Skip to main content

Roles and Functions of Social Workers in England: Advice Note

1. Social work is a regulated profession in which social workers are uniquely educated and qualified to support individuals and families in meeting some of life’s biggest challenges. Social workers play a pivotal and often leading role in safeguarding people’s rights, building relationships to support and empower children, adults and families to make important choices about the direction of their lives.

2. They must have the knowledge, emotional intelligence, analytical skills and authority to work holistically within these relationships. They will have the confidence to confront challenging and complex social and family situations, drawing on research evidence, community resources and the professional contribution of health, housing and other partner agencies so as to safeguard and promote people’s well-being. They intervene, using legal powers when applicable, for the protection of children and adults as necessary.

3. The distinctive role of social workers can be briefly described as follows:

A. Social workers use a distinctive range of legal and social work knowledge and skills to help people to make changes in their lives and get the outcomes needed;

B. They are uniquely skilled in accessing a wide range of practical and emotional support and services to meet individuals’ needs and aspirations;

C. They are a collaborative profession, working alongside other professionals but taking the lead in helping children, adults and families improve and gain control of their lives when their safety or ability to participate in their communities is restricted;

D. They have a lead role in safeguarding people who may be socially excluded, at risk of abuse or neglect, or who become vulnerable for other reasons. They balance support and protection/ safeguarding roles carefully and in keeping with the specific needs and circumstances of the person or family, taking protective action as needed and within the context of legal roles and frameworks;

E. They are educated and trained to engage with people whose age, mental incapacity or ill-health constrains their ability to protect themselves or others;

F. In adult social care they endorse and act in accordance with the principles of personalisation, ensuring that care and support are person-centred and as far as possible put the people with whom they work in control of their lives;

G. In children’s social care they maintain a focus on the child, ensuring that the child is safe and well, that families are helped to change where necessary, and that required outcomes are achieved.