Social Work & Community Development

What Does a Social Worker Do?

Feb 15, 2022 | By Saranne Durham
What Does a Social Worker Do? - SACAP
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Mobile Curve

Social worker’s engage people and structures to change, improve and enhance wellbeing. It can be at an individual, family, community or work environmental level. At its essence, social work is about changing people’s lives for the better. This is quite a broad mandate; it requires commitment and coordination as well as lateral thinking. So, what does a social worker do?

Who becomes a Social Worker?

A social worker needs to be interested in people and empathetic to the challenges they face. They need to remain objective within challenging circumstances and therefore have to be tolerant and even tempered. Many social workers operate within a resource scarce setting. Thus, being resourceful and reliable is an important trait. As is the ability to remain positive and inspire others to see a way forward towards change when things are difficult. Having great communication skills is a must as is a good IQ and EQ.

Where do Social Workers Work?

What social workers do is a calling, not just a job. They work within the public and private sectors, as well as within Non-profit organisations. They work with individuals, families, communities and government officials. Some companies ensure that their workers have access to social workers as part of their company wellness programmes.

“Social Workers are passionate about changing things for the better.”

Who needs a Social Worker?

Many people, communities and organisations could benefit from the expertise of a good social worker. Social workers work alongside other professionals, such as counsellors and government officials, to bring both healing and change.

How Individuals can be Assisted by a Social Worker?

As social workers do make a big difference in people’s lives, they are often regarded as heroes. These are some of the ways that they do this.

Protecting Children

One of the important functions that a social worker fulfils is ensuring that children are safe. This is usually within their home setting, although may extend to school. Children are especially vulnerable to trauma. It can be caused by something they see or experience. Often one of the challenges is that they cannot fully articulate their emotions or an experience. Thus, they need an expert to assess and provide insight so that they can get the correct intervention to better prevent long-term consequences.

5 Ways a Social Worker Helps Adults

  1. Assesses an individual’s situation.
  2. Creates a treatment plan and helps implements it.
  3. Enables access to necessary resources.
  4. Evaluates and Monitors progress.
  5. Advocates and supports an individual.

Advocating for the Elderly

Those who are elderly can be quite vulnerable. Working with the elderly is called geriatric social work. Social workers often teach those looking after the elderly how to better understand and address their needs. This may be how to communicate better, design and implement medicine schedules or link them to end-of-life care organisations, such as hospice. Social workers are also employed by old-age homes. Within these settings, geriatric social workers advocate for the rights of individuals. They do social psychosocial assessments, assess needs and create plans to address them or solve challenges residents experience.

Group Intervention

Social workers do work within company and work environments as well as family and community settings.

Healing Families

Social workers do quite a bit of work within family settings. Where a household is unsafe or going through difficult times, they assist members to connect and build better relationships with each other. For example, they mediate between the individuals, thereby enabling reconciliation and healing of past hurts. Additionally, they help connect families to services after, for example, assessing the impact of a traumatic event within a home.

Building Communities

A social worker can have many different hats to wear within a community setting. They could be part of a team or work independently. Key to their work is them being solution oriented. Social workers are ideally placed, knowledge and workwise, to develop policy and thereafter to roll it out. They can assist with community advocacy, development and reconciliation. Social workers often provide guidance and support on rights and navigating the legal system. Establishing, registering and overseeing service points, such as feeding centres, can also fall within their community mandate. Many social workers screen people for illnesses and then direct them to the correct services. For example, mental health.

Intervening in Work Environments

An outside impartial expert assisting within a workplace setting can provide good long-term benefits if something unsettling or traumatic has happened. The benefits are for both those employed by the company as well as for the company’s wellness. Therefore, what social workers do within a work environment varies according to need. They may hold workshops with the different departments or assist individuals to access services such as counselling. They could also work with a company’s Human Resource (HR) personnel to mitigate the negative impact of potential future events.

“Social Workers actively seek out solutions which change circumstances for the better.”

How to Find a Social Worker?

There are a number of ways to get in touch with a social worker should you need one. One of the easiest is through an NGO that focuses on the type of service you require. For example: Child Welfare. The South African Association for Social Workers in Private Practice (SAASWIPP) assists people to find a social worker. They also offer online resources. Additionally, Find Help is an online portal, which assists people to find social workers based in Cape Town, Johannesburg, Durban or Pretoria. Your local doctor, clinic or hospital are also good places to enquire about how to find a social worker.

How to become a Social Worker

The South African College of Applied Psychology (SACAP) offers a direct route to becoming a Social Worker. This you can do by enrolling in a Bachelor of Social Work through the Social Work and Community Development Facility. One of the many advantages of studying Social Work through SACAP, is that courses have a strong Applied Psychology element. Social Workers need to be registered with the South African Council for Social Service Professionals (SACSSP) ahead of practicing. Enrol online. Or enquire further by contacting a SACAP course advisor.

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