There is only one week left to enter the Social Worker of the Year Awards.
As with any interview it is essential that you prepare yourself. Whether you are an experienced support worker or going for your first ever interview you will need to read up on current policy and do some research into the responsibilities you will have in that job. Make sure you fully understand the job your are being interviewed for and rehearse with yourself how you can ensure your experience is relevant. Even if you’ve never worked in health or social care before, you still have skills such as team work and communication which are relevant. There are some key policies you should also be aware of as a support worker, ones which will directly affect how you provide support for a service user.
The social care reform was launched on 10 December 2007 entitled “Putting People First”, and here are two of the key themes included in it that you should be aware of.
Personalisation in care was part of the social care reform that began in December 2007, and its principle is that people should be entitled “to live their own lives as they wish, confident that services are of high quality, are safe and promote their own individual needs for independence, well-being and dignity”. You can read the full details of the guidance on the Dept of Health archive.
You should be aware of this guidance as it’s one of the fundamental principles of delivering care to a service user. The guidance was updated last year, and the Social Care Institute for Excellent have produced a rough guide to personalistion, which you can access here . The Dept of Health have also recently produced a paper giving details of evidence of how the principles of personlisation have been applied in practice.
Safeguarding and dealing with abuse was another key factor in the social care reforms. There was a large consultation held that involved 12,000 people each contributing their opinions. You can read the detailed Safeguarding adults report here. The results of this consultation were instrumental in producing the guidance we have today, which was published earlier this year and is available to download here. It goes into details about the role every social care professional has to play in safeguarding.
You can read more about the social care reform policies and look at the other themes contained within the guidance on the Dept of Health archives.
Example Interview Questions:
What qualities and experience can you bring to this role?
Many interviewers like to start with a fairly open question like this. It gives you a chance to relax a little and to speak freely about your experience and your personal qualities. It gives the interview panel a chance to get to know you a little, and for you to highlight everything you want them to know about you. It goes without saying that you should stick to talking about things that will be relevant for the support worker job you’re going for, they’re not that interested in knowing your hobbies unless they are directly relevant to the role.
What do you feel are your strengths and weaknesses?
Make a big deal of the things you are good at such as communication, motivation, commitment, time keeping and give a reflection on your weaknesses to let the interview panel know you’re aware of your weakness and have plans to improve on them. For example, a weakness of yours could be that you are sometimes a perfectionist, but you can overcome this by realising it’s not a perfect world and as long as a task is done safely and the client is happy, then that’s satisfactory.
What is your understanding of professional boundaries and how would you ensure they are maintained?
Professional boundaries are essential in social care, but especially in a support worker role. You will be working closely with individuals who require intimate and continuing support from you in order to maintain their independence and wellbeing, but that should be the limit of your involvement. You should acknowledge that any contact with a service user outside of work is not consistent with maintaining a professional boundary, nor is giving out personal information about yourself, and nor is accepting inappropriate gifts from a service user or family. If you are offered an inexpensive gift from a family member or service user as as gesture of thanks, as long as there is no conflict of interest you may accept but only after consulting your manager and logging receipt of the gift.
How would you ensure your are supporting a client to minimise the risks to themselves and you?
Risk is a key issue that must be addressed on a case by case basis. As a support worker you will be involved in undertaking risk assessments and once published, ensuring they are implemented. The process of carrying out the risk assessment will involve talking to the service user to find out the tasks they require support for, and how much they can undertake safely on their own. You will design robust working procedures that ensure your safety as well as the service user’s safety, and it will be your responsibility to introduce them to these routines as well as support them to learn how to carry out tasks safely.
Imagine a situation when you are faced with a service user who is aggravated and distressed. How would you manage this behaviour?
Challenging behaviour can present in many different forms, it could be anger, aggression, confusion or frustration, but however the service user is behaving you need to know how to handle it. If you’ve never been trained in how to manage challenging behaviour, just use your common sense in the interview to answer the question. You should always remain calm and listen to what the service user is saying, take time to fully understand their problem, and only then should you try to help them resolve the issue. If you feel your safety is being put at risk by their behaviour then you shouldn’t try to handle the situation alone. Leave the situation in a calm way and immediately get help. It’s important to let the interview panel know that you understand where your ability to manage the situation ends and when to ask for help. You should also let them know that as soon as the situation is resolved you would complete an incident report and ensure the entire event is properly documented.
You will be required to complete an assessment of a client’s needs. How would you go about doing this?
The assessment of a service user’s needs is done in conjunction with a risk assessment, and it also involves the client’s input. Start by talking to the service user about what they can do, what they struggle with and the things they need assistance with. Make sure you cover a complete range of activities from basic daily life tasks such as washing, dressing, cooking and eating to leisure activities and hobbies. Promoting independence and wellbeing is key to being a support worker, so your role is always to advise and assist but unless specifically required, never to undertake the task on behalf of the client. You should let the interview panel know that you understand it’s crucial for the client to feel a sense of achievement and independence in their every day lives and that you are there to facilitate that. This would be an ideal time to show your understanding of personalisation in care.
