Social workers work across homes, schools and hospitals to provide support, advice and resources to vulnerable or deprived individuals and families.
They work to safeguard both children and adults from harm and endeavour to improve the quality and outcomes of people’s lives through long-term support.
For example, they may support a woman suffering from domestic abuse, with the aim of protecting them from the abusive partner.
Or they may work with a disabled person who needs support with living independently.
This comprehensive guide features a full social work job description and covers everything you need to know about the role of a social worker, including skills, qualifications, duties, salaries and career progression.
- Social worker job description
- How much do social workers earn?
- What does a social worker do?
- Requirements, skills and qualifications
- Who employs social workers?
- Which junior jobs progress to social worker roles?
Social worker job description
Social worker | Local Authority
We’re a forward-thinking local authority pride themselves on passionately supporting our local borough and communities, and always place local people at the heart of our development decisions and future plans.
About the role
Reporting to the senior support worker, you’ll be working with vulnerable adults across the community, reviewing their needs and creating effective packages of care to improve their quality of life and safeguard them.
- Visiting services users and carrying out complete initial assessments and pinpointing risks
- Creating effective care packages and SMART plans for assigned service users
- Working collaboratively with our multi-disciplinary teams to provide the best possible care solutions for service users
- Making recommendations for short-term care, intermittent care and permanent residential care as necessary
- Ensuring that service user’s strengths, assets and wishes are maximised and potential for independence is maximised where possible
- Using spreadsheets and software to accurately track, monitor and review caseload information
- Highlighting health and warfare risks of service users to relevant authorities in a timely manner
- Carrying out all work in line with the required local and national policies, procedures, best practice and legislation
Location & commitments
- Full-time, permanent role based primarily in the council’s modern offices
- Regular travel required to visit services users; all fuel expenses paid
- Core working hours of 9-5, with flexibility needed for occasional out-of-hours shifts and overtime
- 2:2 or above degree or postgraduate qualification in social work
- Up-to-date and enhanced DBS check
- Full UK driving license
- Knowledge of all statutory and regulatory frameworks and of an appropriate range of professional interventions
- Passion and drive for improving quality and achieving positive outcomes for the adults in our community
- Strong written communication skills with experience of report writing
- The ability to effectively organise your own time and work quickly
- Experience of working within adult services (university placements accepted)
Contact us to apply
If you’d like to work with a dedicated team of passionate social workers and care providers, with service users who continually bring a smile to our faces, then why not apply today? Send your CV and a short cover letter across to our recruitment team on firstname.lastname@example.org.
How much do social workers earn?
While newly qualified social workers can start on a relatively low wage, salaries rise quickly with experience — with the average social worker salary UK currently sitting at £42,500.
Social worker salaries in the UK
- Low: £31,787
- Average: £42,500
- High: £61,137
Social worker salaries will vary depending on:
- The type of employer – For example, NHS, local authority, children’s home, local practices etc.
- The type of people being supported – Salaries will vary depending on the type of person the social worker supports, for example, mental health, children, vulnerable adults or hospital patients
- General salary factors – Such as level of candidate experience and location.
For example, a senior children’s social worker working for a large private sector organisation in London will normally earn more than a newly qualified social worker working for a small local authority, where budgets are limited.
It’s important to remember that the figures above are taken from job advert samples and so do not factor in extra benefits such as bonuses, overtime, holidays and non-financial benefits such as healthcare.
What does a social worker do?
While job descriptions will vary depending on the sector being worked in, here are the typical tasks and responsibilities that the average social worker will carry out:
- Visiting clients: Visiting or meeting with clients regularly, asking questions, discussing issues and assessing social problems
- Interviewing clients: Conducting formal interviews with clients and their families, reviewing their situation and assessing their support needs and requirements
- Writing assessments: Writing and maintaining accurate assessments of clients to feedback on their needs, progress and risks
- Organising support: Creating detailed support and care plans and packages to help clients overcome their problems
- Promoting independence – Encouraging clients to become independent by teaching them life skills and introducing them to services and activities
- Making recommendations: Recommending the best course of action, and often making tough decisions, for clients and their families
- Safeguarding clients: Supporting clients’ well being and safety and taking the appropriate action to protect them from harm if necessary, such as reporting to authorities or police
- Liaising with care providers: Working in collaboration with other social workers, care workers, officials and local government to provide the best standards of support
- Attending court: Giving evidence in, attending or contributing towards court cases in situations of abuse
What do social workers need?
Social workers require specialist qualifications, skills and knowledge in order to gain their first role and carry out their job safely and effectively.
The specific requirements do vary from role to role, depending on the level of seniority of the job being applied for, as well as the type of social work being carried out — generally though, here’s what’s required:
Social worker jobs are available to all graduates who’ve successfully completed a social work degree or apprenticeship. Some employers may prefer graduates who’ve also gained some relevant experience through volunteering, placements or shadowing.
Senior social worker or care manager roles normally required between 3 and 5 years full-time experience.
