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What is social work?

Most people have had a teacher or a doctor, or received help and support from a number of people when they need it, but not everyone has had a social worker. This leads to many misconceptions around what the profession involves. In essence, the role of a social worker is to improve the lives of the people they support as well as their families. While social workers work with people of all ages, our focus at Frontline is on recruiting and developing children’s social workers.

What is child and family social work?

Children’s social workers help children, young people and their families when they are going through difficult times. They work closely with families to ensure that vulnerable children receive the care and support they need to keep them safe from harm. An essential part of the role of the social worker is ensuring the safety of the children they support and identifying risks as well as strengths within a family network.

At Frontline, we believe that outstanding social workers can transform life chances and opportunities for vulnerable children. This transformation can last a lifetime, and often makes the difference between a child living in a home where their basic needs are not being met, or helping them reach their full potential. This is why we focus our efforts on children’s social work.

Why is a child assigned a social worker?

Children can be referred to their local authority’s social care services for various reasons, including abuse, neglect, family dysfunction and disability or illness. Referrals can come from a number of sources, such as the police, schools or health services. Sometimes referrals are anonymous, or they can also be from a family member.

When a child is referred to children’s services, further information is gathered to establish whether an assessment will be undertaken to determine the risk of harm and the level of need. If there is a need for an assessment to be undertaken, then the child will be allocated a social worker. This is referred to as a Single Assessment or a Child and Family Assessment.

What does a social worker actually do?

The role of a social worker is to develop supportive, open, honest and transparent relationships with children who are at risk of harm and their families. Ascertaining the views, wishes and feelings of the child is an essential part of being a social worker. In addition to monitoring and assessing the needs of the child, social workers support the welfare of the family. They do this by providing information and where required signposting families to services covering a wide range of subjects, from finance and employment, to health and relationships.

Multi-agency working is essential in social work. Social workers work closely with a number of professionals including doctors, teachers and the police, sharing information and promoting effective communication to ensure the safety of the child or young person. In cases where the child is at risk of significant harm, the social worker may arrange good quality alternative care for a them. This has to be either with the consent of the family, a legal order or with police child protection powers. This care may be provided by an extended family member, a foster carer or sometimes a children’s residential home.

What qualifications does a child and family social worker need?

To practise as a social worker you need a degree in social work that has been approved by the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC), and you must be registered with HCPC. You will also need to pass background checks by the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS).

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