A career in social care is a rewarding way to help people of different ages who require mental, physical or practical support to live their lives independently and safely. With a wide spectrum of people in society needing support, including those plagued by drug or alcohol addiction, homeless families, children in foster care and victims of domestic abuse, there is considerable variety for social care workers, as well as the opportunity to specialise in certain areas of practice.
Qualifications for social care work
Careers in social care come in various guises, from support workers to housing officers, each of which has its own specialisms, skills and knowledge. Entry requirements are therefore different for each field of expertise. In fact, for jobs in social care with low levels of responsibility, qualifications may not be necessary as training may be offered as part of a professional development programme. However, obtaining a recognised qualification may help to set you above your competitors when applying for employment and, for many posts, is an essential prerequisite.
Three levels of qualifications are available for those intending to pursue a career in social care. The most demanding award requires a demonstration of professional competence in the relevant sector of social care while lower qualifications may only focus on knowledge of key issues, making them more suitable for entry-level applicants.
Previous NVQs in Health and Social Care have now been superseded by Level 2 and 3 diplomas. Students have the option to specialise in a chosen area of social care, such as learning disabilities or dementia, or to follow a general programme relevant to the sector.
For social care workers with existing experience in the sector, Level 4 diplomas offer a route for future career progression that will build upon previous knowledge and skills.
A Level 5 diploma, such as Leadership for Health and Social Care and Children and Young People’s Services, is suitable for those wishing to enter a management role in social care who can already demonstrate proficiency in their existing social care role.
A career as a social worker can only be contemplated if you have achieved an appropriate qualification approved by the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC): a three-year undergraduate degree or two-year postgraduate degree in social work.
Due to the requirement to work with individuals classed as ‘vulnerable’, an enhanced disclosure from the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) is also essential. A criminal record is not necessarily a bar to a successful social work career; the date and nature of any offences will determine whether an applicant would be considered suitable.
A recognised qualification is not the only pre-requisite for a career in social work; social work interview questions will assess a candidate’s personal qualities, such as the ability to make important judgement calls in often challenging or sensitive situations, as well as skills in relating to a wide variety of people in a non-judgemental manner.