Introduction to a career in social work

Social work is an important and varied career working with some
of society’s most vulnerable people and helping them to live
independent lives.

Social workers work with service users and other professionals
to organise the right kind of care or help for people who, for
whatever reason, need some extra support from society.

Social workers can find themselves working in a wide range of
places and with a wide range of people –  children, older people,
people with mental health problems, people with physical or
learning difficulties, people who are homeless, and people whose
lives are affected by HIV and AIDS, drugs and alcohol.  Some social
workers work in youth and criminal justice services or in adoption
and fostering. The diversity of jobs means that social work is a
varied and rewarding career which can make a real difference to
people’s lives.

More recently, social work is seen as part of the social care
world – bringing together social workers with care workers who
often provide the hands-on personal care and support people need.
In England there are approximately 1.2 million social care workers
– one in 20 of the adult working population – and 23,000

Social workers have to be registered with the General Social Care
. This body, set up in October 2001, regulates the
social care workforce through registration and codes of conduct and
practice. There is a registration fee, and social care workers are
expected to adhere to codes of conduct and practice. Breaches of
the codes could lead to suspension or deregistration. Social work
students are also registered. The aim of regulation is to prevent
abuse of vulnerable service users by keeping unsuitable people out
of the profession. Regulation of the workforce has been widely
welcomed by the sector as a way of raising the status, standing and
trust in social care.

Where do social workers work?
A range of organisations – statutory, voluntary and
private – employ social workers. You might work in:

  • local authority social services;
  • education departments and special schools;
  • residential care homes, day centres, drop-in and community
  • trusts, hospitals and multi-disciplinary health care teams or
    GP practices;
  • youth justice teams and projects. 

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