Careers in adult services

Social work in adult services
Services to adults can be divided into those that involve
providing direct care to the user and those which involve planning,
organising and co-ordinating a range of services – known as ‘care
management’.  This kind of work includes assessment of need,
report-writing, budgeting, use of IT, as well as people skills.

Care management
Under the National Health Service (NHS) and Community Care
Act 1990, local authorities are responsible for preparing joint
plans with their local health authorities about how they will
provide services within the community.  The services to individual
users are co-ordinated by a care manager, usually a qualified
professional, who is responsible for assessing need and developing
packages of care to meet the requirements of individual
Care management is organised differently in different authorities.
Care managers can be based in local authority social services
departments or in GP practices, hospitals, or multi-disciplinary
community teams. Their specific roles will vary but their tasks are
likely to include:

  • assessing the needs of users or co-ordinating assessments
    undertaken by
    other professionals e.g. district nurse, GP, occupational
  • organising intensive support for patients discharged from
  • working in partnership with service users and carers to
    on the most appropriate services to provide;
  • negotiating and dealing with service providers;
  • monitoring the quality and cost-effectiveness of services;
  • ensuring that services are provided in a way which will
    the needs of users from a range of ethnic backgrounds;
  • keeping records and managing financial information using
    computer packages.

Sometimes care management is organised in separate departments
for different groups of users so that it is possible to specialise
in care management for people with mental health problems, older
people, people with physical disabilities, people with learning
difficulties, people with sensory impairments or people with HIV or

While there are many rewards, this work can also be stressful
especially when limited resources mean that you cannot always
provide users with all the services they need. There is likely to
be a considerable amount of paperwork and bureaucracy. Working
within restricted budgets often means making difficult decisions
and time management skills are essential when dealing with very
heavy workloads and competing priorities.

Essential qualifications: DipSW, NVQ in care,
nursing or occupational therapy qualification.
Desirable qualifications: post-qualifying
Career opportunities: service manager, care
Potential employers: local authorities, voluntary
agencies, local hospitals.
Salary range: £14,000 – £24,000

Social work in health care settings
If you think you would enjoy working as part of a
multi-professional team and you have a commitment to providing the
highest standards of care to people who are at their most
vulnerable, then working as a social worker in a health care
setting might offer you the career you are looking for.

Health care settings are places managed by any branch of the
health service: hospitals; GP practices; clinics; accident and
emergency units and psychiatric hospitals.  They also include
specialised units run by voluntary agencies such as hospices;
clinics for the treatment of substance abuse and centres to meet
the needs of particular client groups such as people with learning
difficulties or those affected by HIV or AIDS.

In the GP surgery, a social worker is able to deal with patients
who have visited their GP because they are worried about social
problems or are feeling depressed.  In a hospital setting, social
workers provide support to patients who do not have relatives to
care for them, they organise intensive care in the community on
discharge, so that people can recuperate in their own homes rather
than staying in hospital and they provide bereavement counselling
to relatives of patients who have died.

Essential qualifications: DipSW.
Desirable qualifications: post-qualifying training
– Approved Social Worker (ASW), Mental Health Officer (MHO)
Career opportunities:  service manager, care
Potential employers: NHS, local authorities,
voluntary agencies.
Salary range: £14,000 – £25,000

Mental health social work
There are a number of ways in which social workers can
specialise in work with people with mental health problems.

Approved social workers (ASW) / Mental health officers

Social workers who have had two years experience since qualifying
can undertake further training to become approved social workers or
mental health officers. This entitles them to operate under the
Mental Health Act 1983 and, working with doctors and psychiatrists,
approve compulsory admission to hospital for patients who are a
danger to themselves or to others. The role of the ASW or MHO is to
try to ensure that people with mental health problems can be
supported and treated in the community or that if they need
treatment in a hospital, they would go there on a voluntary basis.
Compulsory admission is a last resort. ASWs and MHOs are valuable
resources and often have to be willing to go on a rota system to be
called out on evenings and weekends.

Forensic social work
Forensic social workers are usually based in hospitals
which provide psychiatric services or in prisons or special
hospitals such as Rampton or Broadmoor. Forensic social workers
support other professionals such as psychologists, psychiatrists,
probation officers, nurses and prison officers in the assessment,
treatment and support of people with mental health problems who
commit serious offences. Forensic social work requires the ability
to cope with challenging behaviour and to use authority
appropriately within a statutory framework.

