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Navigating the world of Social Work

Northern Ireland has a diverse range of Social Work posts across the Private, Public and Third Sectors covering both children and adult services and community and acute care.   For new graduates and experienced Social Workers looking for a change of career this can be quite daunting when working out the next steps.   The good news is you don’t have to do it alone.  As a Specialist Health and Social Care Recruiter we can draw on our years of experience as Recruitment Consultants as well as set you up with our ‘Buddy System’ which allows you to link in with our extensive Social Work team to find out about the team and the work first hand rather than through generic job specifications.


When preparing for this Blog I linked in with the team and they were happy to share their experiences of the team they work in, including:


Residential:  This is a great opportunity to work in a Social Work led environment which provides care to children and young people who are unable to manage within a Foster Family.  The individual Homes all have a unique experience and can specialise in learning disability, early years, and transition to independence.  The Team describe being able to work one to one supporting the young people in placement, as well as providing mentoring and management opportunities to junior members of staff.


“I like working there is never one day that's the same. Getting to know the young people can be very rewarding as well.”

“I love it because you get to build relationships with the young people. You see them grow and develop coming from high risk countries and make such progress.”


Hospital:  The Hospital Social Worker providing assessment of needs, reports and reviews for service users.  Working with service users to make sure all their needs are met, both long term and short term. You will be part of a multi-disciplinary team that included Social Workers, Health Professionals and Home Carers.


It involves long-term and short-term work with service users.  It is a fast paced and varied post.  You may be part of an on-call system, reacting to ongoing situations and making sure service users felt safe, listened too and giving advice and taking the appropriate actions. This will involve Adult Support and Protection work, and possibly Child Protection.  Depending on which Hospital they can have a different focus such as Rehabilitation, Medical/ Surgical Discharge, Maternity, Cancer Care and Children’s Services


“I work in a hospital as part of a multi-disciplinary team alongside medical staff, nurses, occupational therapists and physiotherapists to provide holistic care for patients. My work includes assessment of needs, advocacy, risk management, discharge planning, family support, mental capacity assessment, deprivation of liberty safeguarding, adult safeguarding and child protection. It can be a fast moving environment and no two days are the same, but being a hospital social worker you are an integral and valued part of a professional team. The work can be challenging, particularly during the winter pressures and of course the current COVID-19 crisis, but ultimately the rewards outweigh the challenges. The experience I have gained in this role has been incredible and I am proud to say I work for the NHS.”




Community Care – Adult Services:  Each Client sets out their Community Care Teams differently and some combine Older People Services, Mental Health, Memory or Sensory Services and Disability Services together to create a varied case load.   They are all multi-disciplinary teams which allows for great Team Work and getting creative to design, develop and review bespoke packages of service users, carers and their families.  Being able to consistently assess and review support and keep accurate tracking and recording is essential.  This post is great for team members who like to get out and about and meet service users


“My role in a community mental health team included assessments, brief intervention in promoting mental wellbeing, referring to specialist services and working within a multi-disciplinary setting.”



Community Care – Children’s Services.  The Children’s Services teams are usually split across three main teams including Family Support and Intervention, Looked After Children and Fostering and Adoption.  There are also specific teams that support, Gateway referrals Education and Welfare, Disability, Mental Health and Acute Care.  These posts are usually full time due to the nature of risk management and child protection involved to support continuity of care, build relationships with the young people, foster families and service users they engage with.  These posts are heavily managed through the Statutory Guidance and the teams often interact with additional support services and external agencies.


“I am a social worker in the Belfast trust working with children, young people and their families, providing help and support. My role involves ensuring families receive the right support to ensure that their children can live in a safe, nurturing environment”.


“Throughout my placement, I was involved in identifying risks, and implementing supporting plans which aimed to deliver accessible and effective services which were most appropriate and in the best interests of the subject individuals. In order to identify needs and risks, I adopted numerous assessment tools including ‘Signs of Safety’ and ‘Building better Futures’ which enabled me with the opportunity to understand the attitudes, behaviours and beliefs of the given young person and their families and how this may have had a detrimental impact on their wellbeing. Through implementing these tools, it was important that I developed open and honest relationships with the individuals, and encouraged decision making and autonomy. Establishing this rapport allowed me to acquire the thoughts, feelings and wishes of the individuals.”



LL Thoughts on Social Work Recruitment


“I love working with Social Workers at all levels, especially new graduates.  I find this is the aspect of their career during which I can help the most.   The Students usually come in with an open mind as to what area they wish to work in and are looking for advice and guidance on the process and what is out there.  During our conversations we chat about what aspects of their placements or previous work/voluntary experience they have enjoyed and discuss how this might match into the roles available.   I discuss the Buddy System where they can have a phone call or face to face chat with a more experienced team member who has worked in a team previously and this has proven to be a great resource.  


I have also seen a rise in Social Workers returning to work after a prolonged absence due to family commitments, illness or missing the buzz since retirement.  With these candidates I try to build their confidence and remind them that assessment tools and documents may have changed but their emotional intelligence and empathy will have only grown and developed which really lies at the heart of all social work posts in engaging and supporting service users for a positive outcomes. 

5 key points I share with my candidates:

  1. “What’s for you won’t go by you”
  2. “No is not a dirty word, if you know its not for you, just say”
  3. “Nothing is set in stone, try it, if you like it stay, if not lets move”
  4. “We can’t do anything to help if we don’t know about it, so keep in touch”
  5. “Agency is a stepping stone to permanent work – use us to try new posts and network”


I haven’t gone into more details regarding the Private and Third Sectors as this is usually a specific placement or project that we are supporting so I would recommend following us on Social Media for live updates.  



We are here for you if you want to chat about anything Social Work related feel free to get in touch on 02890447144 or email socialwork@keenanrecruitment.co.uk