The Difference Between Social Auxiliary Work And Social Work - SACAP
Social Work & Community Development

The Difference between Social Auxiliary Work and Social Work

Feb 19, 2024 | By Saranne Durham
Woman social worker talking to teenage girl at office
Mobile Curve
Mobile Curve

Both Social Auxiliary Workers and Social Workers have a role to play in taking care of South Africa’s most vulnerable. The areas of Social Auxiliary Work and Social Work are continuously expanding in need. There is a difference between these two vocations. Here we unpack what they are so that you can decide which role you’re best suited for.

What is Social Auxiliary Work?

In South Africa, Social Auxiliary Workers came to be through the Social and Associated Workers Act of 1978. In the 1970s the situation within South Africa had reached a point where Social Workers couldn’t fulfil the ever-increasing needs. As a result, the role of Social Auxiliary Workers was created. Their primary job is to work alongside and support Social Workers. Since then, the need for Social Auxiliary Workers has grown exponentially.

Where can Social Auxiliary Workers Work?

A lack of access to resources, insufficient support within communities and a high rate of poverty all add to the ever-growing need for these key support staff. Social Auxiliary Workers work with individuals, families, groups and communities. Their role is varied and what they do on a daily basis depends on the needs identified. They support and extend the work carried out by Social Workers.

Although Social Auxiliary Workers cannot practice on their own, they have a very wide scope of practice. Thus, they can be based within a number of organisational settings. For example, non-profits, agencies, welfare organisations, corporations and government departments. Essentially, where ever there is a need for a Social Worker, there is a place for a Social Auxiliary Worker.

6 Main Tasks of Social Auxiliary Workers

  1. Prevention, education and development programmes.
  2. Community-Based Care.
  3. Accessing and establishing resources.
  4. Practical Support.
  5. Administrative Support.
  6. Research.

Within these 6 task areas, Social Auxiliary Workers provide supportive, not therapeutic services. They, therefore, are allocated specific tasks by a Social Worker and provide a supportive extension to therapeutic and care services.

Who should become a Social Auxiliary Worker?

Someone who has a compassionate heart for people will make an excellent Social Auxiliary Worker. This person should also believe in people’s individual potential and genuinely want them to achieve it. They should be tenacious so that they can persist when things get tough. And will need to be optimistic in their outlook. They should strive to be honest and truthful. As well as have a strong sense of responsibility.

How to become a Social Auxiliary Worker

Qualifying as a Social Auxiliary Worker can be done through a learnership and leads to an NQF qualification. A learnership takes place within a workplace learning setting. It has two parts to it. One is a structured learning component and the other is a practical work-specific experience. A Social Auxiliary Work learnership takes place over a period of 12-18 months. During which the learner is also required to register with the South African Council for Social Service Professionals (SACSSP).

Requirements to Register as a Social Auxiliary Worker

  • Have a SACSSP-accredited certificate in Social Auxiliary Work. or
  • A Further Education and Training (FET) Certificate in Social Auxiliary Work issued by a Health and Welfare Sector Education and Training Authority, an HWSETA-accredited provider. or
  • An equal or higher than the FET certificate, which is also recognised by the SACSSP.


  • Successfully completed two-year courses at a recognised university, focused on social work. It must include both theoretical and practical learning.

Those who wish to become Social Auxiliary Workers and have relevant prior learning experience can apply to register with the SACSSP. Notable is that the merits of each application are individually evaluated. As such, the decision to allow someone to register rests with the SACSSP.

What is Social Work?

At its essence, social work is about changing lives for the better. It’s focused on improving things for individuals, families and communities. Social work can be on a mental, emotional, physical and material or resource level. The main objective is to intervene and change a situation so as to make someone’s life better. Social workers are often involved in bigger policy aspects, such as those that relate to creating and maintaining a sustainable environment.

Requirements to become a Social Worker

There are two ways to become a Social Worker. One is via an academic route and the other is by using experience as an alternative to the academic requirements. In order to register, there are also non-academic requirements which are applicable to all Social Workers.

Academic Route Requirements

  • A National Senior Certificate/National Certificate (Vocational) or equivalent that has:
    • Appropriate subject combinations. You have to have English and Maths or Maths literacy.
    • An achievement rating of Level 4 (adequate achievement of 50-59%) or better in 6 designated subjects.
    • English with an achievement rating of Level 5 (adequate achievement of 60-69%) or better.


  • A Senior Certificate (pre-2008) with Endorsement or an equivalent school-leaving certificate. Required subjects are English and Maths or Maths literacy passed at a standard grade or higher level.


  • A Higher Certificate (NQF 5) or a SAQA-verified equivalent qualification. OR
  • An Advanced Certificate or Diploma in a cognate field, also known as a second concentration or sub-specialisation area.

Recognition of Prior Learning Route (RPL)

  • Must be 24 years or older.
  • Require a portfolio of evidence demonstrating formal and informal knowledge, training and work experience.
  • A learning equivalent to an NQF 5 qualification.

Non-Academic Requirements

  • Police clearance for criminal convictions certificate.
  • Two testimonials from credible sources vouching for your character.
  • Selection and screening interview(s) with SACAP officials.

Note that part of the requirement for admittance into a social work programme is to be defined as a “fit and proper person”. This is as per the SACSSP definition.  Additionally, students are required to register with the SACSSP during their second year of study.

Where Can Social Workers Work?

There are a growing number of places where social work can take place. For instance, more and more companies see the need for access to a Social Worker within a workplace setting. Wellness programmes are popular areas to employ Social Workers within. Additionally, Social Workers are employed within non-profit organisations, agencies and government departments. They are able to provide services independently or in conjunction with a team, which often includes Social Auxiliary Workers.

Who should become a Social Worker?

A Social Worker needs to be a people-orientated person, who is empathetic and compassionate. They need to be even-tempered as well as be able to navigate challenging situations. Therefore, Social Workers should be resourceful and agile-minded. They need to be able to remain positive in the face of difficulty and be able to encourage other people. Ideally, they should have the ability to lead a team of people as well as be a team player. This also means that they need to be good at communication.

Where to Study Social Work?

SACAP offers a direct route to becoming a Social Worker. This you can do by enrolling in a Bachelor of Social Work. One of the many advantages of studying Social Work through SACAP is that courses have a strong Applied Psychology element. Apply online. Or enquire further by contacting a SACAP admissions officer.

Previous post

Next post

Your form is being submitted.

Thank you for your enquiry