Social Work FAQ
Training and Qualifications
Pay & Conditions
What is social work?
Social workers work with a huge range of people, including children, young people, adults and older people, who need support for any reason. These could include parents and children who are struggling in the face of deprivation, disability, or abusive behaviour; young adults who are finding it hard to handle the pressures of living independently; people with a disability, mental illness or those with a learning disability.
Social workers work with these people to help them understand, tackle, and find solutions to the difficulties that they face. Some of the work of social workers is defined in law, for example child protection or adoption. All of it involves working with a wide number of people, including family members and friends, and other professionals such as police and doctors. They may work in the community or in residential care either for a Local Authority, a charity (eg the NSPCC or Barnados), an Independent Provider (eg running a residential care home) or for a variety of different organisations through a staffing agency.
Do I have to be registered?
To practice as a social worker you have to be registered by the General Social Care Council (GSCC). Applicants for registration have to demonstrate that they have completed the required social work training, and also that they meet requirements about conduct and competence.
What qualifications do I need to become a Social Worker?
To become a social worker a professional qualification is required. Since September 2003 this is the three year degree in social work, which replaced the Diploma in Social Work (DipSW).
The degree in social work is at honours degree level and can be studied through full-time, part-time and distance learning programmes. Where appropriate, previous academic experience may be taken into account and some form of credit given. Graduates may also be able to achieve the qualification in a shorter timescale. As part of the qualification you will need to complete a minimum of 200 days in practice in at least two settings to ensure that you have the practical skills required before starting work.
What are the entry requirements for the degree?
The requirements for social work training state that universities should ensure that all applicants have Key Skills level 2 in English and mathematics normally equivalent to grade C in the GCSE examination.
Are overseas qualifications recognised?
Students who hold an overseas qualification and wish to work in England will have to contact the General Social Care Council (GSCC) for a verification application. The GSCC will then verify that the student has undertaken professional social work training in another country and are eligible to work in England.
How do people working in the voluntary and independent sectors gain access to training?
Employers in the voluntary and independent sector whose staff are undertaking the social work training have access to funding from the GSCC. Funds are also available from local authorities to support students through the Training Support Programme. The funding of social work education and training is being reviewed as part of the introduction of the degree.
What financial support is available?
People interested in pursuing the degree in social work could be entitled to a bursary.
Bursaries for social work students are handled by the NHS Business Services Authority. For more information please visit www.ppa.org.uk/swb or call 0845 6101122.
What sort of pay does a social worker receive?
There is not a fixed national salary, so pay varies between local authorities and other employing organisations. Staffordshire County Council pays Social Workers £28,636 to £32,800 (April 2009).
What sort of benefits does a social worker get?
Again, this varies with the individual employer. Most social workers are employed by Local Authorities and so would benefit from Local Government employment provisions including pension schemes and paid leave. In Staffordshire we offer an excellent benefits package including:
• Competitive salary
• Career progression
• Recognition allowance for 'front line' children's social workers
• Superb training & development opportunities
• Generous relocation allowances
• Excellent support mechanisms
• Regular consultation and communication
• Family friendly policies
• Staff recognition scheme
• Generous annual leave
• Green travel policy
• Car leasing and purchase schemes and allowances
• Final salary pension scheme
• Other locally and nationally negotiated staff benefits
Do social workers have union membership?
Many social workers are members of a Union. In Staffordshire we work closely with professional associations and trade unions locally. We have a strong system of joint consultation and involve the associations in wide areas of decision-taking. The County Council actively encourages all its employees to join an appropriate association or trade union.