March 2005

Relevant Experience for Training to be a Social Worker in

Northern Ireland

This information sheet examines the reasons why having relevant experience is

advantageous to someone who is applying to a degree in social work course. It provides

examples and contacts for the most effective ways of obtaining social work/social care

experience within Northern Ireland. Further information about approved social work education

and training in Northern Ireland is available from the NISCC website at www.niscc.info , or by

telephone on 028 90417600.

Why should applicants obtain relevant experience to train to be a Social Worker in

Northern Ireland?

Applicants need to be able to provide evidence of their commitment and understanding of

social work when they apply to a social work course. While it is not essential, having relevant

experience allows applicants to gain some of the personal qualities suitable for social work

and it will provide awareness of the personal attributes required for social work. It will also

give applicants lots of practical experience to draw on when making an application and

attending an interview. It is also an effective way of finding out more about the different

opportunities in social work and social care, helping them to think about their future career

and whether or not you want to apply to undertake the Degree Social Work, the recognised

professional qualification for social work. Also working as a volunteer or as an unqualified

worker in social work or social care settings can be very satisfying and makes a valuable

contribution to our community.

Social Work Application

Relevant experience is crucial at the application stage. All short listed applicants who pass

the university/institutions short listing stage will be asked to write a 600 word statement on

their knowledge and aptitutde for social work. When applicants are completing their personal

statements, it is important to highlight any experience that they have obtained to indicate their

knowledge and/or understanding of social work and social services and explain how their

experience relates to social work. At this stage of the application process it is vital for

applicants to express their interest in social work, stating clearly their motivation and reasons

for applying.


Social Work Interview

Relevant experience is equally important at the interview stage. As well as meeting academic

entry requirements, all applicants being considered for a place on the Degree in Social Work

in Northern Ireland will be interviewed to assess their potential to train for social work at

degree level.

At the suitability interview applicants are given the opportunity to highlight any experience and

knowledge they have about social work. The experience applicants have gained should help

them to understand some of the rewards and demands of working in a caring profession. It

should inform their choice of career and provide an opportunity for applicants to show their

knowledge and understanding of social work and social work services for example:

·  Do applicants understand the role of social workers and social services?

·  Can applicants indicate some basic social work skills?

·  Have applicants the ability to be flexible and open to new ideas and attitudes?

·  Are applicants able to respect and respond to difference cultures and perspectives?

·  How have applicants obtained these attributes, knowledge and understanding?

What are the qualities needed to train to be a Social Worker?

A social worker needs a range of personal qualities such as patience, determination,

tolerance, and the capacity to understand and work with people who often feel overwhelmed

by the problems they face and by society’s apparent indifference to them. The role of social

worker is to help people face these painful and distressing problems, which require that they

be open-minded, and prepared to examine and change their attitudes and prejudices. They

may need to support people to deal with racism and other forms of discrimination. Social

workers often work in teams alongside other professionals.

How do I obtain this relevant experience to train to be a Social Worker?

Relevant experience must involve engaging with people in need of support or help. This can

include; working with older people, children and families, and children/adults who may also

have physical or learning difficulties or mental health problems. It may include life experience,

voluntary work, paid work or a mixture of all three. It could include work through school,

church, youth or community groups. It can be part-time, full-time, or sessional, but must be

sufficient to demonstrate your commitment and interest in social work as a career choice.


Experience obtained through volunteering

For people whose full time jobs and/or financial commitments prevent them from spending

long periods in unpaid employment, the most effective way of gaining relevant experience

may be to undertake voluntary work in the evenings and/or weekends.

If you are unemployed you can undertake unpaid voluntary work and continue to claim social

security benefits provided you are free to attend interviews and take up a job if offered one.

Opportunities for voluntary work may be available within the Health and Social Services Trusts

(HSST), hospitals, probation board, prisons, community groups, or more commonly, voluntary

agencies. The addresses for voluntary agencies are listed in telephone directories, public

libraries, or by contacting your local Citizen Advice Bureaux. A list of the HSST and the main

voluntary organisations is available on pages 5-8 of this leaflet. Large public libraries,

community centres, health centres and town halls usually have a notice board advertising local

voluntary work opportunities. Some of the Health & Social Services Boards Job Bulletins and

Newspapers such as the Belfast Telegraph (Tuesday/Friday), The Irish News (Thursday) and

Newsletter (Thursday), and local weekly newspapers also advertise vacancies.

