Thinking of working as a Social Worker in the UK?

BASW’s International Committee has provided some information and useful links to websites to help you make a decision.

Step 1 - Understanding the context of social work in the UK

Government provision of social work and social care in the United Kingdom is devolved to each country. So England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales each have their own separate systems of social care and in Scotland social work services. Each country has different policies, priorities and funding levels. Statutory bodies, such as local authorities or Health and Social Care Trusts in Northern Ireland, exist in each country and have the primary responsibility for providing social services to support vulnerable children, families and adults within their boundaries.

Although services may be provided in different ways, social work with adults includes support for older people, people with mental health problems, learning or physical disabilities, those with alcohol and substance misuse problems, homeless people, victims of domestic abuse or trafficking and families and carers. In Scotland it includes criminal justice work and in Northern Ireland probation.

Social work with children, young people and families includes responsibilities for child protection,  children in care and leaving care, fostering, adoption, youth justice , young people who are unemployed or homeless, those who have learning or physical disabilities, victims of trafficking and unaccompanied migrant children, as well as support for families and carers.

Legislation and the way services are provided are different in each country. There is also a range of legislation and guidance relevant for adults and children. Below are some websites that provide information on legislation relevant for each country:

UK legislation:


An online resource for professionals working with children and families in England -

Northern Ireland:



BASW has a UK Code of Ethics, which members are expected to abide by in their day to day practice. The BASW website also has information on a wide range of social work legislation, topics and issues relevant for each country.

If you want to look further into working in the UK the following steps give some practical information on employment visas, registration and where to look for jobs.

Step 2 - Employment visas

Home Office UK Border Agency is responsible for securing the UK border and controlling migration. It holds information on sponsoring migrants under the points-based system. If you are not a British Citizen or from the EU or EEA, you will most likely need to obtain a visa through sponsorship via an employer who is registered as sponsor.  To find out more these are Home office links:

If you are a national of an EEA country or Switzerland, you will not need to apply for permission in order to work here.

Step 3 - Registration as a social worker

The United Kingdom is comprised of four countries - England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. In the UK social work is a regulated profession and the title ‘Social Worker’ has been protected in the UK since April 2005. Each country has its own regulatory body and in order to work as a social worker you must register with the appropriate body in the country where you wish to work. This applies whether you are from the EEA, Switzerland or have obtained a visa to work as a social worker with a sponsoring employer.

The first step would be to ensure your social work qualification meets the standards for registration. If you wish to proceed with registration, you will need to complete application forms and pay an application fee which is different for each country. The links below will take you to the websites for each of the registration bodies.

England: The Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC) is the regulatory body for social work profession.

Northern Ireland: Northern Ireland Care Council (NISCC)

Scotland: Scottish Social Services Council (SSSC)

Wales: The Care Council for Wales

Step 4 - Employment

Social workers are employed by local authorities, health trusts and other community-based settings. As many services are now commissioned by statutory agencies, social workers are also employed by voluntary, private, not for profit agencies and social enterprises.

If you do not already have a job with a sponsoring employer, there are various ways you can find jobs such as approaching local authorities or charities directly, or you may wish to consider using the assistance of a social work employment agency.  These companies will discuss your work experience and may be able to assist in securing either permanent or locum/temporary work in the UK.

Some websites to look for jobs are: - for jobs in Scotland - for jobs in Scotland

LinkedIn is a resource for connecting to professionals in the UK. Many agencies and contacts can be found on LinkedIn and representatives are happy to talk to you about the opportunities they have available. There are also groups specifically for social care and social work services in the UK. Most Local Authorities also have pages on LinkedIn where you can see what positions are available.