Residential social worker
Social Service & Guidance

Residential social workers provide practical and emotional support to residents in care homes. They may work with children or adults. They are employed by local authorities, charities and private organisations.

Work Activities

As far as possible, residential social workers help people to keep as much independence, in terms of privacy and dignity, as they can. They work with children and adults (including adults who have physical disabilities, learning difficulties, mental health problems and older adults).

Social workers provide residents with practical support, for example, helping them to claim social security benefits, plan a budget, pay bills and keep in touch with family and friends.

Social workers also arrange any support services that the residents need. Depending on the needs, abilities and experiences of the group, these services could include counselling, group therapy sessions, legal advice or treatment for a drug or alcohol dependency.

Social workers may also plan and manage group activities, to help residents relate to each other and maintain or develop their social skills.

Sometimes social workers help people with the move from residential care to fully independent living in the community. For example, a social worker may help children to find and settle with foster or adoptive parents.

Residential social workers are part of a team working alongside, for example, doctors, psychologists, nurses, care assistants, counsellors and probation officers.

Most residential social workers work in a team on a shift basis, so they can provide 24-hour cover. In some cases, they live-in, on either a long-term or shift basis.

Personal Qualities and Skills

Key skills

  • Listen carefully and empathise when necessary.
  • Ask the right questions to find out about clients' needs.
  • Gain the trust of people from all kinds of backgrounds.
  • Be flexible and adaptable.
  • Assess needs and circumstances.
  • Communicate clearly, both orally and in writing.
  • Gather, analyse and understand information.
  • Enable residents to maintain or develop their independence.
  • Be observant, read situations and identify problems.
  • Be non-judgemental and avoid imposing solutions.
  • Act quickly and calmly.
  • Work through conflict sensitively and come up with effective solutions.
  • Work well under pressure.
  • Have a positive attitude when you are faced with difficulties.
  • Make difficult decisions at times.
  • Strong negotiation skills.
  • Good team skills, to work closely with other professionals.
  • Resilience, so you don't become burdened by the problems you encounter.
  • The ability to manage and prioritise your own workload.
  • The IT skills required to produce reports.
  • Knowledge and understanding of the local resources available to help the people you work with.
  • To be open to suggestions for how the service you provide can be improved.
  • The ability to face the emotional and intellectual demands of the job.

Pay And Opportunities

Employers include local authority social services departments that run residential homes, hostels and other types of supported housing. Charities and private companies also manage residences.


Entry routes and training

Many employers recruit residential social workers who don't have a specific social work qualification. Instead, they look for relevant voluntary or paid experience of working with people in need.

A relevant qualification, such as a diploma in care or a relevant work-based qualification, can be helpful.

Fully qualified social workers have a degree in social work.

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