Social care worker

Social care worker article illustration


Social care workers provide support and help people with care services. They help people to live full and valued lives in the community. They assist babies, young children, adolescents, adults, and older adults. They address service users’ psychological, social, emotional, and physical needs. They work in various settings with individuals, families, groups, organisations, and communities.

Social care workers typically do the following duties:

  • Identify people and communities in need of help
  • Assess clients’ needs, situations, strengths, and support networks to determine their goals
  • Help clients adjust to changes and challenges in their lives, such as illness, divorce, or unemployment
  • Research, refer, and advocate for community resources, such as food stamps, childcare, and healthcare, to assist and improve a client’s well-being
  • Respond to crisis situations such as child abuse and mental health emergencies
  • Monitor clients’ situations, and follow up to ensure that they have improved
  • Maintain case files and records
  • Provide psychotherapy services

Other titles

The following job titles also refer to social care worker:

care worker
social care assistant
community social care worker
senior social care worker
senior care worker

Working conditions

Social care workers work in various settings and can have different schedules, including night shifts, weekends, and holidays. The work can be physically and emotionally demanding, requiring the ability to handle stress and deal with difficult situations. They may also have to work with clients who have challenging behaviors or communication difficulties.

Minimum qualifications

Social care workers’ education and training requirements vary depending on the employer and the specific role. A high school diploma or equivalent is usually required, and many employers prefer candidates with a bachelor’s or master’s degree or a training in social care, health care, or related fields.

Employers may also require some experience in the field, such as volunteer work, internships, or work in related areas, such as healthcare or social work. Good communication, organizational, and problem-solving skills, as well as the ability to work independently and as part of a team, are also essential qualities for social care workers.

ISCO skill level

ISCO skill level is defined as a function of the complexity and range of tasks and duties to be performed in an occupation. It is measured on a scale from 1 to 4, with 1 the lowest level and 4 the highest, by considering:

  • the nature of the work performed in an occupation in relation to the characteristic tasks and duties
  • the level of formal education required for competent performance of the tasks and duties involved and
  • the amount of informal on-the-job training and/or previous experience in a related occupation required for competent performance of these tasks and duties.

Social care worker is a Skill level 3 occupation.

Social care worker career path

Similar occupations

These occupations, although different, require a lot of knowledge and skills similar to social care worker.

adult community care worker
care at home worker
child welfare worker
disability support worker
family support worker

Long term prospects

These occupations require some skills and knowledge of social care worker. They also require other skills and knowledge, but at a higher ISCO skill level, meaning these occupations are accessible from a position of social care worker with a significant experience and/or extensive training.

family social worker
rehabilitation support worker
child care social worker
community care case worker
community development social worker

Essential knowledge and skills

Essential knowledge

This knowledge should be acquired through learning to fulfill the role of social care worker.

  • Customer service: Processes and principles related to the customer, client, service user and personal services; these may include procedures to evaluate customer or service user’s satisfaction.
  • Legal requirements in the social sector: The prescribed legislative and regulatory requirements in the social sector.
  • Social sciences: The development and characteristics of sociological, anthropological, psychological, political, and social policy theories.
  • Social justice: The development and principles of human rights and social justice and the way they should be applied on a case-by-case basis.
  • Company policies: The set of rules that govern the activity of a company.

Essential skills and competences

These skills are necessary for the role of social care worker.

