What does a social worker do?

Social workers aim to help families deal with lots of different types of problems. Among the things a social worker does is help families who are:

  • experiencing problems with family relationships and conflicts
  • suffering serious personal troubles and mental distress
  • having drug and alcohol problems
  • facing difficulties as a result of disability
  • caring for family members
  • struggling with the challenges of growing old

Social workers are usually based in local authorities, independent organisations and charities. Some social workers also work for the NHS in hospitals, mental health trusts and other community-based settings.


If you’re struggling to deal with your separation on your own, or you need help with a particular child or family problem, you may decide to apply for a needs assessment to help find out if you need more specialised support.

In other situations, a teacher or GP can make a request to social care services on behalf of a family or parent. For example, there might be child protection issues for the children, including cases where violence between adults could result in harm to the children.

You can request help yourself by calling your local social services.

What social workers do if they get involved in your family

If adult or children’s social care services are involved in your family and you are unsure what to expect, your local social services departments will have a number of leaflets and written factsheets that offer useful advice. These can help you understand the work they do and their procedures.

Children and young people’s services may be able to offer you family support. This involves help looking after your child, such as:

  • day care for children under five
  • help with parenting such as parenting classes
  • courses or family support workers
  • practical home help
  • access to a Children’s Centre

Where can I go next?