Well-versed in the world of psychology and general helpful attitude towards helping people to resolve the issues that they have, a Family Support Worker is one of the most popular jobs in the UK today.
But what is a Family Support Worker and what do they do and do you become one? Well, we’ve compiled a helpful career guide to help you to understand more about Family Support Workers and what they do.
What is a family support worker?
What is a support worker, and is it a career best-suited to you? It’s a challenging role ideal for an individual who wants to make a positive impact on the lives of young people, children and families. A child and family support worker is a varied role, and each case will be as different as the next, but it’s also gratifying. Family support workers offer emotional and practical support to families who are going through long or short-term difficulties.
They are usually employed by local authorities, working alongside the social services departments, or within charitable organisations. The primary focus of a family support officer is to provide support, empower individuals to face various challenges and in some instances, help to make sure the family can stay together. The family support worker job description includes helping children and parents with an array of personal and social issues.
Some individuals specialise in particular areas like grief, abuse and homelessness. The support worker role can also be known as a family intervention officer, family welfare assistant, family outreach officer, project worker, key worker or parenting support worker.
The skills of a support worker also extend to being resilient during emotionally-draining and traumatic situations.
What does a family support worker do?
A family worker will work with customers who are referred by a social worker. In some cases, a social worker and an outreach worker may join together to assess and offer support. Family support work varies depending on the needs of the case you’re managing, but you may choose to specialise in a particular area depending on the employer’s focus.
However, support worker duties may revolve around behaviour, grief, anti-social behaviour, caring responsibilities and criminal activity like a parent who is in prison. A child support worker will help users face bullying, finance and debt, housing and homelessness, domestic violence and abuse as well as drug and alcohol addiction. Education and learning and dealing with language barriers are also under the remit of family support jobs.
It doesn’t stop there; family support work can help with parenting skills, physical and mental health issues, disabilities and learning difficulties. In some cases, they may address separation and divorce, marital discord and care orders.
Regarding the duties of a support worker, they’ll conduct an initial assessment of a family’s needs, identify a support plan, address issues they may be facing and aim to prevent problems escalating. They’ll manage a regular caseload, review meetings, conduct home and community visits and work with allied professionals in both health and social care.
Support worker responsibilities extend to following professional practice standards, legislation and adhering to safeguarding, confidentiality, diversity, equality and inclusion policies - which is vital to the work. They should also have up-to-date knowledge of the local service to understand referral processes.
A parent support worker may specialise with parents within the family, assess parenting skills and help to build emotional and physical caring abilities through practical activities and learning. They may also meet with parents to enhance their understanding of different play and education activities, budget advice and home management.
Whereas, child support work instead may focus on learning and development and attend court sessions when relevant, for example, in cases regarding child protection. A school family support worker may conduct more community visits to meet with children and parents at school and liaise with teachers and education staff. Each support worker, whether general or specialised, will need to manage their workload, diary and administration commitments and maintain accurate records.
Some individuals specialise in particular areas like grief, abuse and homelessness.
How to become a support worker?
We’ve taken a look at the support worker roles and responsibilities; the next step is to find out how to make it a reality. If you’re thinking about becoming a family support practitioner, you’d be glad to know there are various routes for candidates to enter this career. There is usually a combination of relevant qualifications and experience which is sought after by potential employers.
Family support work qualifications have to be at least a level 3 qualification in a related subject like community work, childcare, counselling, advice and guidance, health, education, social care, counselling and youth work. Employers expect knowledge of safeguarding procedures and experience from people who apply to their vacancies.
Although you don’t have to study a degree to start in this career, if you do want to go to university, particular subjects can help your chances of finding a job. Education, social work, psychology, childhood studies and youth and community work degrees are relevant to family support worker training. Alongside family support worker courses, individuals need to pass an enhanced Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) check to work with children, young people and vulnerable individuals. When it comes down to the job selection process, employers asking family support worker interview questions may ask about your experience with these groups in either an educational or employment setting.
What support worker skills do you need for the job?
For the support worker career, you’ll need to be flexible, adaptable and be able to remain calm while working under pressure and when faced with confrontational and challenging behaviour. The family support worker role requires excellent listening and communication skills, a deep understanding of challenges families are facing as well as the ability to build a rapport with adults and children. Being organised and able to solve problems is also handy for the role of a family support worker as you’ll be supporting groups during difficult times.
The skills of a support worker also extend to being resilient during emotionally-draining and traumatic situations. They will be resilient and committed to making a positive impact on the lives of their cases and withhold judgement. A children support worker will remain positive, empathetic and sensitive in all situations regardless of the family or people involved. They’ll be able to manage their caseload, work independently but also have practical teamwork skills due to the multidisciplinary approach of the job. A family outreach worker needs excellent IT skills to maintain records as well as expert knowledge in local services and provision.
What is the average family support worker salary in the UK?
The support worker salary typically starts between £18,000 to £24,000 for those entering the career. After gaining experience, family intervention worker jobs can earn up to £35,000, or if they are within a supervisory role. The wage for a family support worker job role at the manager level, either a centre project or charity manager, can be as high as £50,000. For workers employed on a sessional, casual basis (or relief family support workers) they can earn between £8.00 and £15.00 per hour.
A parent support worker may specialise with parents within the family, assess parenting skills and help to build emotional and physical caring abilities.
What are the prospects for support workers?
For support worker roles, whether it’s parents or a children’s support worker, they tend to work within the public and not-for-profit sectors. Local authority social services departments, charities or specialist support organisations advertise vacancies. The role of a family support worker is to support and help vulnerable people and those in need, so charities and local services are some of the top employers in this career. Opportunities will be advertised on individual websites, regional and national press or via recruitment agencies.
After gaining experience and relevant qualifications, a family intervention worker may wish to specialise in a specific area, i.e., supporting people with disabilities. Most workers progress into supervisory or managerial positions, where they will lead a team, run a refuge, family centre or project.
These particular support worker roles involve planning, delivering and evaluating family services on top of senior responsibilities. Other individuals may choose to move into research and to study a PhD in family support. Another option is to progress to a social worker after studying.