Social workers provide assistance to a wide range of people, including children, the homeless, people with substance, drug, or alcohol abuse problems. You might also support children or adults with disabilities, or help those in medical crises. You may support and work with older people, those at the end of their lives, those in prison, refugees and asylum seekers, those with mental health problems, carers and adopters, young offenders, those who have been abused or neglected, or victims of domestic violence. The list of the types of individuals that social people work with is long. This is certainly not an exhaustive list.
Your days may involve visiting people in their homes and working to build trusting relationships with them. You may counsel and provide information, create support plans, keep records and write reports, work on a team with other professionals, supervise other support team members, go to court, and talk about your cases with your supervisors.
Social workers work with many different entities in different industries, such as local authorities, NHS Trusts or the voluntary, or private sectors. You might also work for a social enterprise – or start your own — which is where social workers create their own companies or contract out their services.
In the U.K., a social worker can expect to earn between £24,000 to £40,000 on average per year. The amount that you earn can depend on your experience level, education level, location, who you work for, and other factors.
Your weeks as a social worker will typically range from between 37 to 40 hours. You may work on a rota system with other social workers, and you may need to work the night shift or be on-call.
To be a good social worker, you’ll need a variety of skills. First, you should be able to communicate clearly and to listen well. Also, you should be adept at building relationships with families, groups, and professional colleagues. Interpersonal skills are a must for social workers.
You need to be able to be discrete and tactful in your dealings with people. You should also know how to remain calm when a situation becomes stressful and use problem-solving skills to make sound decisions.
Social workers also need to be good at setting boundaries so that the lines between professional and personal life are not crossed. Finally, social workers must be resilient. They deal with emotionally-charged situations every day, and they must be able to take care of their own emotional needs to successfully work in this position.
Qualifications You Need To Become A Social Worker In The UK
- Get an approved university degree in social work
- Register with Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC)
- Pass a background check through the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS)
First, you need to earn a university degree in a social work program that the Health and Care Professions Council approves. An undergraduate course will take you about three years if you study full-time. If you have an undergraduate degree in another field, you can earn a two-year master’s degree in social work.
When you finish the course, you’ll also need to register with the necessary regional authority, such as the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC) if you’re in England.
The British Association of Social Workers notes that Step-Up is a full-time program the teaches you all you’ll need to know in just over a year. Frontline takes two years and involves classroom and hands-on training. These programs are good if you want to work with kids and families. The Think Ahead is a program that provides graduate training if you want to be a mental health social worker.
Next, you have to pass a background check through the Disclosure and Barring Service.
Try to get as much volunteer or internship work in the field as possible, or perhaps a job as an assistant to a social worker so that you can find the social worker position you want when the time is right. You’re not likely to be able to enter a fast-track program or get a placement into a master’s programme without some relevant work experience.
You may be able to find work in a caring capacity in a daycare centre, school, or care home. The Princes Trust provides a 70-day Student Social Work Placements programme if you’re working on an undergraduate or graduate degree in social work. You learn about supporting those between 16 and 25 with problems with education, emotional health, housing, finances, and abuse.
It could be hard to find a job shadowing opportunity for social work because of the heavy caseload social workers have. However, there may be opportunities through your local authority’s social services department. If you know a social worker, you can also call and enquire.
If you can find work as a carer, you can grow your management and leadership skills. Working in care setting like school is very helpful. If you have life experience where social work was involved, that may also qualify to get you into the university programme of your choice.
If you’re interested in nursing, some universities offer a combined social work and nursing degree.
A Social Work Degree Apprenticeship Program
Another route to becoming a social worker may open up soon. A social work degree apprenticeship program is potentially in the works. The decision on whether to move ahead with this scheme is expected in December 2017, with the program is hoped to start in the fall of 2018. Participants will have on-the-job training and study at university and earn a degree and the status of a professional social worker. Participants will be paid. You can learn more about this program at Skills for Care.
Your employer might offer the Assessed and Supported Year in Employment (ASYE) during which you’ll get extra support like regular supervision, time to achieve your training and development needs, and a training and development plan in your first year of social work employment. You can then earn a fitness to practice certificate after you pass your ASYE within the first year of working. After that, you’ll get a pathway to help keep your skills up to date. This is true in Northern Ireland, and in England, you’re supposed to have a reduced caseload and extra support. Every UK country will have different requirements for your first year or so in social work.
Every local authority will have a career pathway, and you may be able to study for a master’s in Advanced Professional Practice. You could end up working in management, research, or studying for your PhD. Additionally, you could work as a practice educator and train and mentor students from a partner university.
I hope this guide gave you a good overview of the social worker career path and progression. If you have any further questions or comments about how to become a social worker and working in social care please comment below or visit our career forum for more in-depth discussions.