Example of a volunteer:

Ravindra is 23 years old and is employed in the civil service. He currently volunteers for a

youth justice agency. He has been with the agency for almost two years now. This involves

being a mentor for a young boy who is currently in a care setting. Ravindra spends two hours

every Thursday night with him. Sometimes they just meet for a chat, or they may take part in

organised activities such as sports or craftwork at the centre. Ravindra has been linked to

this one person for just over a year and finds this work very rewarding. Volunteering has given

him the motivation and interest to look at starting a career in social work.

Experience obtained while at school

For school leavers, this relevant experience might include school-based work in mentoring,

community projects, hospital visits, buddy or befriending schemes. It could also include work

through youth or community groups with children or adults.

Example of a school leaver:

Lucy is studying for her A’ Levels. She has spent one afternoon per week as part of her social

care module visiting the local centre for young adults with a learning disability. She helps out

with social activities for the young people. This includes going shopping with them, going on

outings and helping them develop their independence. Lucy has found this work very

rewarding and enjoys working with the young people there. She has also spent part of her

summer holidays working part-time at the centre. The experience she has obtained has

sparked her interest in social work as career and she hopes to obtain a place on the Degree

in Social Work after her A’ Levels.


Experience obtained while in paid employment in social care

Care assistant/support worker/ancillary worker posts can provide people with enough

experience to apply for the Degree in Social Work.

Many Health and Social Services Trusts (HSST), voluntary and private agencies employ

social care staff in posts such as; care assistant, support worker, residential social worker or

ancillary worker. Vacancies are normally advertised in the local press and details may also be

available from local job centres and employment agencies. Some of the Health & Social

Services Boards Job Bulletins also advertise vacancies. Details of private care agencies and

employment agencies specialising in social care can be found in telephone directories and in

advertisements in the social work press and in this leaflet. (See pages 5-8)

Example of a paid social care worker:

Sheila is 35 years old and has worked as a home help for a health and community trust for a

number of years. Her job involves providing personal care and support to older people who

have no family support and are isolated and lonely. This work can include helping with

housework, shopping, dressing, bathing and toileting and just the sight of a friendly face can

make a real difference to their day-to-day life. Sheila has obtained NVQ’s while in this post

and has now enrolled on an assess course at her local college. She hopes this is the first

steps to obtaining a qualifed post and intends to apply for the Degree in Social Work on

completion of her access course.

Life experience

Working as a carer to a family member or relative can provide relevant life experience to

apply for the Degree in Social Work.

Example of a carer:

Jim is the main carer for his mother who has a mental illness. Two years ago he realised that

the knowledge and background this experience has given could be put to good use, to

undertake a job he knows he would love. He successfully obtained a job as a advocacy

worker for a local carers group. This job allowed him to share his experience with other

carers and has encouraged him to think about moving on to train professionally as a social

worker. To this end he enrolled on a Open University distance learning course in social

sciences where he has obtained an honours degree. He now hopes to apply to undertake the

Degree in Social Work which he can undertake over two years as he holds a relevant degree.


Health and Social Services Trusts in Northern Ireland that employ

social care workers

Armagh & Dungannon HSS Trust

St Lukes Hospital

Loughall Road


BT61 7NQ

Tel 02837 522381

Causeway HSS Trust

8E Coleraine Road


BT53 6BP

Tel 02827 666600

Craigavon & Banbridge Community

HSS Trust

Bannvale House

Moyallen Road


BT63 5JX

Tel 02838 831983

Down Lisburn HSS Trust

Lisburn Health Centre

25 Linehall Street


BT28 1BH

Tel 02892 665181

Foyle HSS Trust

Riverview House

Abercorn Road


BT48 6SA

Tel 02871 266111

Homefirst Community Trust

The Cottage

5 Greenmount Avenue


BT43 6DA

Tel 02825 633700

Newry & Mourne HSS Trust

5 Downshire Place


BT34 1DZ

Tel 02830 260505

North & West Belfast HSS Trust

Glendinning House

6 Murray Street



Tel 02890 327156

South & East Belfast HSS Trust

Trust Headquarters

Knockbracken Healthcare Park

Saintfield Road



Tel 02890 565555

Sperrin Lakeland HSS Trust

Strathdene House

Tyrone & Fermanagh Hospital


BT79 0NS

Tel 02882 244127

Ulster Community & Hospitals Trust

Health and Care Centre

39 Regent Street


BT23 4AD

Tel 02891 816666


Useful addresses for seeking voluntary work in NI.

