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A Career in Social Work

What is Social Work? - Social work is a profession that is centred around people - from babies through to older people. The IASW Code of Ethics defines social work using the international definition of social work. Social workers work with individuals and families to help improve outcomes in their lives. This may be helping to protect vulnerable people from harm or abuse or supporting people to live independently. Social workers support people, act as advocates and direct people to the services they may require. Social workers often work in multi-disciplinary teams alongside health and education professionals.


Social Work Career

 Social workers offer a broad range of services. They work with populations from infants to the elderly and may serve in diverse cultural communities. Depending on their specialty, social workers might be found in government agencies, community centres, schools, hospitals, hospices, mental health clinics. They identify those who need help, assess their situations and develop a plan to address their needs. Duties may include face-to-face counselling, resource assessment, responding to crisis situations and advocating for the well-being of their clients.


Employment Opportunities in Social Work

Although all social workers share a common goal of helping others, professionals have the opportunity to specialize their services and focus on certain populations. There are a numerous specialty practice sections in the field.

  • Adoption
  • Children and Adolescent mental health
  • Child and families
  • Disabilities
  • Elderly
  • Fostering
  • Medical
  • Mental Health
  • Primary Care
  • Probation
  • Refugees and Asylum Seekers
  • Local Authority
  • Substance Abuse

Social workers usually have a ‘caseload’ – a number of cases of individuals/families who they work with at any one time. Their work entails visits to service users, assessments, organising packages of support, making recommendations or referrals to other services and agencies, keeping detailed records and participating in multi-disciplinary team meetings. Social workers also provide support and information and crucially use their skills in relationship work.


Why become a Social Worker?

Many people go into social work because they want to ‘make a difference’. They want to work with people and help them improve their lives. People wanting to be social workers need to be able to manage a sometimes heavy workload and manage their time effectively. They also need to keep effective notes on their cases for other professionals to be able to access and understand the best outcomes of the service user.

Social work can be emotionally demanding and it is important that anyone interested in becoming a social worker understands that. Dealing with other people’s pain and suffering is difficult. Social workers need to be resilient and know how to get support themselves and use that support effectively.


Skills required to becoming a Social Worker

Empathy and interpersonal skills top the list of essential traits for the profession. Social workers must have excellent time-management skills and the ability to navigate through often technical or discouraging sets of regulations and paperwork. The ability to find resources — and to potentially think outside the box when doing so — is also an essential attribute.

In addition, social workers must possess excellent organizational skills. They may be responsible for managing multiple clients or projects and often must maintain detailed records. Finally, social workers must have discretion and a good understanding of ethical standards. Those employed in clinical work, in particular, may be privy to sensitive information that must be kept confidential.

The Registration board CORU ask that 6 Domains are assessed during studying to becoming a social worker there are:- Professional autonomy and accountability; interpersonal and professional relationships; effective communication; personal and professional development; provision of quality services; knowledge, understanding and skills relevant to social work.


Social Work Salaries

The salaries are usually advertised alongside the post but it is worth checking with your employer, who can also advise you on any benefits such as pensions and paid annual leave, etc.

Salaries range between settings, sector and area. It is useful to look at the HSE website as a guideline


Continued Professional Development

All social workers need to be registered with CORU, The Social Work Registration Board. To maintain high standards in social work, social workers need to re-register every year. Further information on Registration and Continuous Professional Development can be found on our website in the ‘CPD’ and ‘Careers & Education’ section. 


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