Social workers work in a variety of organisations. Many work for government departments and NGOs that provide services for children or adults. Some work in hospitals and many others work in the voluntary and private sector. A new development is the creation of social enterprises, whereby social workers set up their own company, or work with others to contract for work.

Social workers work with a variety of people including:

  • Older people
  • Children with disabilities
  • Teenagers with mental health problems
  • Young offenders
  • Adults with learning disabilities
  • Adults with a mental health problem
  • Adults with a physical ability
  • People with alcohol, drug or other substance misuse problems
  • Refugees and asylum seekers
  • People who are socially excluded
  • Families where there is a risk of family breakdown
  • Children who need to live apart from their families
  • Foster carers and adopters
  • People, including children who are at risk of abuse or neglect, or have been abused and neglected
  • Carers


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.