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What do social workers do?

3-minute read

What is a social worker?

Social workers are allied health professionals who help people who are in crisis and need support. They provide counselling, information and referrals to other services.

Social workers help people to face life's challenges, improve their wellbeing, and do their best to ensure they are treated fairly. Social workers usually see people when they are facing some sort of crisis, such as family violence, homelessness or mental health issues.

Social workers are trained at university in human behaviour, families, social justice and human rights. They must meet certain professional standards and are accredited by the Australian Association of Social Workers (AASW). Some social workers have additional training in mental health issues. These are called Accredited Mental Health Social Workers (AMHSW).

What does a social worker do?

Social workers provide counselling to individuals and groups, information and links to other support services.

They will help you get the help you need, such as emergency accommodation, financial support, and health or legal services. They will coordinate the different support providers, advocate for you, and help you to navigate the healthcare system.

Social workers may either work directly with individuals and their families, or in policy, education and research to reduce discrimination and other justices.

When might I need a social worker?

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

  • you are in any sort of personal crisis
  • you have experienced family violence
  • you are worried about your children or family's welfare
  • you have mental health issues or you are thinking about suicide
  • you are homeless
  • you are a young person without support
  • you are affected by a natural disaster or any sort of trauma
  • you have problems with gambling, substance abuse, poverty or unemployment
  • you have been ill or need rehabilitation
  • you have a disability
  • you are in the justice system

How do I find a social worker?

You can find social workers in hospitals, community health centres, aged care services, mental health services, and drug and alcohol services. They also work in education facilities, child protection services, family support, employment services, the justice system, housing, and disability services. Some social workers operate in private practice.

The best way to find a qualified social worker is through the AASW Directory.

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.

You can also search for a social worker near you on healthdirect's service finder.

More information

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

Last reviewed: May 2021

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