’s worth acknowledging that being a Social Worker can be a demanding role, both physically and mentally. You are supporting vulnerable people when they need help the most, and will sometimes be confronted with difficult situations and people.

On the plus side, there are few jobs out there where you can see the immediate and direct impact you’re making on people’s lives. Most Social Workers are passionate about helping others and put their clients at the centre of what they do.

One Social Worker we’ve worked with at Charles Hunter Associates put it perfectly:

“As a Social Worker, I cherish being the voice of those we support and strive to secure necessary resources for them”.

In terms of practical and social skills, Social Workers need to be able to:

  •        Work under pressure

  •         Remain calm in a crisis

  •         Deal with difficult behaviour

  •         Demonstrate empathy with clients and their families

  •         Adapt to new people, tasks and scenarios

  •         Show initiative

Key Social Worker attributes include:

  •         Problem-solving skills

  •         Resilience

  •         Patience

  •         Empathy

  •         Organisation skills

  •         Relationship-building skills

  •         Self-starter

Qualifications and Training for Social Workers

To get a job as a Social Worker you will need the following as a minimum:

  •         A recognised Social Work qualification (Degree/Diploma)

  •         Registered with Social Work England

Depending on the role itself, you may also have post-qualification experience or further study in a particular field. You should also have working knowledge and understanding of the current legislation and frameworks related to the role.

Looking for Help Recruiting a Social Worker?

Our team at Charles Hunter Associates specialises in Social Worker recruitment and has a steady stream of permanent and locum roles available. We work with Local Authorities and private organisations to find jobs for the best Social Workers across the UK.

If you’d like help finding your next job, or are considering a career as a Social Worker, contact one of our consultants today.