- What does a family support worker do?
- Family support worker career path
- Family support worker salaries
- Qualifications and training
- Family support worker skills
- Pros and cons of being a family support worker
- Family support worker work-life balance
- Family support work employers
- Related jobs
Are you someone who wants to change the lives of children and families for the better? Do you have the ability to act as emotional support as well as handle difficult and sensitive issues? If this sounds like you then you may be suited to a career as a family support worker.
Are you interested in working as a family support worker? Explore current graduate opportunities in the public sector and government.
What does a family support worker do?
As a family support worker, you will be responsible for emotionally supporting and helping families experiencing difficulties. You will help people through issues such as language barriers, substance abuse, special educational needs (SEN) which may cause problems when trying to find a home, finance themselves or raise children. It is a rewarding role, helping people get back on their feet. The role is varied and can see you doing the following day-to-day:
- Working with people who have an alcohol or drug addiction
- Supporting someone with a disability
- Working alongside social workers to assess families
- Helping develop parenting and home management skills
- Supporting those in financial difficulty
- Aiding those with language barriers
- Attending court dates that deal with care orders of children within your caseload
In general, the start of your relationship is to assess the needs of a family, create a support plan and address their problems head-on as well as prevent the escalation of existing issues. You will work alongside health and social care professionals to deliver a support plan that will help a family out of trouble.
There are a few misconceptions surrounding support work. Here are some of the biggest myths about social work.
Family support worker career path
In this role, it’s important to commit to a constant state of learning and development. Family law, circumstances and societal pressures evolve constantly and your learning path within support work should too.
You will start your career as a freshly qualified family support worker. You will begin by evaluating families and developing cases to manage. There may be an initial training period under supervision, however, you are expected to be self-proficient and capable of taking on cases on your own merit. You will be expected to attend in-house training sessions and seminars to maintain your professional development.
You will also work alongside multiple agencies to gather the most relevant support for your caseload. This will involve referring to health and social care workers and other colleagues to source the best plan for the families under your care.
After gaining the necessary experience and qualifications, you may decide you want to specialise in a specific area of family support work. This may involve working with young or adolescent children, substance abuse or financial planning. To do this, you may need to consider relocating your career to a refuge or specific family centre.
Progression in this career path also usually involves becoming a manager. You may decide to become a team leader, managing a team of support workers. As well as owning your own caseload, you will be the support for your team, offering advice and expertise to help with their cases.
If moving into a managerial style role is not for you, you may consider taking a PhD in family support. This will allow you to transition into the research and developmental side of family support work. You may choose to research effective ways of supporting specialised fields, such as those with learning difficulties, and help to implement change across a sector. Your expertise may be called upon to aid in different lines of social work, such as charity or community organiser consultation.
Family support worker salaries
- Entry-level family support workers can expect to earn anywhere from £18,000 to £25,000.
- Experienced family support workers, those within a speciality or supervisors, can earn upwards of £35,000 per annum.
- Charity managers or centre project workers can earn around £50,000 a year.
Qualifications and training
You do not need a degree to start your career as a family support worker, however, you are expected to have certain qualifications and skills in order to get started.
In order to get started, candidates are required to have a level 3 qualification in a transferable subject such as childcare, counselling, social care or youth work. You will need to have extensive knowledge of safeguarding procedures. It is also beneficial to have experience of working with families as well as an up to date Disclosure and Barring Service check (DBS).
If you are interested in completing a degree, specific subjects will give you a better-suited skill set for finding a job. Degrees in education, psychology or social work will all be beneficial and even give you the ability to progress quickly into a specialist career. These courses often offer you the opportunity to do placements during your education. These will benefit your career progression as they give you valuable work experience.
Having work experience is highly recommended in order to strengthen your application when applying for a career in family support work. Work experience can be found through volunteering in children and family support services to gain the skills needed and experience life as a support worker. You may also be able to find volunteer or paid opportunities in children's homes, mental health services, nurseries or family refuge centres. Your local volunteer bureau will be the ideal place to look for work experience.
Family support worker skills
- IT capabilities. It will be important to be literate in IT as this will be how you keep in-depth records of your cases. You will be expected to maintain data and record interactions accurately.
- Communication. In this job you must be a good listener and able to adapt your responses to individual circumstances. You are dealing with a large variety of people, many with very complicated and difficult problems. You must be able to communicate clearly and compassionately when under pressure.
- Stress management. Due to the nature of the role, it can be easy to develop personal emotions towards individual cases. As you will have many cases all demanding your attention at any one time, it will be important to know how to manage your stress levels, so you can best help your cases. You are the person these people will rely on for level and accurate advice.
- Conflict management. Many of your cases will be high pressure, working with people who may be confrontational or erratic. You must be confident in being able to diffuse difficult situations.
- Empathy. In this role, there will be no room for judgement. It is crucial to take a sensitive and empathetic approach when dealing with potentially traumatic situations. You may find some cases relapse or do not do as advised. You need to be understanding in these cases and be able to bounce back and try again.
For more information on the key competencies, you will need for your career progression as a family support worker, check out our interview with Frontline worker John Batteson.
Pros and cons of being a family support worker
- Highly rewarding role helping families in need. You are working with people often at their lowest points and improving their lives with your support and advice.
- The ability to constantly train and expand your knowledge, creating the ability to develop transferable skills.
- Decent working salary across all levels of experience.
- Widely varied working day; every day is completely different to the next.
- Can be emotionally demanding and confrontational. It is important to self manage to avoid stress-related illness.
- You are often putting yourself in unknown situations which, for some, may be intimidating.
Family support worker work-life balance
You can expect to work weekdays during normal office hours of 9am to 5pm. Occasionally, you may need to work outside of these hours to accommodate a family's needs, such as school pick up or their own work hours. You can expect to be based from an office, travelling to meet families occasionally.
Family support worker employers
Employers of family support workers tend to be in the public sector. Here are some companies that you could work for in family support: