Skip to content
Skip to main content

About this free course

Download this course

Share this free course

Introducing social work: a starter kit
Introducing social work: a starter kit

Start this free course now. Just create an account and sign in. Enrol and complete the course for a free statement of participation or digital badge if available.

5 What do social workers ‘do’?

This is a photograph showing a group of four people talking to each other.
Figure 4

Next, you’ll think about the range of activities in which social workers become involved. You will begin by noting what you understand currently about some of the common social work tasks.

Activity 3 Social work tasks

From your current experience or knowledge, even if you have very limited direct experience to date, list some tasks that social workers and/or staff working in a social work setting might undertake. Note:

  • five social work tasks or roles with adults
  • five social work tasks or roles with children and families.

When you have completed your lists, reveal the suggestions in the answer below and see how many tasks on your lists are included on the lists you find in the comment box. Try to resist reading the answer until you have recorded your ideas!

To use this interactive functionality a free OU account is required. Sign in or register.
Interactive feature not available in single page view (see it in standard view).


Here are some examples of typical social work tasks. They are not presented in any way as being complete or comprehensive, only as examples. You are of course very likely to have correctly identified some activities that are not included here.


  1. Assessing and supporting the support and care needs of older people in the community.
  2. Assessing and supporting the care needs of adults with physical and/or learning disabilities in the community.
  3. Assessing and supporting the care needs of adults with mental health problems in the community.
  4. Working in residential care homes for adults with physical and/or learning disabilities, and/or mental health problems, or with age-related support needs.
  5. Hospital social work – especially assisting with community discharge arrangements and child protection.
  6. Hospice care with patients and their families.
  7. Social work with military personnel and their families.
  8. Working with adults with visual and hearing impairments.
  9. Working with adult offenders in the community and in prisons.
  10. Supporting and assisting adults with drug/alcohol and substance misuse difficulties.
  11. Supporting adults and young people experiencing homelessness.


  1. Assessing and supporting parents having difficulties raising or controlling their children, and where there is a risk of breakdown in relationships and care.
  2. Assessing and supporting children who may have been or are being abused, physically, sexually, emotionally, or are being neglected and/or exploited.
  3. Working with children and families experiencing poverty, social exclusion, domestic violence, or housing problems.
  4. Working with other agencies and professionals, including psychologists, police, lawyers, and the courts, to provide alternative care for children at risk of remaining with their families.
  5. Recruiting and supporting foster carers and adoptive parents.
  6. Supporting children in foster and residential care, and in leaving care, either to return home, or onward into independent living.
  7. Working with children experiencing difficulties engaging with or attending school.
  8. Working in Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) as family therapists, counsellors, and family support workers.
  9. Working with unaccompanied asylum-seeking children, and with asylum-seeking families.
  10. Working with children and their families where children have physical and/or learning disabilities, both in the community and in residential care.
  11. Working with young people who have committed offences and are on community orders, or in youth custody.