What is Social Care?

Social care is a profession where people work in partnership with those who experience marginalisation, disadvantage or special needs.  Social care workers professionally guide, challenge and support those entrusted to their care toward achieving their maximum potential.  

Social care workers may work, for example, with children and adolescents in residential care; people with learning or physical disabilities; people who are homeless; people with alcohol/drug dependency; families in the community; older people; recent immigrants to Ireland; and others. 

Social care has been defined by IASCE – the Irish Association of Social Care Educators – as: “A profession committed to the planning and delivery of quality care and other support services for individuals and groups with identified needs.”

In addition to a strong academic background, Social Care Workers should have certain personal attributes such as reliability and trustworthiness; altruism, self-awareness, empathy, compassion, ability to work as part of a team and maturity. Social care work can be very challenging – emotionally and physically – and can mean working in some very difficult environments – but it can also be uniquely rewarding.

What qualifications do you need to be a Social Care Worker?

IASCE member colleges offer a range of social care qualifications at Level 6 Higher Certificate, Level 7 Ordinary degree, and Level 8 Honours degree. Some programmes are delivered on both a full-time and part-time basis. For further details on specific college offerings, please refer to the contact list at the end of this article.

A course of study in Social Care typically includes subjects such as sociology, psychology, social administration and policy, principles of professional practice, law, creative skills (art, drama, music) and research methods. A key element of studying to be a professional social care practitioner is involvement in a number of supervised work practice placements of several months’ duration. 

Social Care students are challenged to develop academically through deepening their knowledge, professionally, by learning and practising social care skills, and personally, by developing a capacity to look at their own strengths and weaknesses in relation to the work. 

In line with the Health and Social Care Professionals Act 2005 (as amended) the Social Care profession is moving towards regulation and social care programmes across Ireland will have to be validated in the near future to comply with these statutory regulations. CORU (Health & Social Care Professionals Council) is the body responsible for regulating health and social care professions, with their main role to protect the public by promoting high standards of professional conduct, education, training and competency. All social care workers, once qualified, will be required to register to enable them to practice in the sector.

What’s the difference between a social care practitioner and a social worker?

Social care workers will typically work in a direct person-to-person capacity with the users of services. They will seek to provide a caring, stable environment in which various social, educational and relationship interventions can take place in the day-to-day living space of the service user. 

The social worker’s role, on the other hand, is typically to manage the ‘case’, for example by arranging the residential child care placement in which a child is placed, coordinating case review meetings and negotiating the termination of a placement. It is possible for those with a degree in social care to qualify as a social worker via the postgraduate route. 

A number of Irish universities accept holders of the BA(Hons) in Social Care and BA(Hons) in Applied Social Studies onto postgraduate social work courses. 

Where do Social Care Workers gain employment?

Social care workers may be employed in public sector organisations for e.g. TUSLA and Health Service Executive, voluntary organisations, community based organisations and the private sector.

Further Information

You can obtain further information about social care courses and qualifications by contacting any of the institutions below.

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