I Want To Work In … Social Work
Social work covers a wide range of different specialisms, but two of the most important are:
- Residential social work. The care and supervision of a group of persons (e.g. children, elderly people, the mentally or physically handicapped, people suffering from alcohol or drug addiction, etc) in a residential home or school.
- Field social work. Dealing with problems of individuals or groups, e.g. child care, mental welfare, finding foster homes, advising those adopting children. Trying to restore acceptable or improved social conditions for the individual family or community.
Qualities required include:
- A desire to help the disadvantaged
- Ability to communicate clearly and effectively
- Ability to establish a rapport with all kinds of people
- Concern for others' feelings without becoming emotionally over-involved
Willingness to work outside the normal 9 - 5 pattern
You will need a degree in social work to become a social worker. If you are not studying this subject at the moment you will need to take another undergraduate degree in the future: this is normally a full three-year degree in social work, but there are some accelerated two-year programmes for graduates in relevant subjects such as sociology, social policy, psychology and law.
Some employers, especially local authority social services departments, will sponsor students on these courses. It is not a disadvantage to have studied another subject first – social work is an area where maturity and experience are assets.
You should start to build up this experience as early as possible – this may be through volunteering, through part-time paid care work or through any work in a setting that brings you into contact with people who may use social or voluntary services, or with related professions. See our Work Experience pages www.kent.ac.uk/careers/vacwork.htm
Options with a social work degree www.prospects.ac.uk/options_social_work.htm
Social Worker Profile
RESIDENTIAL SOCIAL WORK. The care & supervision of a group of persons (e.g. children, elderly people, the mentally or physically handicapped, people suffering from alcohol or drug addiction, etc) in a residential home or school.
FIELD SOCIAL WORK. Dealing with problems of individuals or groups, e.g. child care, mental welfare, finding foster homes, advising those adopting children. Trying to restore acceptable or improved social conditions for the individual family or community.
Related jobs include Youth Work, Community Work, Housing Management, Probation Work.
Satisfactions. Enabling people to make a fresh start & rebuild their lives. Variety; independence; making decisions; getting results for people/organisations.
Negatives. Stress - dealing with emotionally vulnerable people. Can be depressing; Can be frustrating - things can be slow to change.
Skills needed. Spoken communication, cooperating, listening, ability to establish a rapport with all kinds of people. Concern for others' feelings without becoming emotionally over-involved. Willingness to work outside the normal 9-5 pattern
Tips. You will need practical experience of social work before starting a course. This can be obtained from part-time voluntary work. Previous experience of welfare benefits & housing advice giving/counselling etc. also very useful. Speculative applications to local authority social services departments & voluntary bodies are also likely to be worthwhile.
Social work interviews with local authorities
Interview and selection exercises change each year and varies depending on the local authority.
In one local authority the selection exercise involved applicants being given a case study to consider - they were then given a number of questions about it to discuss in a small group. Selectors were looking for understanding of the issues, relevant law and guidance, communication skills - ability to argue their point and respect for the views of other candidates.
In another authority, because of the high intake, candidates were asked to discuss a detailed case study in a group surrounded by observers and only those who did well in this were asked for interview.
Some authorities use an in tray exercise, particularly for intake teams. For example "Here are eight different circumstances, please prioritise these". In another local authority applicants were given 30 minutes to read a case study and write down questions. The case study was then discussed at the beginning of the interview e.g. adult protection: you might not know exactly what to do but how would you deal with the situation?
Social Care Careers www.socialcare.co.uk/social-care-careers.asp career advice articles and interviews with social work professionals.
- Prospects Sector Briefing on Social Care www.prospects.ac.uk/links/SocialSB
- The Department of Health's social work and social care website www.socialworkcareers.co.uk
- Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC) www.hpc-uk.org in 2012 the regulation of the social work profession and education transferred to the HCPC
- British Association of Social Workers www.basw.co.uk
- Society Guardian http://society.guardian.co.uk - news, vacancies and careers advice – plus “Clare in the Community”
- Community Care www.community-care.co.uk Community Care is the major magazine of the Social Care sector. Its website contains a wide range of information about current issues in Social Care, as well as a jobs page
- Social Care Online www.scie-socialcareonline.org.uk – extensive free database of social care information
- Target Social Care http://targetjobs.co.uk/career-sectors/social-care
- BBC News "Who would be a social worker?" www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-13230881
- BBC News Nov. 2012. Top graduates urged to become social workers www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-20355999
- How to fix the problem of work placements for social work students
- First increase in social work roles for three years
- 4Social Work www.4socialwork.com social care recruitment agency.
- Compass www.compassjobsfair.com - runs regular careers and recruitment events
- Ecarers www.ecarers.com job board for qualified and unqualified work in the social care sector.
- Great Social Care www.greatsocialcare.co.uk nationwide job-board promoting careers in social work, residential care, and social housing.
- All Care Jobs www.allcarejobs.co.uk Social care job vacancies.
- Kent Social Care Professionals http://kentscp.com/en Offer locum and permanent positions to newly qualified social workers; also offer vacation work and course related work placements.
Last fully updated 2012