  • Support harmed social service users: Take action when there is concern that individuals may be at risk of harm or abuse and support those who have acted out.
  • Provide social counselling: Assist and guide social service users to resolve personal, social or psychological problems and difficulties.
  • Assist disabled individuals to participate in community activities: Facilitate disabled individuals` inclusion in the community and support them in establishing and maintaining relationships through access to community activities, venues and services.
  • Involve service users and carers in care planning: Evaluate the needs of individuals about their care, and involve families or carers in supporting the development and implementation of support plans. Ensure review and monitoring of these plans.
  • Work within communities: Establish social projects for community development and active citizen participation.
  • Meet standards of practice in social services: Practice social care and social work in a lawful, safe and effective way according to standards.
  • Support social service users in skills management: Support individuals in determining the skills they need in their everyday lives and help them develop their skills.
  • Apply quality standards in social services: Apply quality standards in social services while upholding social work values and principles.
  • Apply problem solving in social service: Systematically apply a step-by-step problem-solving process in providing social services.
  • Protect vulnerable social service users: Intervene to provide physical, moral and psychological support to people in dangerous or difficult situations and to remove to a place of safety where appropriate.
  • Contribute to protecting individuals from harm: Use established processes and procedures to challenge and report dangerous, abusive, discriminatory or exploitative behaviour and practice, bringing any such behaviour to the attention of the employer or the appropriate authority.
  • Monitor service users’ health: Perform routine monitoring of client’s health, such as taking temperature and pulse rate.
  • Undertake risk assessment of clients: Follow risk assessment policies and procedures to assess the risk of a client harming him or herself or others, taking the appropriate steps to minimise the risk.
  • Deliver social services in diverse cultural communities: Deliver services that are mindful of different cultural and language traditions, show respect and validation for communities and be consistent with policies regarding human rights and equality and diversity.
  • Conduct interview in social service: Induce clients, colleagues, executives, or public officials to talk fully, freely, and truthfully, so as to explore the interviewee`s experiences, attitudes, and opinions.
  • Demonstrate leadership in social service cases: Take the lead in the practical handling of social work cases and activities.
  • Communicate professionally with colleagues in other fields: Communicate professionally and cooperate with members of the other professions in the health and social services sector.
  • Follow health and safety precautions in social care practices: Ensure hygienic work practice, respecting the environment’s safety at daycare, residential care settings and care at home.
  • Promote social change: Promote changes in relationships between individuals, families, groups, organisations and communities by considering and coping with unpredictable changes, at the micro, macro and mezzo level.
  • Advocate for social service users: Speak for and on behalf of service users, using communicative skills and knowledge of relevant fields to assist those less advantaged.
  • Prevent social problems: Develop, define and implement actions that can prevent social problems, striving to enhance the quality of life for all citizens.
  • Support social service users’ positiveness: Work with individuals to identify difficulties associated with their self-esteem and sense of identity and support them to implement strategies like to develop more positive self-images.
  • Maintain privacy of service users: Respect and maintain the dignity and privacy of the client, protecting his or her confidential information and clearly explaining policies about confidentiality to the client and other parties involved.
  • Support service users in developing skills: Encourage and support social service users in sociocultural activities in the organisation or in the community, supporting the development of leisure and work skills.
  • Promote service users’ rights: Supporting the client`s rights to control his or her life, making informed choices about the services they receive, respecting and, where appropriate, promoting the individual views and wishes of both the client and his or her caregivers.
  • Apply person-centred care: Treat individuals as partners in planning, developing and assessing care, to make sure it is appropriate for their needs. Put them and their caregivers at the heart of all decisions.
  • Encourage social service users to preserve their independence in their daily activities: Encourage and support the service user to preserve independence in performing his/her daily activities and personal care, assisting the service user with eating, mobility, personal care, making beds, doing laundry, preparing meals, dressing, transporting the client to doctor`s appointments, and helping with medications or running errands.
  • Assess social service users’ situation: Assess the social situation of service users situation balancing curiosity and respect in the dialogue, considering their families, organisations and communities and the associated risks and identifying the needs and resources to meet physical, emotional and social needs.
