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How to become a Family Support Worker

how to become a support worker

What does a Family Support Worker do?

Family support workers assist families who are experiencing problems, visiting them regularly to offer practical help and emotional support. They may also be involved in giving or referring families to family counselling and thus will have knowledge in this area too. The aim is to allow children to remain with their families rather than being taken into care.

Families are referred by social workers, and the work will vary depending on the particular needs of the family. Problems can include drug and alcohol abuse, a parent in hospital or in prison, marital or financial difficulties, a child or parent with a disability, or parents who need support in acquiring parenting skills.

Family support workers plan the type and length of support needed with the social worker and their own manager. They support parents in acquiring parenting and home management skills, such as physical and emotional care, playing with the children, dealing with discipline, and behaviour difficulties and budgeting.

In crisis situations, such as a child being abandoned in the home, or a single parent going into hospital, family support workers may move into the home on a very short term basis until alternative care can be found. They may also assist social workers in assessing the family situation when children have returned home after being in care.

Family support workers keep records of their work, and these reports may sometimes be used in evidence in court if it becomes necessary to take out a care order on the children. They may also be required to attend case conferences and other meetings.

What's the working environment like working as a Family Support Worker?

Working hours vary according to service needs. Family support workers usually work 37 hours a week; part-time work may also be possible. Where children are of school age, early mornings, evenings and weekends will be important, as these will be the times when families are together.

The work is mainly in families' homes, but there will be an office base where workers meet with colleagues to collate information and write reports. Family support workers may have to attend court if care orders are being taken out.

What does it take to become a Family Support Worker?

To be a family support worker you need:
  • the ability to communicate sensitively and effectively with children and adults
  • to be able to work collaboratively with social workers and other professionals
  • practical knowledge and understanding of child development and the needs of children
  • to be able to assist in parenting and the running of a home
  • to be non-judgmental and committed to supporting people in difficult circumstances
  • to have empathy and the ability, patience and understanding to build good working relationships with families who may be initially hostile
  • good listening skills
  • good organisational skills and the ability to work both independently and as part of a team
  • resilience, assertiveness and the ability to stay calm under pressure
  • a flexible approach to working hours and to the range of tasks undertaken.

Family Support Worker Career Opportunities

Further information

Courses to help you become a Family Support Worker