If you want to help and support people in the community, this could be a great job for you. Social work assistants help qualified social workers. The clients you work with could be in the community, in hospitals and in other settings such as residential care homes.
Employers will usually consider experience to be more important than your qualifications. They may ask for a good standard of general secondary education. To be a social worker’s assistant you will need a practical and flexible approach to work. You will also need to be patient and understanding.
As a social work assistant, you could work with a variety of people (known as clients), including:
- families under stress
- older people
- people with physical or learning disabilities
- people with mental health problems
- children at risk.
Your work could include:
- contacting clients and following up enquiries
- advising clients and their families about the help that's available
- making appointments
- visiting people at home to check how they are
- following a social worker’s care plan
- working out clients’ needs and putting together care plans - for example, when a client leaves hospital
- keeping records and writing reports
- keeping up to date with changes in the law
- going to meetings with your department and other agencies
- liaising with other health and care professionals.
You may be known by other job titles, such as community support worker, home care officer or social services assistant.
In a full-time job you would work around 37 hours a week. You could work fixed hours or in shifts, which could include unsocial hours like evenings, weekends and public holidays. Part-time and sessional work is common.
You could work in residential homes, hospitals, or in the community, where you would be visiting clients in their homes.
Starting salaries can be between £12,500 and £16,000 a year. With experience and relevant qualifications, salaries can rise to between £17,000 and £22,000. Those taking on additional management responsibilities may earn up to £25,000 a year.
You may work for a specialist recruitment agency. Hourly rates for agency work can be between £7 and £10.
Figures are intended as a guideline only.
You will increase your chances of finding work if you have some experience (paid or voluntary) of working with people in a caring role. You can get more information and search for volunteering opportunities on the Do-it website.
Although not essential, there is a number of qualifications that you can work towards, whether you are looking to learn more to get into this career or if you have just started in a paid or voluntary position.
- Level 2 Certificate in Preparing to Work in Adult Social Care
- Level 2 Diploma Health and Social Care
- Level 2 Award in Employment Responsibilities and Rights in Health, Social Care and Children and Young People's Settings.
For any job where you would be working (paid or unpaid) with children or vulnerable adults, you will need to pass background checks by the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS). Previous convictions or cautions may not automatically prevent you from working in social care. See the following website for full details.
- Disclosure and Barring Service (Home Office website)
A driving licence would be useful for jobs based in the community.
Training and development
Once you start work, you will receive on-the-job training from your employer. This will include nationally approved common induction standards. You will also learn on the job from experienced staff.
You will be encouraged to continue your development by attending in-house short courses appropriate to the groups you work with, which might allow you to specialise. For example, working with young people in care, working with people with learning disabilities or supporting people with substance misuse issues.
You may also have the opportunity to take qualifications, such as:
- Health and Social Care Diploma at levels 2 and 3
- Diploma for the Children and Young People’s Workforce at level 3 (Social Care or Learning and Development Support Services pathways).
With more experience, you could consider taking a foundation degree or degree, if you decide you want to train as a social worker.
Skills for Care has a career development tool called the Career Matrix, which helps you to identify appropriate training and qualifications based on the level or type of job you do.
Skills, interests and qualities
As a social work assistant you would need to have:
- excellent communication and interpersonal skills
- a practical and flexible approach to work
- tact, patience and understanding
- a non-judgemental attitude
- an understanding of the needs of different client groups
- the ability to relate to people of all backgrounds
- the ability to work in a team and also use your own initiative
- the ability to assess situations and take the right action
- resilience, to cope with difficult situations and uncooperative clients
- good time management and organisational skills
- computer literacy and administrative skills
- the ability to communicate sensitively and well with children and adults
- the ability to build good working relationships with families who may be unfriendly to start with
- practical knowledge and understanding of child development and the needs of children
- a flexible approach to working hours and the range of duties.
Skills for Care (England)
6 Grace Street
Tel: 0113 241 1275
Northern Ireland Social Care Council (NISCC)
Care Council for Wales (CCW)
Scottish Social Services Council (SSSC)
Department for Education - Children and Young People
Castle View House
Tel: 0370 000 2288
You could find opportunities with various employers, such as:
- local authority social services departments
- voluntary agencies
- care homes
- social care recruitment agencies.
Jobs may be advertised in the local and national press, on employers' websites and by specialist recruitment agencies.
With experience, you could work towards qualifying as a social worker by studying independently or with support and funding from your employer. You could also choose to use your experience as a way of moving into related careers like family support work or counselling.
Related industry information
Adult social care is part of the sector represented by Skills for Care, which is one of the partners that comprise Skills for Care and Development Sector Skills Council. This includes those working in early years, children and young people’s services, and those working in social work and social care for children and adults in the UK. The social care sector comprises two sub-sectors:
- Adult social care – with a workforce of nearly 1.5 million, accounting for 5% of England’s workforce, and 38,000 employers
- Children and young people – with an estimated workforce of 2.7 million
During 2007/08, approximately 2.3 million adults used publicly funded social work and social care services in the UK. Adult social care includes residential care, domiciliary care and social work with all its specialism's.
There are an estimated 1.5 million workers providing adult social care services and more than 38,000 employers. Skills for Care are responsible for the training standards and development needs of social work and social care staff working with adults in England. This includes staff working in local authority social services and related services, the regulated sector (care homes, domiciliary care services and home nursing services), non-regulated day care and community care services, and employed by individuals for their own or another person’s care and support.
- Of the 1.39 million in adult social care in England: 1.31 million are directly employed; and 78,000 are bank, pool and agency staff, students and others
- The adult social care workforce can also include:
- 25,460 full-time equivalent social workers
- 14,000 learning mentors
- 2,247 educational psychologists
- Of the 14,456 care-only homes registered with CSCI* at June 2007:
- 9,870 (68%) are private sector
- 3,251 voluntary sector
- most of the remaining are operated by councils
- Most social care services (58%) are provided by micro organisations (or agencies) employing between 1-10 people or small enterprises (29%) employing between 11-49 people.
- 12% of social care enterprises employ 50-99 people and 1% employ 200 or more.
- In 2007, 54,151 individuals were receiving direct payments to fund their own care.
* CSCI was replaced by the Care Quality Commission in 2009.
Jobs in adult social care include: administrative staff, ancillary staff, care workers, community support and outreach workers, counsellors, first-line managers, occupational therapists, registered managers, senior care workers, senior management, social workers, supervisors, technicians.