  • Assist social service users with physical disabilities: Help service users with mobility problems and other physical disabilities such as incontinence, assisting in using and caring for aids and personal equipment.
  • Handle conflicts: Mediate in conflicts and tense situations by acting between parties, such as service users, and important others like families, and institutions, striving to effect an agreement, reconcile, and resolve problems.
  • Relate empathetically: Recognise, understand and share emotions and insights experienced by another.
  • Support service users to use technological aids: Work with individuals to identify appropriate aids, supporting them to use specific technological aids and review their effectiveness.
  • Listen actively: Give attention to what other people say, patiently understand points being made, asking questions as appropriate, and not interrupt at inappropriate times; able to listen carefully the needs of customers, clients, passengers, service users or others, and provide solutions accordingly.
  • Manage social crisis: Identify, respond, and motivate individuals in social crisis situations, in a timely manner, making use of all resources.
  • Review social service plan: Review social service plans, taking service users’ views and preferences into account. Follow up on the plan, assessing the quantity and quality of services provided.
  • Apply decision making within social work: Take decisions when called for, staying within the limits of granted authority and considering the input from the service user and other caregivers.
  • Adhere to organisational guidelines: Adhere to organisational or department specific standards and guidelines. Understand the motives of the organisation and the common agreements and act accordingly.
  • Apply holistic approach within social services: Consider the social service user in any situation, recognising the connections between micro-dimension, meso-dimension, and macro-dimension of social problems, social development and social policies.
  • Delegate activities: Delegate activities and tasks to others according to the ability, level of preparation, competence and legal scope of practice. Make sure that people understand what they should do and when they should do it.
  • Work in a multicultural environment in health care: Interact, relate and communicate with individuals from a variety of different cultures, when working in a healthcare environment.
  • Apply socially just working principles: Work in accordance with management and organisational principles and values focusing on human rights and social justice.
  • Promote inclusion: Promote inclusion in health care and social services and respect diversity of beliefs, culture, values and preferences, keeping in mind the importance of equality and diversity issues.
  • Maintain records of work with service users: Maintain accurate, concise, up-to-date and timely records of the work with service users while complying with legislation and policies related to privacy and security.
  • Report on social development: Report results and conclusions on society’s social development in an intelligible way, presenting these orally and in written form to a range of audiences from non-experts to experts.
  • Undertake continuous professional development in social work: Undertake continuous professional development (CPD) to continuously update and develop knowledge, skills and competences within one`s scope of practice in social work.
  • Tolerate stress: Maintain a temperate mental state and effective performance under pressure or adverse circumstances.
  • Refer service users to community resources: Refer clients to community resources for services such as job or debt counselling, legal aid, housing, medical treatment, or financial assistance, providing concrete information, such as where to go and how to apply.
  • Apply organisational techniques: Employ a set of organisational techniques and procedures which facilitate the achievement of the goals set. Use these resources efficiently and sustainably, and show flexibility when required.
  • Communicate with social service users: Use verbal, non-verbal, written, and electronic communication. Pay attention to the specific social service users’ needs, characteristics, abilities, preferences, age, developmental stage, and culture.
  • Support social service users with specific communication needs: Identify individuals who have specific communication preferences and needs, supporting them to interact with other people and monitoring communication to identify changing needs.
  • Assist social service users in formulating complaints: Help social services users and caregivers file complaints, taking the complaints seriously and responding to them or passing them to the appropriate person.
  • Maintain the trust of service users: Establish and maintain the trust and confidence of the client, communicating in an appropriate, open, accurate and straightforward way and being honest and reliable.
  • Accept own accountability: Accept accountability for one`s own professional activities and recognise the limits of one`s own scope of practice and competencies.
  • Manage stress in organisation: Cope with sources of stress and cross-pressure in one’s own professional life, such as occupational, managerial, institutional and personal stress, and help others do the same so as to promote the well-being of your colleagues and avoid burn-out.
  • Comply with legislation in social services: Act according to policy and legal requirements in providing social services.
  • Build helping relationship with social service users: Develop a collaborative helping relationship, addressing any ruptures or strains in the relationship, fostering bonding and gaining service users` trust and cooperation through empathic listening, caring, warmth and authenticity.

