What qualifications do you need to be a support worker?
Support workers strive to make a positive impact on families’ lives by intervening and supporting them through periods of personal trauma and conflict. The role of a support worker is extremely demanding, as it requires candidates to maintain a non-judgmental attitude and to forge relationships, often in cases where physical and mental abuse are present. Patience, the ability to stay calm under pressure and excellent listening skills are essential skills for the role
Employers usually won't hire candidates without proven experience in the field of support work and academic qualifications relevant to the role. Experience is typically gained through volunteer work with children, adolescents and parents. Such experience can be based in a range of settings including probation centres, mental health facilities, youth projects, nurseries and foster care homes.
Academic study can also boost your chances of securing a position in the field of support work. Relevant qualifications include a Diploma in Health and Social Care, Diploma for the Children and the Young People’s Workforce and a Diploma in Health and Social Care. A level 3 qualification in any of these subjects is usually a requirement, although some employers may accept Level 2 applicants with extensive experience.
Higher level support level qualifications include an advanced diploma in counselling or a degree in social work. In addition to academic qualifications and experience, all candidates are also expected to pass a Disclosure and Barring Services (DBS) check. DBS checks examine the history of candidates for previous civil or criminal cautions or convictions that may indicate a risk factor for taking on support work.
Once appointed in a support worker role, you will receive training across a range of areas including child protection, health and safety and legal policy guidance. Appointed workers can also continue to develop by undertaking part-time study for a foundation or HND (higher national diploma) in family support or take on a full degree in social work. Those who already hold degrees can study towards postgraduate qualifications.
Hours and conditions
Support workers usually work a standard 37 hour week, with job-sharing and part-time positions often available. Posts working with school children may require evening and weekend work to work around schooling hours. Placements often involve scheduled sessions in family homes combined with office work to write up notes and attend meetings with other support workers. According to the National Careers Service website, salaries for support workers start at around £18,000 but can rise to as high as £35,000 with extensive experience.