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What do social workers do?

4-minute read

Key facts

  • Social workers are qualified professionals who help support people, often during a crisis.
  • Social workers provide counselling, information and links to other support services.
  • A social worker can help you if you have problems with your physical or mental health, finances or living situation.
  • You can find a social worker through Centrelink, your local hospital or your doctor.

What is a social worker?

Social workers are allied health professionals. They help people needing support to make changes in their lives.

Social workers can provide counselling, information and referrals to other services.

A social worker can help you to face life's challenges. Social workers often support people with issues relating to:

  • addiction or gambling
  • alcohol and other drugs
  • poverty, homelessness or housing stress
  • financial stress
  • mental wellbeing and illness
  • domestic and family violence
  • physical health and disabilities
  • social injustice and discrimination
  • child and family, and other relationships

What training does a social worker have?

Social workers are educated at university. They are trained in human behaviour and development, families, social justice, disability and health (including mental health).

Social workers must meet certain professional standards and are accredited by the Australian Association of Social Workers (AASW).

Social workers who have additional training in mental health issues are called Accredited Mental Health Social Workers (AMHSW).

What does a social worker do?

Social workers provide a broad range of services, including:

  • personal and family counselling
  • information and referral to other services
  • service coordination or care management
  • advocacy and support for disadvantaged people

If you have a social worker, they can help you:

  • find emergency accommodation
  • get financial support
  • with health or legal services

They can coordinate your different support providers, and help you to find your way through the healthcare system.

Where can I get help from a social worker?

You can find social workers in

They also work in child protection services, family support, housing, refugee facilities and the justice system. Some social workers work in private practice.

When might I need a social worker?

There are many reasons for seeing a social worker. They can help if you:

  • are in any sort of personal crisis
  • have experienced family violence
  • are worried about your children or your family's welfare
  • have mental health issues
  • are homeless
  • are affected by a natural disaster or any sort of trauma

Social workers can also help if you:

  • are a young person without support
  • have problems with gambling, substance abuse, poverty or unemployment
  • have been unwell or need rehabilitation
  • have a disability

How do I find a social worker?

One way to find a qualified social worker is through the Australian Association of Social Workers (AASW) Directory. You can search the directory by name, location or services provided.

Your doctor can also help you to find a suitable social worker.

You can speak to a Centrelink social worker by calling the same number you use to call Centrelink and asking to speak to a social worker, or by visiting your local service centre.

FIND A HEALTH SERVICE — The Service Finder can help you find doctors, pharmacies, hospitals and other health services.

Resources and Support

Find out more about social workers on the Australian Association of Social Workers (AASW) website.

Learn about Australian Government social work services on the Services Australia website. You can watch their video about social work services.

If you are having a personal crisis, you can call Lifeline on 13 11 14 or chat online.

You can also call the healthdirect helpline on 1800 022 222 (known as NURSE-ON-CALL in Victoria). A registered nurse is available to speak with 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Learn more here about the development and quality assurance of healthdirect content.

Last reviewed: September 2023

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