Optional knowledge and skills

Optional knowledge

This knowledge is sometimes, but not always, required for the role of social care worker. However, mastering this knowledge allows you to have more opportunities for career development.

  • Family law: The legal rules that govern family-related disputes between individuals, such as marriages, child adoption, civil unions, etc.
  • Children’s physical development: Recognise and describe the development, observing the following criteria: weight, length, and head size, nutritional requirements, renal function, hormonal influences on development, response to stress, and infection.
  • Disability care: The specific methods and practices used in providing care to people with physical, intellectual, and learning disabilities.
  • Older adults’ needs: The physical, mental, and social needs of frail, older adults.
  • Disability types: The nature and types of disabilities affecting human beings, such as physical, cognitive, mental, sensory, emotional, or developmental, and the specific needs and access requirements of disabled people.
  • Adolescent psychological development: Understand the developments and the development needs of children and young persons, observing the behaviour and the attachment relationships to detect developmental delay.
  • Child protection: Framework of legislation and practice meant to prevent and protect children from abuse and harm

Optional skills and competences

These skills and competences are sometimes, but not always, required for the role of social care worker. However, mastering these skills and competences allows you to have more opportunities for career development.

  • Manage children’s problems: Promote the prevention, early detection, and management of children`s problems, focusing on developmental delays and disorders, behavioural problems, functional disabilities, social stresses, and mental disorders, including depression and anxiety disorders.
  • Support social service users at the end of life: Support individuals to prepare for the end of life and to plan the care and support they wish to receive through the process of dying, providing care and support as death approaches and carrying out agreed actions immediately after death.
  • Conduct cleaning tasks: Perform cleaning activities such as tidying the room, making the bed, removing trash and handling laundry and other housekeeping duties in line with organisational standards.
  • Use e-health and mobile health technologies: Use mobile health technologies and e-health (online applications and services) in order to enhance the provided healthcare.
  • Address public health issues: Promote healthy practices and behaviours to ensure that populations stay healthy.
  • Provide first aid: Administer cardiopulmonary resuscitation or first aid to help a sick or injured person until they receive complete medical treatment.
  • Provide in-home support for disabled individuals: Assist individuals with disabilities in their own homes and with daily living tasks such as washing, dressing, eating and transport, helping them to achieve independence.
  • Assess the development of youth: Evaluate the different aspects of the development needs of children and young people.
  • Apply a holistic approach in care: Use bio-psycho-social models for care and take into account cultural and existential dimensions of the healthcare user, transforming a holistic understanding into practical measures.
  • Provide testimony in court hearings: Provide testimony in court hearings regarding a variety of social matters and other events.
  • Support the positiveness of youths: Help children and young people to assess their social, emotional and identity needs and to develop a positive self-image, enhance their self-esteem and improve their self-reliance.
  • Assist with self-medication: Assist individuals with disability in taking their medication at appropriate times of the day.
  • Evaluate prospective foster parents: Interview the potential foster parents, run an extensive background check related to their medical, financial or criminal records, pay visits to their homes to ensure safe living conditions for the child to be placed under their guardianship and draw objective and informed conclusions.
  • Plan social service process: Plan the social service process, defining the objective and considering the methods of implementation, identifying and accessing available resources, such as time, budget, and personnel, and defining indicators to evaluate the outcome.
  • Prepare youths for adulthood: Work with children and young people to identify the skills and abilities they will need to become effective citizens and adults and to prepare them for independence.
  • Support social service users to manage their financial affairs: Work with individuals to access information and advice about their financial affairs and support them in managing and monitor their finances.
  • Implement care programmes for children: Perform activities with children according to their physical, emotional, intellectual and social needs by using appropriate tools and equipment that facilitate interaction and learning activities.
  • Support children who have experienced trauma: Support children who have experienced trauma, identifying their needs and working in ways that promote their rights, inclusion, and well-being.
  • Conduct foster care visits: Pay regular visits to the family once the child has been assigned a foster family, to monitor the quality of care given to the child, as well as the progress of the child in that environment.
  • Assist with personal administration issues: Assist individuals with administration activities such as shopping, banking or paying bills.
  • Assist families in crisis situations: Help families by counselling them on how to cope with serious situations, where to find more specialised assistance and services that can help them overcome family problems.
  • Apply foreign languages in social services: Communicate with social service users and social services providers in foreign languages, according to their needs.
  • Support social service users to live at home: Support social service users to develop their own personal resources and work with them to access additional resources, services and facilities.
  • Promote the safeguarding of young people: Understand safeguarding and what should be done in cases of actual or potential harm or abuse.
  • Contribute to safeguarding children: Understand, apply and follow safeguarding principles, engage professionally with children and work within the boundaries of personal responsibilities.
  • Perform child welfare investigations: Make home visits to assess allegations of child abuse or neglect and evaluate the parents’ ability to care for the child in appropriate conditions.
  • Support children’s wellbeing: Provide an environment that supports and values children and helps them to manage their own feelings and relationships with others.
  • Evaluate older adults’ ability to take care of themselves: Assess the condition of an older patient and decide if he or she needs assistance in taking care of him- or herself eating or bathing and meeting his/hers social and psychological needs.
  • Distribute meals to patients: Provide meals to patients or residents, following the dietary requirements and medical prescriptions.
  • Communicate with youth: Use verbal and non-verbal communication and communicate through writing, electronic means, or drawing. Adapt your communication to children and young people`s age, needs, characteristics, abilities, preferences, and cultures.
  • Assist children with special needs in education settings: Assist children with special needs, identifying their needs, modifying classroom equipment to accommodate them and helping them participate in school activities.
  • Communicate by use of interpretation in social services: Communicate through the help of an interpreter to facilitate verbal communication and cultural mediation.
  • Advise on housing: Inform and support individuals or tenants in finding available housing opportunities, according to their particular needs, as well as liaise with authorities, in order to help individuals lead independent lives.
  • Determine child placement: Evaluate whether the child needs to be taken out of his home situation and assess child`s placement in foster care.
  • Support individuals to adjust to physical disability: Assist individuals to adjust to the implications of physical disability and to understand the new responsibilities and level of dependency.
  • Provide social guidance over the phone: Give social support and advice to individuals over the phone listening to their concerns and reacting accordingly.
  • Maintain relations with children’s parents: Inform children`s parents of the activities planned, program`s expectations and children`s individual progress.
  • Work with social service users in a group: Establish a group of social service users and work together towards individual and group goals.
  • Supervise children: Keep the children under supervision for a certain period of time, ensuring their safety at all times.

ISCO group and title

3412 – Social work associate professionals

  1. Social care worker – ESCO
  2. Social Workers : Occupational Outlook Handbook – U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
  3. Social worker job profile |
  4. What is social care work? – Ireland
  5. Featured image: Photo by Matthias Zomer from Pexels
Last updated on April 20, 2023

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