Please note many of these organisations have branches across the province and will be able

to provide contact details of the nearest one in your area.

Age Concern

3 Lower Crescent



Tel: 02890 245729


542-544 Upper Newtownards Road



Tel: 02890 672366

Belfast Central Mission

Grosvenor House

5 Glengall Street


BT12 5AD

Tel: 02890 241917

Bryson House

28 Bedford Street



Tel: 02890 325835

Camphill Community Holywood

8 Shore Road


Co Down

BT18 9HX

Tel: 02890 423203

Citizens Advice Bureau

11 Upper Crescent



Tel: 02890 231120

Corrymeela Community

8 Upper Crescent



Tel: 02890 508080

Extern Organisation

Graham House

1-5 Albert Square



Tel: 02890 241876

Home-Start East Belfast

116 Castlereagh Street



Tel: 02890 459429


4 Annadale Avenue



Tel: 02890 640121


Jennymount Court

North Derby Street


BT15 3HL

Tel: 02890 351135

North &West Housing

18 Magazine Street


BT48 6HH

Tel: 02871 263362

Northern Ireland Hospice

74 Somerton Road


BT15 3LH

Tel: 02890 781836

Northern Ireland Women’s Aid

129 University Street



Tel: 02890 249041



Townsend Enterprise Park

25-26 Townsend Street


BT13 2ES

Tel: 02890 504812


(Mental Health Charity)

29-31 Lisburn Road



Tel: 02890 234555

Probation Board for Northern Ireland

80-90 North Street



Tel: 02890 262400

Relate Northern Ireland

76 Dublin Road



Tel: 02890 315298

The Samaritans

5 Wellesley Avenue



Tel: 02890 664422

The Salvation Army

12 Station Mews




Tel: 02890 675000

Save the Children

15 Richmond Park


BT10 0HB

Tel: 02890 620000

Simon Community

57 Fitzroy Avenue



Tel: 02890 232882

Society of St Vincent De Paul

196-200 Antrim Road


BT15 2AJ

Tel: 02890 351561

Website: www.svp-ni.org

Triangle Housing Assoc. Ltd

60 Eastermede Gardens


BT53 6BD

Tel: 02827 666880

Turning Point

Youth Mentoring Project

29 Bridge Street


BT28 1XZ

Tel: 02892 665744

Victim Support NI

70 Ann Street



Tel: 02890 244039

Voluntary Service Belfast

70-72 Lisburn Road



Tel: 02890 200850

Volunteer Development Agency

Annsgate House

70-74 Ann Street



Tel: 02890 236100


Employment agencies for social care recruitment in NI

Aptus Personnel

2nd Floor

3-15 Pottingers Entry



T: 02890 248792

E: belfast@aptus-personnel.com

Beresford Blake Thomas

20 Adelaide Street



T: 028 90 517060

E: carebelfast@bbt.co.uk

Grafton Recruitment (Healthcare)

33 College Gardens



T: 028 90 665228

Premiere People

Hampden House

55 Royal Avenue



T: 028 90 235777

Rutledge Recruitment

54 Scotch Street


BT61 7DQ

T: 02837 527932

E: info@rutledgerecruitment.com

Social Work Education and Training in Northern Ireland

Northern Ireland Social Care Council provides information on social work education and

training in Northern Ireland. Leaflets and information can be downloaded from the website at

www.niscc.info . Alternatively, contact the Information Service on 028 90417600 or email


Social Work Education and Training Outside Northern Ireland

If you would like information on social work education and training outside Northern Ireland,

contact the following addresses:

General Social Care Council (England) – Tel: 0207 397 5100 www.gscc.org.uk

Care Council for Wales – Tel: 029 2022 6257 www.ccwales.org.uk

Scottish Social Services Council – Tel: 0845 603 0891 www.sssc.uk.com

Social work education and training information for the Republic of Ireland can be obtained


National Social Work Qualifications Board (Dublin) – Tel: 003531 67 66281


Please note that while every effort has been made to ensure that the information contained in

this leaflet is accurate at the time of going to print, the Council does not accept responsibility

for any errors or omissions in the information provided.


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