Residential Social Worker

Social care is one of the fastest growing areas of local government service provision, and one of the most challenging but rewarding. It provides a range of services critical to the welfare of a large number of the most vulnerable members of our society: the young, disabled, older people, the unemployed, single parents or carers, and children and families involved in adoption and fostering.  Residential workers add an extra dimension to this responsibility - having to work with those at risk and with special needs on a full or part time basis. They are employed by all types of local authority and voluntary agencies like Barnardos, private organizations and specialist employment agencies.

Work Environment
Residential workers are primarily based in children's homes, respite houses, and elderly residential care homes. There is, as always with social care work, the potential for danger and distress in that the people being looked after may be vulnerable, depressed, disabled, unstable, drug dependent and sometimes challenging: affected in some way due to personal difficulties. Most do not 'live in', however some have 'sleep in' duties.

Daily Activities
At the core of the residential worker's responsibility is the duty to provide 'individual care and help to create a happy, safe and stimulating environment for the people who live at the home. This involves either visiting, or living in, a range of homes or hostels where children, teenagers or adults with special needs, or older people live. This can include working with people with learning disabilities, mental health problems, or dementia. 

In children's homes they monitor the child's particular needs and give them personal, emotional and social support: by providing sporting, creative and leisure activities, setting boundaries to behaviour, ensuring their safety and acting as a good role model. They may also help to find families for children to live with and help them settle into family life. Also, they will help young people who are about to leave formal care to prepare for the world outside and the demands of independent living. They will contribute to recruitment training and support of foster carers, volunteers and independent visitors.  With adults, residential workers provide support for residents by assisting with personal care tasks and daily living, supporting them to lead fulfilled lives with a sense of well being. Some help them to claim benefits, to budget, to participate in leisure activities and develop their social and personal skills. 

In all cases the care worker will listen, talk, encourage, sympathise, advise and support with choices without losing sight of the need to be professionally objective. Residents are helped to find interests which will stimulate them and are encouraged to take up hobbies even though the care worker may not share their particular enthusiasms or interests they would be supportive to the individual to ensure they achieve their desired outcome.  Each day, the care worker will work closely with other professionals including doctors, psychologists, teachers, nurses, probation officers, colleagues and outside agencies like The Child Poverty Action Group, Age Concern and Barnardos. They also try to develop links with residents' families and the local community so that residents can take part in local events.

Residential workers have supervisory responsibilities to the Registered Manager, and can sometimes contribute to the induction of new staff.

Skills & Interests
The care worker needs to have a genuine interest in people and so must have:

  • a capacity to relate successfully to children, young people, families and/ or adults from different backgrounds and cultures and win trust and respect;
  • sensitivity;
  • compassion;
  • patience;
  • tolerance;
  • good communication skills;
  • an understanding of equal opportunities and other appropriate legislation;
  • the ability to cope with demanding and stressful situations and the expression of challenging behaviour, including verbal and physical abuse;
  • the maturity to be able to help people face painful and distressing problems;
  • an insight into one's own personal values;
  • as regards children: an understanding of the role and responsibilities of a statutory child care agency and of children's residential regulations.

It is also useful to be flexible, open-minded, able to cope with change and work as part of a team.

Entry Requirements
In Wales, people working in this area are expected to meet the regulatory requirements, this involves:

  • adhering to the Code of Practice for Social Care Workers; 
  • undertaking induction training (specified through Sector Skills Council) normally within 6 weeks of commencing employment; 
  • complete Health and Social Care Qualification and Credit Framework award at diploma level, as appropriate for service user group (children or adults) and any additional specified training as required for their role; 
  • child care residential workers are required to be registered with the Sector Skills Council, this may also be required in future for Adult Care workers.

It is possible to enter residential work with relevant experience in, for example, voluntary work, or paid work with children, young people and/or vulnerable adult groups.

Future Prospects & Opportunities
Rapid career progress is possible and qualified care workers can move into senior workers and/or the management of residential homes or into other areas of social work. This is a growth area of social service and residential workers will be expected to continue learning and extending their skills after gaining the relevant qualification.

Further Information & Services
British Association of Social Workers
Care Council for Wales
Community Service Volunteers
Health and Care Professionals Council
Skills for Care and Development
Skills for Care
Social Care Association
The College of Social Work

The Open University has produced an interactive resource exploring a day in the life of a social worker: 

You may find further information about this area of work through Careers Wales ( or in your local library, careers office or school careers library.

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