Social work is one of the most important areas of work in the UK. A social worker is someone who works with individuals and families by providing support via official channels, whether that be psychology, counselling or signing up clients for various rehabilitation programmes.
What is a social worker?
A social worker supports individuals and their families through difficult situations. A social worker will work to a framework of procedures and legislation and may work in schools, hospitals, homes, or the public sector. A qualified social worker may be supported by assistants or supervising social workers and will also work with other professionals within the health and social care sector.
Social workers with various communities, including:
- Drug and alcohol abusers
- The elderly
- The homeless
- People with learning and physical disabilities
- People with mental health conditions
- School non-attenders
- Young offenders
Often, a social worker must work across these different groups rather than specialising in one area. Some social workers have been known to specialise in certain areas but will still be expected to cover multiple areas.
The responsibilities in most social worker jobs change depending on where you are working and your role. The most common responsibilities of a social worker are:
- Conduct assessment interviews.
- Liaise with healthcare professionals.
- Maintain accurate records.
- Maintain relationships with the crown prosecutions service (CPS).
- Make court appearances.
- Offer support to those who need it.
- Recommend solutions to families or people regarding their next steps.
- Undertake training courses.
- Write up assessment interview notes.
As a social worker, you may find that you have additional responsibilities handed to you if you move into senior roles. This may include managing staff budgets, training new staff members and meeting with directors.
A social worker's salary depends on several key factors. Those who work in London tend to command a better salary than those in other areas. The company you are working for can have an impact, as can the level of qualification you have. If you work for the NHS, at any point, your salary will be tied to the Agenda for Change pay scale.
To begin with, social workers typically expect a salary of around £25,000 and £30,000. Once you are more established and have the required experience, your salary can reach £37,000. With appropriate experience, social workers have been known to earn up to £56,000.
A degree is not a requirement for this role but is considered an advantage. Any degree that you have will need to be approved by one of four regulators, which are:
- Northern Ireland Social Care Council (NISCC)
- Scottish Social Services Council (SSSC)
- Social Work England
- Social Care Wales
The best subjects to study at university for social workers are:
These subjects can also be studied at a postgraduate level. Depending on what degree you are doing, you may potentially be eligible for an NHS bursary.
Training and development
Though training and development will be your responsibility, your employer will likely have many options for you to explore too. A newly qualified social worker will need to register with Social Work England (or any other country equivalent). In order to maintain this registration, you will need to complete a continuing professional development (CPD).
Those who are registered with Social Work England will also have access to a series of training programmes. There will also be a number of career services offered by the organisation for those looking to extend their careers or move into different areas of social work and social worker apprenticeship opportunities.
Other training providers are recommended. The Assessed and Supported Year in Employment (ASYE) scheme from the government is an excellent way to receive support in the first year of practicing social work.
The British Association of Social Workers (BASW) also operates a scheme of its own. The scheme is called the professional capabilities framework (PCF) which helps those who are carrying out their studies or are working on their CPD.
There are several key skills required to be an effective social worker. The skills needed for this role are:
- Excellent communication skills.
- Excellent organisational skills.
- Good negotiation skills.
- The ability to work on your own.
- The ability to work under pressure.
- The ability to work with others.
These skills can also be further honed through training and development.
There are many career routes a social worker can take. Social workers can also work as mental health social workers, education welfare officers, or healthcare social workers. You may choose to specialise as a day-care social worker or even a homelessness officer. The social work salary may differ in these specialised roles. Additionally, you can choose to specialise in adoption, fostering, or child protection and with the elderly.
With experience, you can also start to progress to a senior practitioner or team manager. These roles include most common responsibilities and managing a team or other social workers. Another career option for social workers is to become a practice educator, where you can get involved in the management and supervision of social work students and assistants. Also, you may wish to move toward the Care Quality Commission (CQC) or Social Work England. They are responsible for auditing, regulating, and reviewing social care providers across the country.