Social work assistants support qualified social workers in helping, protecting and advising a wide range of people in the community, hospitals and other settings such as residential care homes.
As a social work assistant, you could work with a variety of client groups, including:
- Families under stress
- Older people
- People with physical or learning disabilities
- People with mental health problems
- Children at risk
Your duties could include:
You may be known by other job titles, such as community support worker, home care officer or social services assistant.
In a full-time job you would work around 37 hours a week. You could work fixed hours or a shift pattern including unsocial hours. Part-time and sessional work is common.
You could work in residential homes, hospitals, or in the community, travelling around the area and visiting clients in their homes.
Starting salaries can be around £16,000 a year. With experience and relevant qualifications, earnings can rise to between £18,000 and £22,000.
Hourly rates for agency work can be between £8 and £14.
You could find opportunities with various employers, such as:
- Local authority social services departments
- Voluntary agencies
- Care homes
- Social care recruitment agencies
Jobs may be advertised in the local and national press, employers' websites and by specialist recruitment agencies.
You will increase your chances of finding work if you have some experience (paid or voluntary) of working with people in a caring role. See the Social Work and Care Careers website for advice on volunteering and links to volunteer recruitment sites.
Employers will usually consider experience to be more important than your qualifications, although they may ask for a good standard of secondary education.
You may find it helpful to take a full- or part-time college course such as a BTEC National Certificate or Diploma in Health and Social Care before looking for work. This is not essential, but most social care courses include work placements and so can be a good way of getting useful experience.
For any job where you would be working (paid or unpaid) with children or vulnerable adults, you will need to pass background checks from the Criminal Records Bureau (CRB). (Previous convictions or cautions may not automatically prevent you from working in social care – see the website for full details).
A driving licence would be useful for jobs based in the community.
When you start your job your employer will provide induction training to approved national care standards. You will also learn on the job from experienced staff.
You are also likely to have ongoing training throughout your career, which may include in-house short courses and the chance to gain work-based qualifications such as NVQ levels 2-4 in Health and Social Care (specialising in working with adults or children and young people)*.
*The NVQs in Health and Social Care will be replaced in the coming months. From August 2010 the option for children and young people will be replaced by the Level 2 Certificate and Level 3 Diploma for the Children and Young People's Workforce (Social Care Pathway). New Diplomas at levels 2 and 3 in Health and Social Care (Adults) are currently in development.
You could study part-time at a local college for other qualifications such as a social care-related Foundation Degree. With this qualification you may be able to join the second year of a social work degree if you decided to train as a social worker in the future.
With experience, your employer may also offer the opportunity for you to study for the social work degree part-time.
The General Social Care Council (GSCC) runs a register of qualified and student social workers in England. In the future, all social care workers including assistants will need to join the register and follow the GSCC Code of Practice. See the GSCC website for more information about the register.
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A social work assistant needs:
With experience, you could work towards qualifying as a social worker by studying independently or with support and funding from your employer.
Alternatively, you could use your experience as a stepping stone into related careers such as family support work or counselling.
British Association of Social Workers (BASW),
16 Kent Street, Birmingham B5 6RD
Tel:0121 622 3911
Care Council for Wales (CCW)/
Cyngor Gofal Cymru (CGC),
South Gate House, Wood Street,
Cardiff CF10 1EW
Tel: 029 2078 0680
Northern Ireland Social Care Council (NISCC),
7th Floor, Millennium House,
19-25 Great Victoria Street, Belfast BT2 7AQ
Tel: 028 9041 7600
Scottish Social Services Council (SSSC),
Compass House, 11 Riverside Drive,
Dundee DD1 4NY
Tel: 0845 603 0891
Skills for Care, Albion Court,
5 Albion Place, Leeds LS1 6JL
Tel: 0113 245 1716
Social Work and Care Careers
Tel: 0300 123 1100
Additional resources for job seekers and those already in a job.