The Biggest Myths About Social Work

Most jobs have their common misconceptions, but there are few as misunderstood as social work. Here, we bust the biggest myths about the profession.

1) Social workers take children away from their families

A social worker doesn’t want to remove children from their families, they want to help create enough safety for children so that families can stay together. In some situations where there are high levels of risks, social workers make recommendations to the family courts and a judge decides if a child should be removed. Social workers will do everything they can to improve situations so children can stay with their families. 

2) Social workers aren’t well paid

Social workers salaries are comparable with any other public sector profession. At the most senior level you could earn a very competitive salary as a service manager, principal social worker or director with regional responsibility and multi-million pound budgets. As a trainee social worker on the Frontline Leadership Development Programme you could earn a tax free bursary up to £19,000 in your first year, and in the second year having qualified, earn a local authority salary of around £30,000 per year. 

3) There is no career progression in social work

The social work qualification is generic which means you can work across a range of teams; child protection, youth justice, mental health, adult social work and disabilities to name just a few. Within your first three years of qualifying you could be promoted to a senior social worker or line manage a team as either a consultant social worker or team manager. There’s also plenty of scope to access careers outside of statutory social work practice such as in training, academia, consultancy or policy making. One Frontline participant who successfully qualified as a social worker now has a job with a research centre specialising in psychoanalysis and another has a strategic role within the Civil Service – the possibilities are endless!

Within your first three years of qualifying you could be promoted to a senior social worker or line manage a team as either a consultant social worker or team manager.

4) Social workers interfere in the lives of other people

Social workers respect the lives of the children and families they work with. They play close attention to the European Convention on Human Rights; in particular Article 8 – the right to a private and family life. Social workers only become involved if families have asked for support or if someone outside the family is worried about the risks to a child. . Most families build excellent relationships with their children’s social worker.

5) Anyone can call themselves a social worker

To practise as a social worker you need to have a bachelor’s degree or a master’s qualification and have registered with the Health and Care Professions Council. Only those individuals who demonstrate exceptional abilities through the application process will secure a place on the Frontline Leadership Development Programme so gaining a place can be extremely competitive. 

6) All social workers are women

People have long thought of social work as a female orientated profession. The truth is that men have a powerful part to play in social work as they can act as positive role models for children who may lack these figures in their lives. Male social workers, can build excellent relationships with hard to reach fathers and involve them, where safe, in their children’s lives. There are also social specific programmes run by male social workers for fathers who wish to improve their parenting.  

7) I will be on my own in some tough situations

In many situations social workers work jointly with colleagues or professionals from other agencies. Social workers work with the “team around the child” meaning everyone has responsibility. On the Frontline Leadership Development Programme you will work in a unit model within a local authority. You will regularly hypothesise with the team members in your unit – three other trainee social workers - and discuss possible situations and actions to ensure you are making the best decision for the children and families. 

8) I will have to leave my feelings at home

As a Social worker you are encouraged to use yourself reflexively to benefit your own practise and your work with families. Social workers spend time regularly reflecting on their feelings and behaviours and how these might impact their work with families during regular supervision and in team meetings.  As a participant on the Frontline Leadership Development programme you are encouraged to think creatively to make the lives of the people you come into contact with better.

9) Social work is just a job

Social workers are passionate about social injustice, discrimination and making a difference to the lives of vulnerable children and families. Social workers can have a big impact on the lives of the people they work with – from building a relationship with a young person to enabling a child to return to their birth family after spending time in care. As one care leaver has said, “Social workers don’t always see the impact, but boy they can make a difference”.

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