Community work roles
There is so much variety when it comes to careers in adult social care, and this is perfectly illustrated by the range of roles in community work. The focus is on helping not just individuals but whole communities, empowering people from all walks of life to make the most of the opportunities available, and galvanising efforts to transform local areas into safe and thriving places.
The role of a housing officer is to find a home for individuals, couples or families who wish to rent one from a council or housing association. Your remit would cover a particular estate or collection of properties – all within a geographical area – that are owned by the local authority.
Not only would you identify suitable properties for your clients, you would also provide financial advice to guide them in their decision-making.
The role is highly rewarding, as you get to see first-hand the difference finding a home can make to people’s lives. You will meet people from all walks of life and encourage them to take an active role in the communities in which they now live.
From a practical point of view, your role would cover assessing the needs of your clients, helping to find appropriate properties, allocating vacant ones to the right candidates, and carrying out regular inspections to check on living conditions and to organise repairs.
You would also be required to steer tenants towards the right sources of advice on topics like benefits and welfare. In addition, a housing officer will set payments and check on arrears. You may have to resolve troublesome issues like anti-social behaviour, which could lead to legal proceedings.
A housing officer would also liaise with relevant government agencies like social services as well as welfare rights groups, write reports and attend meetings. Your working week would be predominantly office based.
Welfare Rights Officer
A welfare rights officer provides people with essential advice and assistance on benefits with a particular focus on ones pertaining to housing, money and work.
Gaining the trust of your clients is very important, as they might be worried about making ends meet and are looking to you to guide and support them. You would speak to them online, over the phone, by email or face-to-face – whatever works best for them.
The role allows you to work with a specific group or on one specific topic, or work in a broader capacity as a general adviser. It can be fast-paced with lots of deadlines and associated pressures but it’s also a deeply satisfying career.
One of the critical aspects of the role is explaining the rules around benefits, not just which ones are available. That means letting people know whether they can claim and making sure people are aware of what they could be entitled to. You could help people with the application process, assist them in the appeal process, and direct them to other sources of help.
Staying up to date with changes to the law and how it might impact on people is crucial. The role could also extend to training staff and voluntary workers, and even getting campaigns up and running.
A welfare rights officer could work in a number of different places. You might find yourself based in an advice centre but you could also spend time travelling in your particular region to visit outreach centres or meet clients who might not be able to come to you. You may be part of a broader team that works in the heart of communities, employed by a housing association or a hospital, for example.
Community Development Officer
The role of a community development officer is to work with members of a local area to help transform lives and prospects in that community.
It’s important that you are a people person as you will be working closely with families, groups and individuals on projects that could make a difference. These could vary from improvements to local services, amenities and housing, or plans to address and tackle anti-social behaviour. The flexibility of the role allows you to focus on one specific area of interest or multiple ones.
You need to understand the needs and wants of the local community, and give them the opportunity to air their views, be heard, and ultimately galvanise those individuals and groups to take action to improve the place they call home.
You would do your research, looking at how similar issues have been addressed in different areas and what learnings you can gain from their successes. Working with members of the local community you could develop new ways of tackling issues, foster links with relevant organisations and even help with raising funds and managing cashflow.
The role could also extend to training staff and voluntary workers, and helping local people acquire the skills to manage their own community groups.