The Social Services Sector: Jobs, Skills and Job Outlook
The Social Services sector encompasses a range of professions involved in social work and social care activities.
This includes the provision of services to individuals and groups of people who have emotional and psychological problems, are socially and/or economically disadvantaged or unable to perform activities of daily living, as well as to those who have difficulties with interpersonal relationships.
Social Services industry professionals include social workers, social care workers, social educators, mediators, personal and home care workers, as well as people in management and leadership roles, such as social and community service managers.
Social Services professionals tend on the whole to specialize in a specific area, such as working with children, the elderly, people with disabilities, individuals suffering from mental illness or substance abuse issues, victims of violence, immigrants and the homeless.
The main aim of social work is to identify the problems faced by a particular individual or group of people and provide them with support to find a solution to the problem.
The solutions or strategies employed vary widely depending on the nature of the problem. For example, they may involve the allocation of economic assistance, organizing day and/or nighttime support and assistance in the case of the sick, elderly and people with disabilities, providing protection and shelter to women and children in difficulty, running professional retraining and upskilling programmes for unemployed people and operating community-based care programmes for people suffering from substance addictions.
Training requirements for social services professionals tend to be specific to their chosen area of professional activity, since different areas often call for very different skill sets - e.g. assisting people with mental or psychological difficulties and working in a community for people with disabilities.
Working in the Social Services sector can be very demanding, as it involves contact on a daily basis with distressed, vulnerable people and dealing with complex, stressful, emotionally challenging situations. All Social Services industry professionals need therefore to be able to control their emotional involvement in their jobs in order to maintain a healthy balance between their work and their private lives.
What types of organizations operate in the Social Care sector?
Social Services professionals work in a wide range of public and private organizations, including hospitals, clinics and schools.
They also work in or for therapeutic communities and rehabilitation centres, hostels, hospices, shelters, refuges, and reception centres, family counselling and family planning centres and clinics, residential care facilities, day care centres and home care service providers.
There are also a large number of local and international non-profit organizations, voluntary associations, social services organizations, charitable foundations, and non-governmental organizations operating in the Social Services sector.
The majority of people working for such organizations are volunteers, who work alongside a relatively limited number of professional social care workers. Even so, a significant proportion of the job vacancies advertised in the social services industry - especially for educators, cultural mediators, and elderly care workers - come from the voluntary sector.
Companies hiring in the Social Services sector:
Social Services Sector - Job Outlook
A rise in demand for Social Services workers is expected - particularly for professionals trained to provide care for and/or assistance to the elderly and children.
The expected upswing in demand in the elder care sector is mainly being driven by the needs of an increasing elderly population.
Other areas of the Social Services sector expected to experience growth include social support and assistance in schools, the provision of home care services (in coordination with healthcare personnel) and the rehabilitation and integration of disadvantaged groups, such as the unemployed, the homeless, persons suffering from substance addictions and former prisoners.
Finally, a significant proportion of Social Services sector workers are employed in public sector facilities and organizations, where job and career prospects are largely dependent on political decisions regarding the investment of public money.
What skills are required in the Social Services sector?
Communication and interpersonal skills
Social Services professionals deal with a wide range of situations on a daily basis (e.g. working with disabled people or children, in an individual or group setting), all of which require them to have strong interpersonal skills and the ability to adapt their communication style based on the people involved and the specific context.
A talent for negotiation and de-escalation, coupled with strong active listening skills, are essential attributes for social services professionals, who are often required to resolve situations of conflict and distress by mediating between a range of needs and points of view, making the best possible use of the resources available.
Knowledge of foreign languages
For many Social Services workers - particularly cultural mediators and those dealing with situations of crisis or distress affecting communities of minority language speakers - a knowledge of foreign languages represents a key skill.
Empathy can be a very effective strategy for social services professionals, allowing them to engage with and understand the people and situations they deal with in their work. At the same time, however, care needs to be taken that this does not go beyond the boundaries of what is considered good professional practice, as excessive emotional involvement can be both damaging and counterproductive.
Social Care - Job Descriptions
Interested in finding out more about jobs in the Social Services industry?
Take a look at the job descriptions we’ve prepared: