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How to become a Social Worker

Learn everything you need to know to become a social worker with our complete guide including interview questions, education, tests, CV, application advice.

How to become a Social Worker

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As a social worker, you have a fantastic opportunity to change people's lives for the better. In times of economic and social difficulty, it is social workers who are responsible for helping people to cope with changes and produce a positive contribution to society. It is social workers who help people to deal with issues such as mental health, family breakdown, bereavement and physical illness. In the current climate, social workers are more important than ever before.

If you are someone who loves to help people and change their lives for the better, this could be the perfect role for you.

  • The elderly, particularly those who are suffering with issues such as dementia or frailty,
  • Vulnerable children,
  • Children and adults with disabilities,
  • People suffering from mental health problems,
  • Young offenders,
  • People with addictions, such as alcoholism or hard drugs,
  • Refugees.

GCSE and A Level

For most candidates, social work begins at GCSE. Health and Social Care has become a popular module on most college or school GCSE curriculums. Below we have laid out some of the modules for a typical GCSE course, which takes two years to complete:

GCSE and A Level

Unit 1: Health and Social Care: Beginning

This unit is usually assessed by a controlled examination, and will explore the following questions:

  • Who are the biggest users of care services, and why?
  • What type of care services are available?
  • What kind of values should care workers promote?
  • What skills and assets do care workers need to exercise whilst performing the role, and what are the best personal qualities to have?
Unit 2: Personal Relationships

This module is usually assessed by a 1 or 2 hour written examination, and will explore the following questions:

  • How can personal relationships affect an individual's mental growth and development; as well as their health and wellbeing?
  • How can life events and changes affect an individual's mental growth, health and wellbeing?
  • How can we offer support to individuals who are struggling with personal relationships, or changes in their life?

AS & A Level

In the next section, we will give you a similar overview of an AS and A Level Social Work course, so that you can see what the curriculum entails. You might experience any number of the modules we have listed, as well as any new/added modules that have recently been added onto the curriculum.

Unit 1: Life Challenges

This module provides an introduction for students to a range of different mental and physical conditions. More so than the previous module, this will focus on the way social workers and carers can aid individuals in dealing with their mental or physical defects.

The unit teaches candidates about the treatment and management of such conditions and the psychological impact that they can have. This module is assessed by a written examination, and will explore the following topics:

  • Various physical conditions, and the impact they can have on an individual's life,
  • Managing physical conditions within the context of everyday life,
  • Various mental health conditions, and the impact they can have on an individual's life,
  • Managing mental health conditions within the context of everyday life.
Unit 2: Educating Children and Young People

This unit introduces candidates to educational theory and practice. It requires candidates to plan and execute lessons. It also gives them crucial experience in interacting with and aiding younger people. The module is assessed via coursework, and will explore the following topics:

  • The different methods used to teach children, including: Reflection and analysis, verbal instruction, experiential learning, research and reading,
  • Lesson planning, styles of lesson and the pros and cons of each,
  • Practical observation of lessons taught by qualified professionals in the field,
  • Learning theory and practical application of these principles.
  • A variety of different social care techniques, and how we can use evaluative skills to come to unbiased decisions.
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College

College courses in social work provide candidates with the same opportunity that they would get at A Level, and offer the opportunity to move up and take higher qualifications such as Level 3. The first step when applying for colleges is to fill in an online application form. This can be done via the college website.

Once your application has been filled in, it will be looked over by the college admissions team, and then passed over to the relevant department. You'll be invited into the college for an interview with the senior staff, and once you have passed this, will be accepted onto the course.

To help you decide which college you should apply for, it is advised that you either go into the college, or visit their website. There you will be able to find and download a full prospectus for the year ahead. The majority of colleges will look for GCSE grades in Maths, English and Social Care, and may also require some relevant work experience within the social sector.

Below we have provided you with some of the modules that you will typically see on a college course in social work.

Modules

Public Health:

This module aims to help candidates understand public health and the methods that can be used to prevent illness and disease from spreading in communities. Candidates will investigate and research the different ways in which different agencies combat disease and illness, the different types of illnesses; both infectious and non-infectious, regional and international perspectives on health, social care and disease, and how these can affect the wellbeing of service users in social care settings. This unit is normally assessed by coursework, written reports and portfolios.

Human Resources:

This unit aims to provide candidates with an understanding of the human resource system within the social sector. It will highlight areas such as recruitment and management of workers within the social care workplace, and examine different ways of supporting employees.

The module will demonstrate the value of teamwork and how different members of the social sector can work together to contribute the best possible service to individuals. Finally, the module will examine organisational techniques and show how these can be used and are relevant to legal proceedings. This unit is normally assessed by coursework, written reports and portfolios.

Research:

This unit aims to provide candidates with an understanding of the research and decision making skills needed to work within the social sector. It will show candidates how to make important enquiries, analyse service user related responses and undertake critical research. Finally, it will explore the legalities and ethical aspects of research, and examine data collection techniques. This unit is normally assessed by coursework, written reports and portfolios.

University

A social work degree will help you to develop important knowledge and understanding of the key areas within the social sector. Your degree will place a fundamental emphasis on topics such as law and professional principles, and will ultimately provide you with the theoretical and practical knowledge required to gain a job within the social sector. If you are someone looking to work within the social sector, then a university degree is the best way for you to train.

Once you have completed your A Levels or college course, you will be ready to apply. Providing you have met the relevant grades, a large portion of universities will invite you for an interview. If you pass this, you will be accepted onto the course.

Below we have laid out some of the typical modules you should expect to see at both undergraduate, and postgraduate level.

Modules

Social Work and Drugs:

This module aims to give students an understanding of how social workers can deal with service users who are having problems with drugs, the use of drugs in society and harm prevention. The unit will examine and evaluate the effectiveness of the various services that are available to drug users within society, and how discrimination can negatively affect people. Finally, the module will examine the legalities of social work practice in a relation to drug taking service users.

Mental Health:

This module aims to give students an understanding of the nature of mental health services. It will include a broad examination of legislative issues, social work policies and practice techniques. The unit will explore the perception of mental health in society, alternative treatments and techniques, and the way in which social workers can aid service users who are suffering from mental health issues.

Research:

This module aims to give students a wider understanding of the importance of research whilst working within the social sector. The unit will explore data collection techniques, methods of interpreting data and the advantages and disadvantages of various forms of research. The module will also explore the way in which legal practice and policies can affect research, both positively and negatively.

Once you have completed your postgraduate degree, you will be ready for the world of work. The first thing you will need to do is to register as a member of the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC). As a registered member of the HCPC, you will attend regular training courses and assessment centres to update your methods and maintain your professional learning development. In the next section, we'll provide you with some sample situations from the workplace, to better prepare you for life as a social worker. Good luck, and congratulations.

Example Scenarios

The following examples have been created in order to give you a better understanding of the type of work that you'll be expected to do on a day to day basis. Analyse the information carefully, in order to give an accurate response to the questions.

Scenario 1:


Mr Smith has been admitted to hospital following a fall down the stairs. He is 76 years old, almost deaf, and lives on his own. His closest family live over 2 hours away, and up until now he has been coping independently, with a little help from his neighbours. The accident has effected Mr Smith's mobility, and he needs constant support to move around and perform basic activities such as going to the toilet. He is often confused, and in pain. The hospital medical team believe that Mr Smith should be placed into a care home. His family agree with this, as they do not feel they would be able to provide Mr Smith with adequate support if he returns home. Mr Smith has expressed clearly that he does not want to go into a home, and would rather his needs were met by a home care social worker. However, he is yet to be assessed by a social worker.


Questions:

What are the central issues/conflicts with the case?

Do you think Mr Smith has the capability to make the decision?

Answers:

What are the central issues/conflicts with the case?

The central issue in this case is the conflict of interest between Mr Smith, his family and the nursing staff. Mr Smith believes he is well enough to return home, and receive adequate home care support from local social workers. The medical staff, and Mr Smith's family, believe that he should be placed into a care home. The issue that must be determined is whether Mr Smith has the mental capacity to make this decision on his own. If it is determined that he does not have the capacity, then the decision will be taken out of his hands.

Do you think Mr Smith has the capability to make the decision?

