Family support workers help families who are experiencing difficulties and in need of emotional support. The purpose of the job is to help children who would otherwise be taken into care to stay with their family.
As a family support worker your work would vary depending on the particular needs of the family. The kinds of challenges your clients might face include:
drug and alcohol abuse
a parent in hospital or prison
marital or financial difficulties
a child or parent with a disability.
Families would typically be referred to you by a social worker, who you would work with to plan the type and length of support required. A key part of your work would be to help parents to improve their home management and parenting skills.
This could involve:
developing physical and emotional caring skills
learning how to educate children through play
understanding effective ways to deal with behavioural difficulties
gaining control of the family budget
encouraging parents to attend local workshops to develop their parenting skills.
In crisis situations, for example when a single parent is going into hospital, you may move into your client's home on a very short term basis until alternative care can be found. You may also help social workers assess a family's needs when a child has returned home from being in care. Your work would also involve keeping accurate client records and attending case conferences and regular team meetings.
To become a family support worker, you will need relevant experience (and possibly qualifications) that demonstrate your ability and potential for this work. You could gain experience (paid or voluntary) by working with children and families in a range of settings, such as:
family refuge centres
family community centres
mental health services
youth work projects.
Within each of these areas, there are a variety of qualifications you could work towards that may give you an advantage when applying for a family support worker job, for example:
NVQ levels 2, 3 and 4 in Children's Care, Learning and Development
NVQ levels 2, 3 and 4 in Health and Social Care
BTEC National Certificate or Diploma in Children's Care, Learning and Development
CACHE Certificate or Diploma in Child Care and Education.
Social work qualifications are also a good preparation for working in family support.