How to become a qualified social worker
There are many job vacancies for qualified social workers in the UK at the moment, in this article we look at what a social worker does and how you can become one.
6th April 2011
A social worker is a qualified professional who acts as an adviser, advocate, counsellor and listener to many people throughout the community. Their role is primarily to help people achieve a better quality of living by finding solutions to their problems. In an adult community setting this may involve helping someone with mental health difficulties to come up with a routine for an independent lifestyle, or working with an elderly person to find them suitable housing after being discharged from hospital.
There is a framework of policy and legislation that all social workers must work within, but very often they will work as a part of a multi-disciplinary team of health professionals. As with many professions, the skills of a social worker are not just academic taught in the but the interpersonal skills to communicate and empathise with all kinds of people.
The tasks that a social worker might perform include:
- conducting individual assessments to establish if there is a need for further support
- making recommendations for the supply of that support
- offering information and counselling for the individual and their family
- explaining information about benefits, allowances and the services they could access
- liaising with other professionals within the MDT (multi-disciplinary team) to ensure a coherent response
- give evidence in a case that has gone to court
Where can you work as a social worker
Social workers can be involved with all parts of the community, but some choose to specialise in a particular part of society. There are social workers who work solely with children and families, people with mental health problems or the elderly.
A social worker working within children and family services may have a caseload of between 25 and 35 individuals ranging from younger children to teenagers about to move into the care of the adult services team. The are responsible for facilitating a better quality of life for each individual by helping them with decisions about their future, providing information about different options and arranging for ongoing support where necessary. A social worker can allocate budget to supply a support worker to an individual, or find a place in a residential home if required.
There are also social workers who specialise in working with people who have mental health problems. Mental health problems can sometimes leave people feeling isolated and removed from the community, and a social worker can help with re-integration and working on coping techniques to promote a healing process. A social worker can also help to prevent a downward spiral of drug and substance abuse by working closely with someone throughout their healing process.
Social workers are also found in acute environments, primarily in the public sector. A social worker based in a hospital will assess people ready for discharge to decide whether they are safe to return home or whether they require a nursing or residential place for their ongoing care. They work with the individual to assess their suitability for returning home and plan the assistance they could need to facilitate this process. A social worker can arrange a home care package and they will work with the MDT to ensure any home aids that are required are also delivered.
How to become a social worker
As with the majority of qualified healthcare jobs, you need to go to university and do a degree before you can become a qualified social worker. The degree course is usually 3 years long and can lead to a BSc, BA or BSW qualification, all of which are valid for professional registration with the General Social Care Council (GSCC). All social workers are registered with the GSCC, and in order to continue practising must renew their registration every three years.
There is also a post-graduate entry route to becoming a social worker. Many universities offer a 2 year course for graduates that either end in a MA or MSc being awarded. Whichever route you choose to become a social worker, the courses are intense and are a mixture of academic study and practical experience. Each student must complete a minimum number of days in a professional social work environment in order to be eligible for their professional registration.
Many social work students come to study with some kind of care related previous experience. Whether that has come from being a care assistant in a care home, or being a community support worker looking after people in their own homes, it’s important that you have a strong caring nature if you are going to succeed as a social worker. You must also be a quick thinker, able to sympathise with an individual’s situation, and have an objective view at all times.
Personal qualities are just as important as academic achievement, and it’s gaining a balance between the two that makes a confident, and successful social worker.
View our entire selection of qualified social worker jobs here
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