Your work is to protect vulnerable people – older people, children with disabilities, teenagers with mental health problems, young offenders, people who are socially excluded, refugees and asylum seekers, people with alcohol, drug or other addictions, adults with learning disabilities, etc. It is often a stressful job but often ultimately rewarding.
Who can I work for?
The Department of Health, local authorities, The Care Quality Commission, residential and private nursing homes, hospitals and hospices, GP's surgeries and voluntary and independent agencies.
Where and when can I work?
Largely at the service users' permanent or temporary place of residence – ie, their home, hospital or hospice. Normal office hours 37 hours a week, but this might involve shift work at evenings or weekends.
What can I earn?
This varies between setting, sector and area. However, a newly qualified social worker could typically expect to earn £18K a year, rising to £30K with experience. Management and supervisory roles will bring you up to £50K.
What are the benefits?
Knowing that you can make a difference.
Are there chances of promotion?
Management or supervisory positions are offered by most organisations. You might specialise in one of the many fields available. Or you might move into an auditing role (as offered by the Care Quality Commission), or training, academic or research positions.
What will I be responsible for?
- Helping to enhance relationships and enable families stay together where possible and help people to live fulfilled lives as independently as possible.
- Managing a caseload – a number of cases of individuals/families who they work with at any one time. Your work will involve visits to service users, assessments, organising packages of support, making recommendations or referrals to other services and agencies, keeping detailed records and taking part in multi-disciplinary team meetings.
- Assiduously keeping records of meetings and visits and service users' progress.
- Evaluating a service users' state of health and needs and relating this to them and, where necessary, their family.
- Making arrangements for foster care to be put in place or custodial arrangements for children at risk in extreme circumstances.
- Ensuring you are acting with due diligence at all times.
- Working closely with other health professionals to achieve the best possible outcome.
- Making difficult decisions – for example, you might be compelled to have a child you feel is at substantial risk at home taken away from their parents against all their wishes.
- You may be occasionally asked to give evidence in court.
What qualifications do I need?
A three-year General Social Care Council-accredited social work degree. If you have a degree in a different subject, some universities offer a shorter post-graduate course leading to a Masters degree, which will allow you to practise social work. This is usually takes two years.
Do I need any experience?
To get a social work degree placement, you need to show experience of social work or social care (ie, work placements, caring, etc), an understanding of social work and a degree at The University of Life. You'll also typically need five good GCSEs, including English and maths, and two A-levels. This profession is fortunate in that there are several voluntary posts to test aptitudes before you decide to commit to the job full-time. Visit www.sssc.uk.com/sssc/social-service-careers/volunteer-work.html for details.
What attributes are needed?
Patience and tact. A driving licence. Ability to function efficiently under stress. You'll be a brilliant communicator, you'll have to convince sometimes depressed, alienated or addicted service users that you're on their side. The ability to display empathy while remaining professionally detached.