The contribution of social workers to older people’s well-being

Denise Tanner In progress  


Social care is increasingly important for an ageing society. It should promote well-being, prevent loss of independence and protect people from harm. Social workers have a central role in the law, policy and practice of social care. Social work takes place in different locations, including offices, care settings and remote working from social workers’ own homes, and in different organisational structures, including multi-disciplinary teams. However, there is limited research and understanding about how social workers work with the largest group of social care users – older people – and their carers.


The aim of this study is to improve social work practice with older people over the age of 65 and carers through qualitative data about the nature of social workers’ activities, how they accomplish and experience their roles and tasks, and how this is experienced by older people, carers and other professionals.


The research team will work alongside social workers in two authorities in England, one rural and one urban. With appropriate consents, this will include accompanying the social worker either physically or virtually, asking them to make live recordings of their work or record their audio reflections afterwards.

Through this, the research team will gain insight into the detail of social work, how social workers and others perceive this, and how the context affects it. They will capture the points at which social workers intervene in the care journeys of older people and carers, including at the start of receiving formal care, on discharge from hospital, when entering periods of respite or permanent care or when safeguarding concerns are raised.

The study will explore the social work experience over time for a small number of older people. This will include reading their records, observing their interactions with social workers and talking to them about what they have found helpful and not helpful. They will interview other key people involved in their care, including their carers/families, managers and other health and social care professionals whose work intersects with the social workers.