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28/02/2023  •  Articles, Blog

What does a mental health social worker do?

A mental health social worker performs a vital role in social care. You help to transform people’s lives and wellbeing, providing support and advocacy so that those you work with can live fulfilling lives and gain access to care and services that will improve their future.  

If you’re a social worker and are thinking of working in the mental health field, we’ve put together everything you need to know about making this career move. You’ll find useful guidance around the role and responsibilities of a mental health social worker, how to get started and how to develop your career within the field. We’ll also talk through how Liquid Personnel can help you as you move into and grow within mental health social work. 

What is the role of a social worker in mental health?

A mental health social worker empowers people to live independently, with the confidence to manage their work, relationships and living situations. They help service users reach a brighter future, supporting their recovery so that they are equipped to make a positive change in their lives.   

As a mental health social worker, you will: 

  • Build trusting relationships with service users as well as their families, friends and carers 
  • Provide support and guidance to give people the tools they need for positive change  
  • Assess service users’ needs and organise the right level of support and care 
  • Assess risks and take steps to safeguard people and ensure their safety 
  • Ensure that service users’ rights are respected and protected 
  • Assess and improve community services to meet any unmet needs

Within a mental health social worker role, you will work to support people in crisis. You will be required to intervene on and manage challenging and complex risks, and make informed and balanced decisions to protect and promote people’s rights. 

As many authorities place an increased focus on early intervention, this means that as a mental health social worker, you will also work within teams to identify and respond to service users’ needs at early stages. This support allows people to access the right local services early on, reducing the risk of crisis. 

Who do social workers in mental health work with?

As a mental health social worker, you will work with people using services as well as their families and carers. 

You will be helping those who are experiencing mental health challenges, often in different age brackets or demographic. You may be working with groups such as young people, people with disabilities, people with addiction issues, elderly people, homeless groups or young offenders. You may also be visiting people in different settings, such as hospitals, prisons, private homes or care homes.   

As a mental health social worker, you will also be collaborating with other teams and professionals to best support those with mental health conditions, including local authorities, support workers, other social workers, psychologists, probation services, schools and police departments. 

Browse our social work job vacancies

As the leading social work recruitment agency in the UK, Liquid has hundreds of jobs in social work available. Browse our vacancies and apply today.

    What skills do you need to be a mental health social worker?

    When working as a mental health social worker, several skills and qualities are important to possess. These include: 

    Patience and perseverance

    You may have to work on complex cases and some of the people you support may need more time to progress. With patience and perseverance, you can give them time to become more self-sufficient, move forward and adopt new skills and techniques.  

    Strong communication skills

    You will work with people at all levels, from all walks of life, on a daily basis. You’ll have to pass on a wide variety of information, both verbally and in written communication. Much of this will be sensitive, so you’ll also need to be able to approach different people about various aspects of service users’ lives. 


    Mental health social workers need to be able to interpret complex information, which could come from sources such as doctors and legal teams. As such, you will need to be adept at problem-solving, with the ability to also work under pressure and show initiative.  

    Within mental health social work – and the social work profession in general – other skills and qualities are crucial to possess. Good organisation is essential, as are leadership skills. Inspiring others and taking a lead on collaborative care plans are also a core part of the job. You’ll need to have empathy, resilience and be able to build strong, trusting relationships too. 

    For more information, read our blog covering the important skills and qualities of a great social worker

    Career development in mental health social work

    A career in mental health social work gives you an array of options for the future. You could continue to work in a frontline role, as an Approved Mental Capacity Professional (AMCP) or by carrying out further qualifications to become an Approved Mental Health Professional (AMHP). Both roles allow you to continue supporting people’s treatment or living situations, under the Mental Health Act. Salaries for frontline practitioners can range up to £35,000, or £40,000 as you progress in seniority. 

    You may also decide on a career in management, which could see you leading teams of various sizes. This opens up endless opportunities in terms of the people you work with and services you have under your remit, as you continue moving up the ladder. Salaries for service managers go up to £60,000, while senior leaders can earn £70,000 and upwards. 

    Another option is to focus on working with particular demographics, moving into certain areas of mental health or focusing on growing as a therapist, delivering specific therapy types. 

    If you wish to take your career in a different direction, your combined skills in social work, mental health and people management can also be transferred to a variety of other areas. For example, you may want to move into social work roles that are available in education, legal settings or in local government. 

    Mental health social work opportunities with Liquid

    At Liquid, we can help you find social work roles in mental health that fulfil your career aspirations.  

    We have partnerships with over 150 healthcare organisations, meaning we have hundreds of opportunities across social work. Many of these roles are exclusive to us, so you’ll be first in line for jobs that aren’t advertised anywhere else. 

    Our dedicated consultants will support you at every step of your job search, with a social work recruiter and candidate care consultant allocated to you when you sign up. We offer you ongoing guidance and support, from pre-interview mentoring to continued professional development, so that you always have the opportunity to add to your skill set. 

    Register today and find out how we can help you take an exciting step forward in your social work career. 

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