When you work as a support worker, there are many different types of job you could have, including working with:

  • adults
  • adults with disabilities
  • elderly
  • children/children's services
  • fostering and adoption services

It is a field that is inclusive of several different types of jobs, even though they work towards one goal: improving the quality of life for individuals who are otherwise unable to provide that quality of life through their own personal means. Here we will take a look at some of the work involved with the different types of support worker specialities.

Support worker job descriptions.


As a general rule, support workers will start their careers being assigned to general adult cases. These are usually to assist with rather specific tasks like domestic care or may even be providing accompaniment while completing day-to-day tasks like shopping and banking. These cases provide support workers with the necessary field experience to give them a feel for the job as a whole before they choose to specialise in any one particular area of support work at a later date. It is also often necessary for those who do not have any particular care or support experience.

Many support workers who work alongside general adult cases will typically be working towards national qualifications like the Level 3 NVQ Diploma in Health and Social Care required to continue working alongside adult cases, or branch into dementia or disabled practices. The Level 5 NVQ Diploma in Health and Social Care is required to work in child protective services.

Adults with disabilities.

If candidates show any particular skill or desire towards working with adults with disabilities, then they will typically be assigned to these cases following reaching a recognised qualification like the NVQ. These cases are far more complex and advanced than general adult cases and will require a much more involved approach in terms of the care that is provided. Adults with learning disabilities can have very unpredictable behaviour which can be challenging to support for experienced support workers, let alone those with little experience. The high level of responsibility can involve understanding patterns or behavioural signals of adults with disabilities to help figure out the underlying cause, therefore, excellent communication skills are a must.

These roles will often require routine hygiene care in addition to other necessities that these disabled adults cannot provide for themselves; which in itself is largely dependent on the case that the candidate has been assigned to.


Dementia care is widely touted during the Level 3 NVQ coursework and those who feel particularly drawn towards it have a chance to work with the incapacitated elderly. This work will normally take place within a monitored care home, but may also include work within private households depending on the status of the elderly client and his or her family's wishes. Much like working with the disabled, the level of care provided reflects the level of need of the client and no two clients are the same in terms of their overall needs.

Some of the attributes that are needed when working with the elderly are respectfulness, patience, sensitivity and great people skills. Having these will help you empathise with your client and offer a higher standard of care.

A higher degree of compassion is certainly needed here as the emotional presence of the elderly may be reduced to some degree depending on the case. This is certainly not always the case, but disabilities of both physical and emotional natures do tend to be involved in elderly cases. Many non-disabled elderly tend to be categorised as adult cases. To find out more about working with the elderly, take a look at these job descriptions.

Child services.

While some will be quite happy to continue working with adults, other support workers will want to branch off into child services and this requires a far higher academic achievement and caring presence. Child services is arguably more difficult than adult services as children can sometimes have reduced verbal capabilities and are unable to articulate their true needs as an adult may be able to. This does not necessarily mean that those involved with child support will need to lessen their verbal approach, quite the opposite in fact. It requires a far greater degree of adaptation than it would when working for an adult, depending on their current emotional capacity.

Fostering and adoption services.

Those who are interested in working with children may also consider fostering and adoption services as a route. The main difference between fostering and adoption is the temporary and permanent nature of each, fostering is seen as a temporary solution until the problems that existed at the child’s home are rectified. Adoption, however, is a permanent - legally binding relationship - where the adoptive parents essentially have the same rights as the child's biological parents.

Many regions within the United Kingdom do not require any specific qualifications in order to be considered as a prospective foster parent, but those involved with support will need to be entrusted with the authority to carry out placement assessments to determine the suitability of prospective parents. They will also be required to make the decision regarding a parent's unsuitability for foster placements by following set protocol when making such decisions. This is obviously done for the protection of children who are out of their direct care, so a high level of academic standard is required for this.