Social worker skills
Aside from the sector-specific hard skills mentioned above (such as safeguarding and carrying out assessments), the following soft skills will help social workers to thrive in their role and provide the best standard of support:
- Communication: Communicating with a wide range of people, including clients, families, staff and external providers, both verbally and in writing
- Listening: Listening effectively to clients and being genuinely engaged in order to establish trust and respect
- Interpersonal: Building strong and trusting relationships with people from all walks of life
- Organisation: Juggling the needs of clients with demanding administrative and office tasks and prioritising tasks according to the urgency of the client’s need
- Flexibility: Reacting to rapidly changing situations, workloads and shift patterns calmly and professionally
- Resilience: Consistently dealing with emotionally challenging situations such as illness, addiction, trauma and abuse
- IT: Using tools and programmes on computers to log reports and assessments
Social worker qualifications
Certain qualifications are essential to gain a job as a social worker, though work and study or apprenticeship options are increasingly available.
There are also a number of professional development certifications and qualifications that could help candidates to land senior-level jobs, in addition to helping them perform better in their roles.
Social work degree
In order to gain employment as a social worker, a degree or postgraduate degree in social work is essential.
To gain a position on an accredited course, students must have gained A-Levels or an NVQ level 3 in Health and Social Care.
Social work undergraduate degrees are available in universities and university colleges across the country and normally offer a mix of theoretical and practical study, including work placements.
For those who studied a different undergraduate course and later decided they wanted to become a social worker, the most common route into employment is a postgraduate social work course. These courses usually ask for a 2:2 or above degree in any subject.
The chosen degree or postgraduate course must be approved by one of the following bodies:
- Social Work England
- Social Care Wales
- Northern Ireland Social Care Council (NISCC)
- Scottish Social Services Council (SSSC)
Specialist training and qualifications
Ups-killing and gaining additional professional qualifications can help social workers to boost their employability, specialise their knowledge and gain faster progression into senior and management-level roles.
Many social workers will be supported in gaining additional qualifications through their employer, but those looking to pay special attention to their training should keep up to date with the following organisations:
- CPD (Continuous pProfessional Development)
- HCPC (The Health Care and Professionals Council)
- SCIE (Social Care Institution for Excellence)
In addition to their qualifications, social workers also require an enhanced criminal records check from the Disclosure and Barring Service, to ensure they have no criminal convictions that would make it dangerous for them to wok with children or vulnerable people.
What is expected of social workers?
Social workers will typically be expected to commit the following;
- Full time hours – Hours average at about 37 per week
- Possibility of unsociable hours – Due to the nature of the work, regular unsociable hours (evening and weekend work) are to be expected, especially for residential care support workers
- Exposure to distressing situations – Social workers deal with victims of child abuse, domestic abuse, severe disabilities and lots of other extremely difficult circumstances
- Location – Office based with regular visits to hospitals, client’s homes or schools
Social worker benefits
In addition to the salary, social workers on permanent contacts usually receive a good benefits package, including perks like:
- Pension scheme
- Private healthcare
- Car allowances
- NHS/care worker discounts
- Childcare vouchers
- Family-friendly working schemes
Who employs social workers?
Due to the ongoing need for care and support for vulnerable adults and families across the country, employment opportunities for social workers are readily available all over the UK. There’s a reported shortage of qualified social workers, with one in 10 social workers roles roles remaining unfilled.
Social workers are typically employed by:
- Local authorities
- Social services
- Health and social care trusts
- Local GP practices
- Children’s homes
- Adult care homes
- Private nursing homes
- Independent agencies
- Housing organisations
Which junior jobs progress to social worker roles?
Aside from work and study or apprenticeship schemes, there are a number of roles that may help aspiring social workers progress into the job.
However, this would be on the basis that the employer supported their employee in gaining a support worker degree.
Social worker’s assistant
Due to the challenging demands of the role, social workers are often supported by a social work assistant. The job normally includes helping to care for and support clients, as well as taking on a range of administrative office duties. With experience, employers may offer to support and fund the process of qualifying as a social worker.
Support or care worker
Support worker and care worker jobs tend to be more hands-on than social worker roles, involving the day-to-day physical care of vulnerable or elderly service users (rather than their long term care plans) within their own home, or within a residential care home. Sometimes, local authority employers offer sponsorship to support workers, allowing them to remain on the payroll whilst studying for a social work degree.
Which senior jobs do social workers progress to?
The health and social work sector is diverse, meaning progression opportunities and specialisation routes for qualified social workers are plentiful. Some of the most popular progression paths include:
Senior/manager social worker
As a qualified social worker with a few years of full-time experience, the next natural step is to become a senior social worker or manager. These roles include managing a team of newly-qualified social workers and carrying out less hands-on client visits, but gaining more managerial and financial responsibilities.
Social work director
With significant experience in a senior social worker role or equivalent, a job as a social worker director is achievable. This job includes taking the lead of an entire social work department or facility, and managing a large team to deliver a consistent service across a large area.
Many social workers choose to specialise in a certain area, such as child protection, mental health, the elderly or fostering and adoption.
Social worker job description – conclusion
While a job as a social worker is challenging and emotionally taxing, it can also be a highly rewarding role; giving workers the chance to positively impact people’s lives.
Demand for social workers remains steady, but many roles remain unfilled, meaning qualified social workers can easily find suitable employment across the UK.
Additionally, with experience, salaries can be high, and the sector offers plenty of opportunity for career progression and specialism.
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