Give us an example of a time when you have worked in a small team, and how you personally contributed to that team
This is a great opportunity to draw on a range of your experiences of team working. Make sure you give enough detail about how you worked as part of the team to support the other members, but also to ensure your contribution worked in conjunction with the team’s overall aim. Backing up any claims you make with previous experience shows the interview panel you have prepared well for the interview and that you can analyse your own behaviour to recognise the key skills you have achieved.
While the courses may vary slightly from university to university, and while some may rely more on workplace experience than classroom teaching, there are some aspects of social work education and training that should be included in every degree course, no matter where you are studying. Check that the course you are applying for has been approved by the General Social Care Council (GSCC) as these are the only courses that will enable you to commence a career in social work upon graduation, without needing to carry out any further training. The social work degree should always be a mix of lectures and tutorials and time spent in social care environments, like day care centres, residential centres, shelters or hospitals. Usually, the student will be expected to spend around 200 days of their three years studying on work placements, but the authorities looking to employ recently-qualified social workers will be impressed if you have been working in the environment in your own time too.
Social Work Modules
The Quality Assurance Agency (QAA) is the body that sets the standards for teaching and qualification in social work degrees and all courses have to conform to the following core ideas; identifying social work service users, the context of service delivery, values and ethics, theory of social work and the nature of practical social work. Some modules that students take will include elements of several or all of these core ideas. These modules aim to give every student a certain proficiency in the key skills that are needed to become a social worker and it is these skills that they will be tested on, not just in the classroom and in exams but also in their behaviour when on work placement. The core skills are computer and numerical skills, problem solving, communication, skills in working well with others and personal and professional development. Social work today is not all about helping clients; there is a lot of paperwork too, so good computer skills and an ability to organise are key skills that will be tested under pressure in the workplace.
Social Work Assessment
Not all your assessment will take place during your work placements; after all this is an educational degree and students will be expected to learn as much about the theory of social work as they are about the practical skills and applications. Each degree course is different in what aspects of social work theory they choose to test through essays and exams, though the General Social Care Council specify that some subjects must be assessed in a classroom environment. These include family law, which is an essential tool for any social worker to understand and use, mental health, working in partnership with other organisations, communication skills, human development and growth and the skills the student has developed in planning and assessment of cases. Upon graduation, some students will be expected to work as a probationer for a period, under the close supervision of an experienced social worker, before being given their own caseload.
Social work is much more than just visiting people in their homes for a chat and a cup of tea. Often, as a social worker, you will have to deal with difficult and unpleasant situations; removing a child from the family home, dealing with a drunk client or having to call in the police to deal with someone that you have spent months building up a relationship with. These are all hard decisions to make, which is why all social workers have to take an honours degree in the subject before they can commence work.
Clients and Organisations
Often social work can be something of a juggling act, between the needs of your clients, the ordinary people, and the demands of organisations like the NHS, schools or even the police. As a social worker, it is part of your job to ensure that channels of communication are opened between your client and the authorities, so that the best possible outcome for them and their family can be assured. Good people skills are essential in social work, as is patience and the willingness to listen to other people’s points of view, no matter how much you may disagree.
Day as a Social Worker
As a social worker, your principal role is to speak to your client and the authorities who are dealing with them to work out a care plan that will hopefully improve their lives now and in the future. These care plans can sometimes be very simple – such as having a difficult child diagnosed with ADHD – but sometimes they can be very difficult and emotional decisions to make; removing children from the family home, for example, when one or other of the parents is abusing or neglecting them. If you choose a career in social work you will have several cases ongoing at the same time, some that only need minor attention and some that will take up a lot of your time, including calls out-of-hours. Part of the skill of being a social worker is managing this workload so that you can give the correct amount of attention to each case, and not let one get lost.
Two Social Work Roles
There are two distinct types of social work; one dealing with adults and the other dealing with young people. Within these two groups there are hundreds of different situations and problems that you might have to deal with, but most social workers choose to either work with adult clients or young people. It is then possible to specialise within those groups as your career progresses, so you might choose to work with the elderly or with young offenders, depending on your skills and experience. Before you start a career in social work, it might be best to think about these two groups and decide which one, adults or young people, you would prefer to specialise in.
What kind of work can I do?
- Adults – support for the elderly, people with mental health, learning and physical disabilities, or alcohol and substance abuse problems, the homeless, and victims of domestic abuse.
- Children, young people and families – work in fostering, adoption and child protection, and with young offenders, and youngsters who are unemployed or homeless, or who have learning and physical disabilities.
The range of work settings includes the community, hospitals, health centres, education and advice centres and people’s homes.
What’s it like working in this sector?
