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8.4 Social work services

The department offers social work services face to face and via telephone for people who have highly complex needs and require more support.

Social workers provide a high‑quality professional service. They can help people to navigate a life crisis, to stabilise and to reconnect with the support they need. Social workers also work with staff and the community to support individuals and families with multiple and complex issues.

In 2018–19, the department focused attention on three priority areas:

  • people at risk of suicide and self-harm
  • young people without adequate support
  • people experiencing family and domestic violence.

At 30 June 2019, the department had 673 social workers located in Service Centres, Smart Centres, rural and remote servicing teams and compliance teams. Social workers responded to 238,866 referrals for support in 2018–19.

Priority areas

Suicide and self-harm

Social workers provide crisis intervention and support to people who appear to be at risk of suicide or self‑harm. The social work role involves identifying risk, assessing safety and linking people to appropriate support services. Social workers play a key role in providing support to staff who interact with people who are at risk. Social workers also deliver training to departmental staff, supporting them to develop their skills in identifying and responding to people who may be at risk of suicide or self‑harm.

In 2018–19, social workers responded to 7,390 referrals for people at risk of suicide.

Young people without adequate support

Social workers assist vulnerable and unsupported young people under 25 years of age who face social and economic disadvantage. In times of crisis they provide help to rebuild family and support networks and connect with community services such as housing, mental health and youth services. Social workers also provide targeted intervention to unsupported young people to help them sustain work, training or study outcomes.

In 2018–19, social workers engaged with 3,017 young people without adequate support.

Support for people affected by family and domestic violence

Social workers provide counselling and support for people when family and domestic violence concerns are identified. They assess the safety of the person and their dependants and support people to consider their options by providing information and referrals to support services. Social workers also assess the eligibility of people for specific payments and services.

Social workers have the responsibility to support departmental staff who assist people affected by family and domestic violence. They do this by training staff to identify people who may be at risk of family and domestic violence and refer them for ongoing support if required.

In 2018–19, social workers received 73,011 referrals for people affected by family and domestic violence.

Specialist social work functions

Social workers provide early intervention, crisis support, short‑term counselling, case work and referrals for customers with multiple and complex needs. Social workers are located across different parts of the department, and services are tailored to meet the core functions of the specific business area. In addition to their work in general social work programs, social workers undertake specific work such as:

  • social work carer assessments
  • social work assessments within the compliance models (Jobseeker Compliance Model and Targeted Compliance Framework)
  • social work services during emergency recovery.

Carer Specialist Assessments

Social workers conduct Carer Specialist Assessments when a service officer refers a claim for Carer Payment with respect to a child aged under 16. These assessments provide information to service officers on whether the level of care provided by the carer meets the payment eligibility guidelines. The social worker reviews the information provided and provides advice on whether any additional evidence is needed for the assessment. In working with parents and other carers, the social worker provides support, information and referrals as required.

Social workers are also involved in reviewing claims for Carer Payment for a child under 16 years of age who has been diagnosed with a terminal illness at the time of claim, in order to ascertain the need for any further medical reviews after 24 months on the payment.

When a carer is under 18 years of age or over 80 years of age, a social worker assesses whether the carer can provide the care receiver with the care level required to meet payment eligibility guidelines. Social workers also assess the carer’s capacity to provide practical and emotional support to meet the care receiver’s needs. This information supports the decision‑maker in determining qualification for Carer Payment and/or Carer Allowance.

Social work role within compliance models

As an integral part of the department’s compliance models (the Job Seeker Compliance Model and the Targeted Compliance Framework), social workers provide consultation, assessment and intervention.

Social workers provide consultative support to assist service officers to identify, assess and understand the impact of relevant personal circumstances on a job seeker’s capacity to meet their compulsory requirements.

Within the Job Seeker Compliance Model, social workers also complete Comprehensive Compliance Assessments for vulnerable Community Development Program participants. The professional assessment information provided by social workers guides decision‑making by service officers when investigating a job seeker’s non‑compliance. Interventions and referrals further assist vulnerable job seekers to meet their mutual obligation requirements and access supports needed.

Social work services during emergency recovery

The department offers social work services to provide personal support and counselling to people affected by natural disasters and emergencies.

In 2018–19, social workers assisted people affected by the Far North Queensland floods, Tasmanian bushfires and northern New South Wales bushfires. They provided support over the phone, in Service Centres, in evacuation and recovery centres, and in the community. Social workers have also continued to provide support to vulnerable or distressed people who claimed the AVTOP.