This sector includes careers and professions associated with providing help, care and support - contributing to the psychological, social and spiritual wellbeing of members of society.
You may be working with people who are experiencing marginalisation or disadvantage, or who have special needs. You need to be altruistic - a ‘people person’ - to enjoy working in this career area. Personal attributes such as empathy, compassion and open-mindedness are typical of those found working in the social care sector.
Most jobs in the field of Social and Caring involve working with clients and their families, often over a long period of time.
You might be:
Giving advice and information – about welfare rights, education, money, careers or jobs – to people who need it
Working with small children in pre-schools, playgroups, nurseries or in their own homes
In a community education centre, involving local people of all ages in different learning activities
Counselling people to help them sort out problems in their lives – to do this you must develop a trusting relationship with your client
Supporting and helping vulnerable people – older people, people who are homeless, adolescents in residential care, people recovering from alcohol or drug dependency, peole who are immigrants
Caring for people with learning disabilities or physical disabilities
Social Work Social work is a profession for those with a strong desire to help improve people’s lives. Social and community workers help people function the best way they can in their environment, to deal with their relationships, and to solve personal and family problems. Social workers often see clients who face a life-threatening disease or a social problem, such as inadequate housing, unemployment, a serious illness, a disability, or substance abuse. Social workers also assist families that have serious domestic conflicts, sometimes involving child or spousal abuse.
In Ireland the biggest employer of social workers is the Health Service Executive (HSE). Social workers also work with adoption agencies, hospitals and clinics, and in the probation and welfare service. Voluntary agencies catering for specific interest groups also employ social workers. These include charities, special schools (run by religious groups or parents) and treatment centers.
Psychology Psychology is the scientific study of thought, emotion and behaviour. Psychologists examine the various aspects of human experience, such as human emotions, thoughts and actions. They apply their understanding of people in a variety of professional settings, including clinical, counselling, educational, organisational and academic.
The first step to a career in psychology in Ireland is to study for a primary degree at honours level. Completion of an approved primary honours degree enables a student to become a graduate member of The Psychological Society of Ireland (P.S.I.). Further education and specialist training is then necessary to develop a career in psychology.
Counselling Counsellors help people to deal with any problems, distress or loss of direction they experience in their lives. They usually work with clients on a one-to-one basis, meeting them in private and treating their problems in confidence. People may need counselling to help them cope with situations or issues such as bereavement, anxiety, drug or alcohol dependency, debt or domestic violence.
At the moment, there are no legal minimum qualifications needed to become a counsellor. However, the Irish Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (IACP) is very concerned that counselling standards should be developed and improved. For this reason, the IACP has developed strict Codes of Ethics and Practice for its members. They also have strict accreditation criteria, and this accreditation is very highly valued by employers.
Child Care Services The public health service in Ireland is obliged to provide social work services for children considered to be 'at risk' and for other child care services. These services are delivered at a local level by the Health Service Executive (HSE). The Social Workers who deliver these support services may be known as Child Welfare Social Workers, Family Services Social Workers or Child Protective Services Social Workers.
Community Services Some Social and Community Workers assist single parents, arrange adoptions, or help find foster homes for neglected, abandoned, or abused children. Community Workers are sometimes employed by Local Authorities to run community and youth projects to address such problems as teenage pregnancy and anti-social behavior. As a Probation and Welfare officer in the Department of Justice, you may work with the Adoption Board, the courts, or prisons and places of detention.
This involves making recommendations to the appropriate authorities. Through community and FÁS workshop programs, Community Workers may help disadvantaged young people find suitable employment. There are also career opportunities for Trainers that help workers cope with job-related pressures or with personal problems that affect the quality of their work.
Working with Older People Another area of social and community work involves working in services for senior citizens, running support groups for family carers or for the adult children of aging parents, advising elderly people or family members about choices in areas such as housing, transportation, and long-term care, and coordinating and monitoring these services.
Medical Social Work Most public hospitals employ Social Workers. Medical and Public Health Social Workers provide persons, families, or vulnerable groups with the psychosocial support needed to cope with chronic, acute, or terminal illnesses, such as Alzheimer's disease, cancer, or AIDS. They also counsel patients, and help plan for patients’ needs after discharge by arranging for at-home services, from meals-on-wheels to oxygen equipment.
Mental Health Mental health and substance abuse Social Workers assess and treat individuals with mental illness or substance abuse problems, including abuse of alcohol, tobacco, or other drugs. Such services include individual and group therapy, outreach, crisis intervention, social rehabilitation, and training in skills of everyday living. They also may help plan the best way to make use of supportive services to ease patients’ return to the community. Mental health and substance abuse Social Workers are likely to work in hospitals, substance abuse treatment centers, individual and family services agencies.
Skills and attributes required for this sector To be successful in this sector you should have abilities and aptitudes for working with and caring for people. The qualities needed include leadership and an even temperament. Team work and organisational skills are essential. You would be liaising with other caring personnel (Doctors, public health Nurses, home helpers etc.) to plan an integrated approach to care. You would also be in contact with voluntary agencies with vested interests in different areas of social work.
Entrants to Social Care courses must agree to undergo a Garda reference check. This is due to the considerable amount of work undertaken with vulnerable groups in society.