There are two sides to this argument. Based purely on the above information, we are given little indication of Mr Smith's mental wellbeing, other than the sentence that reads, 'He is often confused'. Whilst he is clearly in great physical pain, and cannot hear, this does not mean that he is not mentally able to make decisions for himself. The fact that he has expressed himself clearly on the issue of his housing, indicates that he is indeed thinking logically in some respect. Therefore, based on the above passage, and no other given information, we should lean towards giving Mr Smith the benefit of the doubt. The assessment by the social worker will be key to determining whether he is able to make the decision.

Scenario 2:


You are a social worker for a child named George. George is 14 years of age. One night, you get a phone call from the care home where George lives. He was seen drinking alcohol with a group of boys at the local park, and was brought back home by the police at 11pm. George is often missing from school, particularly during test days. He gets extremely agitated, and responds to teachers and care staff rudely. Both his school and care home have attempted varying degrees of reward and punishment, but nothing has worked. George is currently in his 6th home care placement.


Questions:

What are the central issues/conflicts with the case?

How would you approach George and engage with him?

Answers:

What are the central issues/conflicts with the case?

The central issue in this case is that the individual in question is extremely uncooperative. Furthermore, he is a child, and therefore is largely unaware that his behaviour is both unacceptable, and damaging to himself. We need to find a way to show George the value of education, and the value of working with others. If George can identify how his behaviour is putting his future at risk, then he might be able to change his attitude.

How would you approach George and engage with him?

To answer this, use the information we provided you with prior to the sample exercises. You can either take a 'firm but fair' approach to George, or a more relaxed, reassuring approach. Let's assume in this example, you visit the care home personally. Following this, you have a one-to-one sit down with George. Think about what kind of issues you need to raise, what needs to be identified and how you would persuade George to give your ideas a try. Remember that George may be unresponsive, or unwilling to cooperate. Therefore it is your job to get the information out of him.

Scenario 3:


Susan is 13 years old, and has recently been placed with a new foster family. You are her new social worker, meeting her for the first time. Susan refuses to talk with her foster family. She had been living with her biological father, however he recently passed away. There were no other family members available to provide care for her. Since being fostered, Susan has had to move, start a new school, attend her father's funeral, and say goodbye to her friends.


Questions:

What are the central issues/conflicts with this case?

Since you are meeting Susan for the first time, what approach would you take with her?/p>

Answers:

What are the central issues/conflicts with this case?

The central issue in this case is that Susan has recently undergone many huge changes in her life in a short space of time. Since she is only 13 years old, this has been difficult for her to process. She is not speaking to her foster family and appears to have closed herself off.

Since you are meeting Susan for the first time, what approach would you take with her?

As this is the first meeting, and we are dealing with a child who is in a particularly sensitive frame of mind, the best approach to take would be one that is soft and reassuring. In order to establish a future relationship with Susan, you need to introduce yourself as someone that she feels she can come to for advice and help. The more comfortable she feels in your presence, the more likely she is to open up to you. You should try to gain as much information as possible prior to the meeting, so that when it comes to asking questions, it does not feel as if you are interrogating her.

For loads more of these scenario based questions, and real life experiences, please purchase our fantastic and comprehensive guide!

This informative and detailed guide has been created by Susan West, an expert within the industry. The book will show you how to become a social worker, how to pass any social worker interview, college guides, a level guides, university, career changes and the world of work. The topics and information within this book include:

Chapter 1: Am I right for the role?

Chapter 2: GCSE & A Level

Chapter 3: College

Chapter 4: University

Chapter 5: Career Change

Chapter 6: Application Form

Chapter 7: CV and Cover Letter

Chapter 8: Interview Questions and Answers

Chapter 9: A Day In The Life of a Social Worker

Chapter 10: A Few Final Words

Within our guide, you will find:

  • Detailed example scenarios and real life social work cases,
  • A huge variety of interview questions and answers, along with social worker application forms,
  • In-depth information on how to break down and read job application forms,
  • Module guides from GCSE all the way to University.

How to become a Social Worker

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How to become a Social Worker

How to Become a Social Worker Comprehensive Guide

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