Careers in children’s services

Social work with children and young people
Child care can be extremely challenging, complex and
demanding work, but it is also  rewarding. Work with children and
young people often requires high levels of skill and judgement.
There is a wide range of opportunities. It is important that you
choose the right qualification for the field you are interested in
and that you think to the future about possible career

Residential social work with children and young
Where possible, children accommodated or looked after by
the local authority are placed with foster carers. Those children
cared for in children’s homes are often teenagers or they may be
part of a sibling group who could not be placed together with
foster parents; or they may have complex difficulties.

Some children will have suffered neglect or abuse from their
families; some have experienced repeated rejection and numerous
changes of carer; some may have broken the law and are subject to a
court order. There are also children’s homes which cater
specifically for children with learning difficulties, physical
disabilities, or behavioural or emotional difficulties.

Residential social workers have special roles, which include
assessing the particular needs of children; providing the
emotional, social and spiritual support appropriate to each child
or young person; helping to find and settle children into family
placements; helping the young person to maintain links with his/her
family where appropriate; preparing young people leaving care for
independent living. 

They also cater for the physical needs of the children,
supervise their day-to-day routine and organise recreational
activities.  Most residential social workers spend some nights
sleeping in and work shifts, including weekends.

Some residential resources cater for parents and their children
together.  Families can live in or attend daily. The staff provide
intensive help to parents who are having difficulties parenting
their children. They also provide a safe place for parents who,
under a court order or supervision requirement, must be supervised
when they see their children, because of previous abuse or

Essential qualifications: relevant experience,
Desirable qualifications: NVQs in care, child care
and education, special needs housing.
Training opportunities: DipSW, management
qualifications, social work post-qualifying framework
Potential employers: local authorities, voluntary
agencies e.g. Barnados, NCH – Action for Children (social work
employment agencies often place temporary workers in residential
Salary range: £12,000 – £25,000

Education welfare officers/education social
Education welfare officers (EWOs) and education social
workers (ESWs) deal with any problems that may prevent school
children from getting the most out of their education. They often
work with the whole family providing a supportive role between the
child’s home and school.

EWOs/ESWs liase with parents, teachers, educational
psychologists, the police and other social services. They identify
and assess children’s needs when there is concern about behaviour,
attendance, underachievement, or material or social deprivation. If
court action is necessary, they will give evidence and help to
prepare a case. They try to maximise opportunities for children
away from school for long periods – e.g. organising home tuition
for pupils with special educational needs.

EWOs/ESWs work in teams or divisions, usually with in a local
authority education department. Some are allocated individual

Essential qualifications: DipSW.
Career opportunities: Management, educational
Potential employers: Local education authorities
Salary range: £16,000 – £25,000.

Social worker with children and families
The Children Act 1989 requires social services departments
to identify and support children in need in their area and to
protect children who may be at risk from harm. This work is
undertaken by qualified social workers who may be employed by local
authorities in children and families teams or in specialist
agencies such as the NSPCC (National Society for the Prevention of
Cruelty to Children) who are commissioned by the local authority to
do this work.

The main focus for the social worker is the best interests of
the child.  The law says that the children’s wishes and feelings
must be sought and taken into account according to their age and
understanding. Children usually want to stay with their parents, so
social workers do their best to keep families together by providing
support and advice to parents who, because of problems such as
poverty, housing, mental health, relationship problems, drugs, or
alcohol, may be putting their children at risk of neglect or abuse.
Sometimes a child’s difficult behaviour or offending is the
problem; in other cases a child may have severe disabilities, which
the parents cannot manage alone.

If supporting the family is not enough, social workers, in
consultation with other professions, may decide that it is in the
interests of the child to be removed from home. In most cases this
is arranged with the consent of parents but, in some cases, a court
order has to be sought.

Where the local authority looks after or accommodates a child,
it is the job of the social worker to ensure that adequate
arrangements are made for the child’s care and that a plan is made,
in partnership with the child and the parents, so that the child’s
future is secure.

This work can be very challenging. It requires the ability to
manage a complex and demanding workload, to work in partnership
with service users, to communicate with children, to use authority
and apply the law and procedures appropriately and to function as
part of a team with other professionals.

Essential qualifications: DipSW.
Desirable qualifications: post-qualifying
Training opportunities: further PQ training,
family therapy training
Potential employers: local authority social
services departments, social work departments, health and social
services trusts, voluntary agencies e.g. Barnados, NSPCC.
Salary range:  £16,000 – £25,000

Adoption and fostering social workers
Statutory and private agencies arrange for foster and
adoptive homes for children who cannot be cared for by their own
families. Social workers are responsible for interviewing and
assessing potential foster and adoptive parents to make sure that
they are suitable to take care of a child. They also advise and
train potential foster and adoptive parents to prepare them for
some of the difficulties involved in taking on a child or children
who have experienced problems, or frequent changes of carer, or
abuse in their lives.

The social worker usually prepares a detailed report about the
family, which is shared with the potential foster or adoptive
parents prior to presentation at a panel. If the family is
approved, the social worker may support the family during the
introduction and placement of their child or children.

Essential qualifications: DipSW.
Desirable qualifications: post-qualifying
Training opportunities: further PQ training
Potential employers: local authority social
services departments, health and social services trusts, voluntary
agencies such as the British
Association for Fostering and Adoption
Salary range: £16,000 – £25,000

Hospital social workers
Some children’s hospitals or children’s wards employ
social workers to support parents, especially when children are
seriously ill or dying. Parents who have other children at home may
also require assistance or there may be practical difficulties
travelling to and from the hospital. Social workers also ensure
that the parents will be able to cope when the child is

Social workers in casualty departments may be involved in child
protection work when an injury to a child is thought to be

Essential qualifications: DipSW, relevant
Desirable qualifications: post-qualifying
Training opportunities: further PQ training
Potential employers: local authority social
services departments, social work departments, health and social
services trusts, local hospitals and medical centres.
Salary range: £16,000 – £25,000


More from Community Care

Comments are closed.