Interested in starting a career in social work, but not sure if it's for you? Or just want to find out a bit more about what the role involves? We've put together exactly what a day in the life of a social worker looks like to help you.

What is a social worker?

The term social worker is a job title given to individuals who specialise in a number of areas relating to the care of children and adults who find themselves in need of support and assistance for a variety of reasons. Social workers are employed in fields such as medical and public health, substance misuse, children and adults with learning disabilities, youth offending, and adoption and fostering. The term social worker, in fact, is used in over 16 job descriptions.

Depending on their specific role, how a social worker spends his or her day will vary in detail, but typically will follow a pattern similar to the following scenario.

What does a social worker do?

Administrative tasks.

The first job of the day is to check through emails that have arrived overnight and open any mail. In order to minimise time spent on administrative work it is essential to prioritise, which means highlighting tasks that must be completed today, diarising those that can be left for later and in some cases disregarding certain items altogether. The key point is not to overlook anything of importance.

Preparing for meetings and writing up notes.

The next part of the day may be taken up preparing for meetings with clients; for example in relation to a household in which a child has suffered suspicious injuries, or maybe regarding a client who has been identified as having learning disabilities and who needs a care plan preparing. Prior to attending any meeting, it is essential that the social worker read the relevant case notes thoroughly in order to ensure they have a clear understanding of what the issues are.

It may also be necessary to write up notes from client visits that the social worker carried out the previous day and add a proposed action plan and assessments that have to be forwarded to a supervisor.

The longer that writing up notes is delayed, the more difficult it is to remember potentially important points.

Taking a break.

Whilst it is tempting to press on and become embroiled in work, it should be remembered that everyone needs a break now and then, so time should always be made to relax, have a bite to eat and interact with friends, family, and colleagues.

Attending meetings

When the time comes to attend a meeting it is important that the social worker introduces him or herself to everyone and makes a note of all the attendees’ names. Throughout the course of the meeting, notes should be made relating to the salient points raised and by whom. It will also be necessary to write up case notes to be passed on to the supervisor.

Dealing with problems.

When a diverse group of individuals is involved in meetings, whether in a client’s home or at a social services office, it has to be remembered that it is not possible to satisfy everyone’s demands.

The social worker should, therefore, rely on their training and experience to see them through.

Many of the issues dealt with can be extremely delicate, and it is inevitable that discussions may become heated and occasionally physical. A key requirement of any social worker is that they should behave in a diplomatic way and use all their training and skills to avoid such situations developing.

Anyone who decides to embark on a career as a social worker can be sure that their days will sometimes be challenging, but ultimately rewarding.