Essential qualifications: DipSW, Approved
Social Worker (ASW), Mental Health Officer (MHO) training.
Desirable qualifications: further post-qualifying
Potential employers: NHS, local authorities,
voluntary agencies.
Salary range: £18,000 – £30,000

Residential care for adults
A residential (or day care, see below) establishment is a
good place to start a career in social work. Residential
establishments tend to be small and informal homes or hostels where
groups of service users live together with staff. For example,
people with learning difficulties or people with mental health
problems who previously lived in a hospital will now share an
ordinary house within the community. This resource may be run by
the local authority housing or social services department or by a
voluntary or private agency.

The staff of group homes or hostels will support residents with
claiming their benefits, budgeting, personal and social skills.
They will also liaise with other professionals such as GPs and
psychiatric nurses and encourage residents to take part in
recreational and leisure activities.

Now that most older people are supported within their own homes,
it is only the most vulnerable and confused service users who come
into residential care. The homes may be managed and supervised by
trained nurses if most of the residents need medication and some
nursing care. Day -to-day physical care such as dressing,
toileting, bathing and feeding is provided by care assistants, who
increasingly will have studied national vocational qualifications.
Staff must be mature, patient and caring. Most homes for older
people are now run by the private sector.

Essential qualifications: DipSW, NVQ level 4 in
care (for residential staff).
Desirable qualifications: NVQs level 2/3 in care
for junior staff and care assistants.
Potential development: higher level NVQs, deputy
manager, services manager.
Potential employers: private care homes, local
authorities, voluntary agencies.
Salary range: £13,000 – £20,000

Day care
Day care services are provided for a wide range of service
users: older people, people with physical disabilities, people with
learning difficulties, and people with mental health problems. Day
centres provide a caring supportive environment where leisure and
recreational activities can be pursued. In some cases people learn
or re-learn daily living skills or skills required to return to
employment; in other cases counselling or advice on emotional or
practical problems are offered.

People who might otherwise be isolated or house bound are able
to socialise and make friends. Some people, such as people with
Alzheimer’s disease or people with severe disabilities are cared
for in the day centre to provide respite for their carers who might
otherwise be unable to keep the person at home. Day centre workers
liaise with a range of other professionals such as doctors,
district nurses, occupational therapists and social workers.

While a DipSW is increasingly required for people working in day
centres, it is still possible to find a job if you are not
qualified and this is a very good way to test out your interest in
social work as a career and gain experience.

Essential qualifications: DipSW, NVQ level 4 in
care (for senior day care staff).
Desirable qualifications: NVQs level 2/3 in care
for junior staff.
Potential development: DipSW, higher level NVQs,
deputy manager, services manager.
Potential employers: private care homes, local
authorities, voluntary agencies.
Salary range: £13,000 – £20,000

Information on related professions

Youth and community work
Youth and community workers work in youth clubs and other
settings, taking on  projects such as those designed to stop young
people from offending.  Some youth workers may seek out young
people who may be homeless or at risk of drugs or prostitution and
help to reunite them with their families or place them in a safer
environment. This is especially common in inner city areas.

For further information, contact:

The National Youth Agency
17-23 Albion Street
Leicester LE1 6GD
Tel: 0116 285 3792

Work with offenders
A new qualification is now available for probation
officers. Qualified social workers provide services to young
offenders throughout the UK and some probation committees may
employ qualified social workers as probation officers. The role of
a probation officer or criminal justice social worker includes:

  • supervising offenders within the community, ensuring that they
    comply with court orders that have been issued to them;
  • helping them find a job or training where possible;
  • helping them to understand and desist from their offending
  • referring them for support with welfare benefits and family

For further information about probation training/working with
offenders please contact:

Probation Training Unit
Mitre House
223-237 Borough High Street
London SE1 1JD
Tel: 020 7740 8500

Vacancies for people with a disability
PACT (Placing Assessment & Counselling Team) is a
division within the employment service offering a job matching
service to people with disabilities.  The service is provided at a
number of job centres around the country. For more information

Tel: 020 7713 7922
Fax: 020 7713 7920.



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