A career in social work is one in which you have to balance diplomacy, advocacy and the law to support and protect vulnerable groups in our society.
It can be a very challenging role that will sometimes mean letting people down as conflicting requirements can make it difficult to meet needs.
You may even have to cope with clients passing away while in your care, depending on the field you specialise.
Your role will see you navigate relationships between hospitals and doctors, community mental health teams, care homes and third-party support services. All to provide your clients with the help and care they need.
The person-centred approach will require you to identify what your clients require in order to lead full and happy lives, regardless of circumstances.
You will tailor care plans to the individual and work with third parties to make sure needs are being met.
To become a social worker, you need to be qualified in the field. This can either be a degree or a Master’s in social work.
What does a day in Social Work look like?
The day of a social worker can vary wildly depending on the team they work in. Older Peoples’ teams will support older people to maintain their independence or support them in a care setting if they have diminished capacity or there’s suspicion of neglect.
In a children and families team, you will tackle everything from child abuse to family breakdowns and mediation.
The different areas of care that social workers can specialise in are:
- Learning disabilities
- Mental health
- Children and families
- Older people
- Alcohol, drug and substance abuse
- Housing and homelessness
- Criminal justice and ex-offender rehabilitation
- Palliative and hospice care
Specialising can sometimes require additional training. Depending on the nature of the training and existing qualification these can last up to 2 years.
Regardless of team or circumstances, there are core responsibilities that all social workers can expect. These include:
- Creating care plans for individuals whether they are coming out of hospital or need ongoing support
- Recognise potential safeguarding issues and take necessary steps
- Monitoring and evaluating clients and keeping records of their progress
- Advocating for client rights and keeping up to date with relevant legislation
- Identifying requirements to sustain independent living – such as home aides and adaptations
- Referring patients to relevant third-party providers to access support
Rather than providing direct care, a social worker’s role is to assess the needs of the individual, advocate on their behalf and signpost.
Where necessary they can also enact safeguarding legislation and even remove people from unsafe environments.
They work with health, social care, mental health, law and judicial professionals to ensure that the appropriate support is in place for each case.
As a result, social workers are rarely office-based and can spend their day travelling to various locations including the client’s home, hospitals, the court, and a range of other locations.
To become a social worker, you must meet the minimum requirements as set out by the Health and Care Professionals Council.
This includes at least 5 grade 5 (formally grade C) GCSEs, including maths, English and science, along with 2 relevant A Levels.
Although there is no clear definition of what constitutes ‘relevant’, UCAS recommends sociology, psychology and law. Criminology arguably could be considered relevant too.
However, entry requirements can differ from one university to another so if you know where you want to study, check in advance.
If you already have a degree – again in a relevant area of study – then you can study a Master’s degree in social work.
You will need at least a 2:1 to be considered for a Master’s course in addition to the qualifications above.
Whether you’re studying a degree or Master’s, make sure the course is approved by the Health and Care Professions Council before you enrol.
Along with your social work degree, you will need to pass a Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) check and become a registered member of the HCPC.
If you’re studying in Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland courses are approved by the Scottish Social Services Council, Care Council for Wales and the Northern Ireland Social Care Council respectively.
But what do you do if you don’t have the A Levels you need to make it on to a degree course?
There are two defined pathways you can take towards becoming eligible for a social work degree.
The first is studying to get your A Levels. This is an entirely valid approach and studying A Levels gives you both the breadth of subject matter and nationally recognised qualifications.
The big drawback is the time it will take you to get the qualifications. Each A Level course will take you a year to complete. It can be done in less time but if you’re balancing work and home life, it could be a struggle.
Some universities will only ask for two A Levels with good passing grades in order to enrol, but that’s still 2 years of study.
Access to Higher Education Diplomas
A common alternative to A Levels is the Access to Higher Education Diploma.
Because of the specialist knowledge required to be an effective social worker, there is a dedicated Access to HE Diploma available.
This is a social work Access course, and during your studies, you will cover sociology, psychology as well as specific elements surrounding social work.
You will also learn about academic writing skills and how to structure assignments.
By the time you have completed the social work Access course, you will have a firm grasp of all the key principles and will be able to advance towards degree level study.
Access to HE Diplomas are developed in partnership with universities, so the social work Access course content is up to date and reflects the material covered at university.
If you opt to take the Access to Higher Education route into university, you don’t need to study for any other qualification. Providing you meet any other course requirements.
The social work Access diploma will give you everything you need to know. You can also qualify within a year – although you have up to two years if you need it.
The added benefit of studying an Access to HE Diploma (or any course) online is you can start right away. There are no term start dates.
Online learning gives you the freedom to study at a time and place that works best for you.
You still get the benefit of tutor support, the qualification and expanding your knowledge but without the pressures of attending classes.
You can organise your learning around your circumstances and tailor your studies in a way that works best for you.
And don’t forget, online learning usually offers a flexible way of paying for the course so you can manage your finances better too.
To enrol on your Access to Higher Education Diploma today click the button below.