Family Support Worker

Family support workers go into people's homes to offer practical help and emotional support to families experiencing various problems. Families are referred by social workers to family support workers whose role is to provide advice and try and keep families together. The primary concern of the family support worker is the care of the children, whose parents might be experiencing difficulties. Problems might include the abuse of drugs or alcohol, one parent in hospital or prison, financial or marital difficulties or simply the fact that they have not experienced good parenting themselves.

Work Environment
Family support workers spend the majority of their time visiting people in their homes. They may spend a small amount of time in the office writing up reports.

Daily Activities
The work varies according to the needs of the family and the recommendations of their social worker. Family support workers are asked to carry out a 'planned piece of work' with a number of families. This can involve encouraging, teaching and supporting the parents in a number of specific parenting tasks, such as:

  • bathing, clothing and feeding the children appropriately, taking into account health and hygiene issues;
  • playing with the children - giving them appropriate stimulation, love and attention;
  • dealing with discipline and behavioural difficulties;
  • supporting families where either the parent or child has a disability.

Family support workers might also help parents to manage their financial affairs better through budgeting. The role of family support workers is not to undertake the tasks for the families, but rather to show them how things can be done and then help the parents until they are able to do things adequately on their own. The average time spent with a family can be up to 2 hours twice a week for a few months, depending on what is required. Some families might need longer-term support with less frequent visits. On occasion the family support worker in the absence of parents has to move into the family home and take over the parental role. After each visit, the family support worker must record what tasks were done, the parents' attitudes to their children, the state of the home, and so on. Sometimes these reports will be used in evidence in court (with the family support worker attending) should children be the subject of a care order. Family support workers can also be involved in the 'Assessment and Rehabilitation' of children - assessing the parental situation, under the guidance of the social worker, where children who have been in foster care go back home, maybe on a trial basis.

Skills & Interests
Family support workers need to be:

  • able to get on with people of all ages;
  • good at listening and communicating;
  • able to understand and gauge people's feelings;
  • non-judgmental about people's situations;
  • able to work independently;
  • good organisers;
  • flexible;
  • able to stay calm under pressure;
  • able to encourage others and build their self-confidence.

Entry Requirements
Although there are no specific minimum entry qualifications for the job, you may be required to have previous experience working with children and young people and be willing to work towards N/SVQs in either Care or Early Years Care. NNEB/CACHE qualifications in Childcare can be useful but are not essential.

Training is available on all aspects of the job, including the legal framework, assessment of families, child protection, first aid and how to recognise the signs of drug and alcohol abuse.

Future Prospects & Opportunities
Experienced family support workers with further training can go on to become social workers, care managers or family centre managers. There may also be opportunities to move into other specialist areas of support work, such as working with people with disabilities.

Further Information & Services
Health & Care Professions Council
Care Council for Wales
Community Service Volunteers

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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