Social Work Assistant

The Job and What's Involved

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:

  • Making contact with clients and following up enquiries.
  • Advising clients and their families about available resources.
  • Setting up appointments.
  • Carrying out routine home visits to monitor clients' welfare.
  • Following a social worker's care plan.
  • Assessing clients' needs and putting together care plans (for example, when a client leaves hospital).
  • Keeping records and writing reports.
  • Keeping up to date with changes in legislation.
  • Attending meetings with your department and outside agencies.
  • Liaising with other health and care professionals.

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.

Getting Started with this Career Choice

You could find opportunities with various employers, such as:

- Local authority social services departments
- Charities
- 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.

Education and Training

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 theCriminal 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.

A Few More Exams You Might Need

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.

Featured Job Guide - Oil Drilling Roustabout

Oil Drilling Roustabout

Oil Drilling Roustabouts and Roughnecks work as part of a small team on offshore oil or gas drilling rigs or production platforms. Roustabouts do unskilled manual labouring jobs on rigs and platforms, and Roughneck is a promotion from roustabout.

Roustabouts do basic tasks to help keep the rig and platform working efficiently and Roughnecks do practical tasks involved in the drilling operation, under the supervision of the driller.


Skills and Personal Qualities Needed

A social work assistant needs:

  • Excellent communication and interpersonal skills.
  • A practical and flexible approach to work.
  • Tact, patience and empathy.
  • An understanding of the needs of different client groups.
  • A non-judgemental attitude and the ability to relate to people of all backgrounds.
  • The ability to work in a team and also use your own initiative.
  • The ability to assess situations and take appropriate action.
  • Resilience, to cope with difficult situations and uncooperative clients.
  • Good time management and organisational skills.
  • Computer literacy and administrative skills.

Your Long Term Prospects

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.

Get Further Information

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

Other Related Jobs

Additional resources