The world of social care is full of variety – the media creates a clear image of what a social worker looks like, but the truth is, as usual, much more complicated. ‘Social work’ encompasses people working in the community with recovering drug addicts or rehabilitated criminals, specialists attached to schools and hospitals to identify and support at risk children, and those ensuring the elderly get the care they need.
One of the main misconceptions people have about social workers is that they are there to criticise and, ultimately, to ‘take away’ someone who’s fallen short, or take a child into care when they judge their parents aren’t able to care for them. In reality, far more of the social work sphere is taken up with ‘community care jobs’ – caring for people in the community to avoid placing the burden of more care on institutions like hospitals, mental health units and prisons.
Social Care jobs require good listening skills, and the ability to build a rapport with someone – these social workers have a (frequently large) number of clients with whom they work, arranging regular meetings to help support them in their day to day life in the community. Most often social workers specialise in helping one particular group – the elderly, people recovering from drug addiction, those recently released from prison and so on. Specialising means a social worker knows inside out the systems available to help support people, rather than scrabbling for research. They’re the ‘friendly expert’ that helps at risk people and their families navigate the confusing world.
Most frequently, a social worker will help someone build a constructive and healthy routine which supports them in the goal of leading an independent life. For someone with mental health issues, for example, they’ll make sure they understand the medication they’re taking, engaging with therapy regularly and on top of any other health appointments they need to go get, building a routine that allows them to live independently rather than experiencing a crisis and requiring hospitalisation. They might also the be the person who can detect the first signs of someone having difficulty coping and encourage them to seek more help before a traumatic crisis is reached!
There are plenty of options that allow you to get into social care, from studying a degree course, post graduate, part time qualifications and vocational training that combines the academic learning you need with on the job experience! If you feel social care is the next step for your career, there’s a way to start that suits you!