Social work

Social workers are regulated professionals who provide a range of support for individuals and families. They assess people’s needs under the care act and develop care and support plans alongside people and families. Social workers often have specialist knowledge or responsibilities within the law – such as the mental capacity act, mental health act, human rights act or equalities act. Local Authority social workers have a responsibility to intervene when people need safeguarding.

The role requires high levels of training, organisation, emotional intelligence and leadership skills. Social workers work as part of a multi-disciplinary team of health and social care professionals to support individuals with learning disabilities and or autism to live independently and get the care or support they and their families need.

Career roles and progression

You need to complete a degree in social work to become a social worker and then an assessed year in practice (ASYE) before you finally qualify.  Once you’ve successfully completed an approved degree programme you are then eligible to apply for registration with the regulator, Social Work England to work in England.

There are three ways to qualify as a social worker:

  • you can apply to a university and take a degree as a social work student
  • you can apply for a social work apprenticeship.  Apprentices will achieve a degree in social work whilst gaining ‘on-the-job’ experience to develop the knowledge, skills and behaviour required to be a competent social worker
  • people with an existing degree can apply to a fast track social work training course. Participants spend year one as part of small group of social workers under a consultant social worker and qualify as a social worker. Year 2 is spent working in a placement whilst studying for an Masters of Arts degree.

Find out about different social work roles – what they do, pay and benefits, training, entry requirements, financial support and career progression.

Approved Mental Health Professional

Approved mental health professionals are highly trained professionals who organise Mental Health Act assessments and make the decision as to whether to admit someone to hospital or not. They receive extra salary for the role – amounts vary.
Best Interest Assessor (BIAs)

Best interest assessors are highly trained professionals who assess people under the mental capacity act and support them to make decisions or make best interest decisions in appropriate. They receive extra salary for the role – amounts vary.
Consultant Social Worker

This role may also be called an advanced practitioner. This is an experienced professional lead. They will provide supervision and support for less experienced staff, support students and take on the most complex cases. They will usually earn a higher salary for this role.
Team Manager

Team managers are people who lead teams of social workers in learning disability services. This role is only open to very experienced social workers who usually have qualified as approved mental health professionals or best interest assessors or spent time as advanced professionals. A management qualification is useful. Team managers can go on to be area or service managers with greater levels of responsibility.
Approved Clinician

Approved Clinicians have very specific roles within the mental health act for people detained in hospital or under community treatment orders. Very experienced social workers can apply for these roles.
Principal Social Worker

The principal social worker is the most senior professional role in social work. Each Local authority and some NHS areas has a personal support worker. Their roles are outlined within the Care Act.

Why choose social work

Social work is a varied, demanding, often emotional and very rewarding career. As a social worker you can make a real difference to people’s lives, whether it is supporting someone to live on their own, to leave hospital or to access care and support that allows them to live the life they want. Social workers work with people, families and communities to promote independence, human rights, safeguarding and wellbeing.

Where social workers can work

Social workers often work for the local authorities but can also work within the NHS, independent sector and voluntary or charity sector. Social workers can be based in hospitals, community learning disability teams, local authority offices and voluntary sector organisations. A lot of their time is spent with people with learning disabilities. Social workers usually work as part of a team but have responsibility for the care of a number of different people. In addition, social workers often work closely with other organisations such as the police, health services, schools and probation services.