Social worker starting salaries range from £21,000 to £25,000. Staff in senior roles earn around £31,000. Staff motivation and morale have been affected in some areas by high vacancy and staff turnover rates, related in part to low pay. Social workers in some teams have high caseloads, but they can be managed with adequate support and training.
The current ethnic make up of the workforce does not reflect the diverse community it serves and the gender balance is unequal, with women making up the large majority of workers.
The nature of the work causes work-related stress, but this is balanced by the personal satisfaction gained from developing and maintaining relationships with the people you are trying to help. You can make a real impact on improving people’s lives.
How big is this sector?
The sector serves two million users accessing over 30,000 provider organisations. Local authorities employ a third of the workforce and most of the rest are employed in the private and voluntary sectors. Increasing numbers of workers are self-employed.
According to most recent figures, around 922,000 people are in paid employment in the social care sector. Nearly two thirds (61% or 559,000 individuals) are in services for older people, 177,000 (19%) work with adults with disabilities, 123,000 (13%) are in children’s services and the remaining 63,000 (7%) are in mental health (‘The State of the Social Care Workforce 2004’, published by Skills for Care, April 2005).
In addition, there are childcare providers, NHS staff with caring duties, foster carers, adopters and some school staff, totalling around 1.6 million, plus approximately five million unpaid carers.
Where can I work?
There are opportunities to work all over the UK, with particularly high vacancy rates in the London boroughs and the city unitary authorities.
In Scotland, around 130,000 staff are employed in the sector, in Wales around 70,000 (the majority working with older people), and in Northern Ireland, around 30,000.
Welcome to Social Service Work
SocialServiceWork.com is dedicated to providing you with the latest news and information for the Social Care Sector.
The Social Care Sector covers all the occupations whose aim is to help people overcome difficulties related to physical, mental, environmental or lifestyle problems at any stage in their lives. It includes staff in both professional and non-professional roles who support vulnerable people living in the community and in residential care.
For an overview, see the Care Quality Commission (CQC) website. Social care is high on the Government’s agenda, with a focus on the integration of health, social care and education to reflect the overlap between these areas of life.
The sector has previously suffered from a negative image, with high vacancy and staff turnover rates in some areas and high profile child abuse cases bringing it under public scrutiny.
Coupled with this was a lack of recognition for what social workers do. The Care Standards Act 2000 changed this with the introduction of a social work degree and social workers’ register. This act and other relevant legislation, such as the Children Act 2004 and the Mental Health Act 2007, can be found on the Office of Public Sector Information (OPSI) website.
Please watch the video below as this gives you a better understanding and advantages of being a Social Worker.
Career as a Social Worker
Being a social worker can be an incredibly challenging but rewarding career path, and all kinds of people are social workers. A large proportion of social work students have already worked in a previous career, and they often decide to become a social worker because of an influence from that previous career or from something in their personal life.
To become a social worker you need to be degree qualified in social work and eligible to apply for GSCC registration. Postgraduates can opt for the two year MA if their first degree is in a relevant subject, or undergraduates can take the three year BA course. Whichever option you decide upon, the social work degree qualifies you to work in all social work settings such as residential, domiciliary, and healthcare.
Working life as a Social Worker
Whichever setting you choose to work in, being a social worker is all about developing relationships with people. You will be helping someone to live their life better and get more fulfillment from it. You will be part of an inter-disciplinary team of healthcare professionals and will have regular interaction with other qualified professionals in order to provide the best possible care for someone.
If you work in healthcare setting, you could be based in a hospital assessing patients about to be discharged in order to plan the ongoing care provisions necessary for them to leave hospital. For example, this may involve arranging home care services or finding a nursing care placement in a residential home. No two people have the same needs and an individual assessment process is key to providing the appropriate level of care and support.
Working in a community setting as a social worker still involves working directly with clients to give an individual level of service, but there may or may not be any medical needs to consider. There are both adult and children’s social workers based in the community working with a variety of different clients. A social worker specialising in mental illnesses might work with an elderly client who is suffering from dementia to implement a comprehensive care package appropriate to the severity of the illness. It will be the social worker’s responsibility to monitor the care provided and where necessary, look for a permanent nursing care placement to ensure the client has access to care 24 hours a day.
As a social worker working with a group of clients there will always be team meetings to discuss the current case load, raise concerns about any particular client and care records to update after every meeting with a client. Records form a large part of the process of assisting a client and they may be called upon if a case is going before a court.
Getting a job when your a qualified Social Worker
Social worker jobs are more often than not advertised online now, so you can look at a whole range of social worker jobs here. As you progressed through your training and completed various practical placements, you should have gained a wider understanding of the industry sector you want to work in. You can search for social work vacancies just in this sector if you choose, or you can look at the jobs in your local area if you’re not looking at relocating.
Below you can search for jobs through Jobcentre Plus.