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Community support services: A guide for social workers

Published: April 2024


Welcome to a comprehensive guide for social workers on community support services and initiatives. In this guide, we’ll explore the world of community support, how to access vital networks and resources, promote community engagement and social inclusion, as well as uncover funding options, and provide examples.

As social workers, you play a pivotal role in enhancing the lives of those you support and people you work with, and this resource aims to equip you with the knowledge and strategies to foster positive change and strengthen your support systems. Whether you’re seeking to improve your existing programmes or embark on new initiatives, this guide will serve as a valuable resource to assist you in your mission of empowering individuals and building vibrant, inclusive communities.

What is community support?

Community support is a cornerstone of compassionate and effective social work, designed to uplift individuals facing diverse challenges and enable them to lead fulfilling lives within their local communities. In this comprehensive guide, we delve into the realm of community support, exploring its multifaceted aspects, from the array of services and organisations that form its bedrock to the pivotal role social workers play in making it a reality.

Community support transcends a singular definition, encompassing an extensive array of services tailored to the unique needs of those it serves. From healthcare to housing, aging to addiction recovery, and youth empowerment to mental health, community support programmes stand as lifelines for individuals of all ages, backgrounds, and abilities. They provide a vital safety net, ensuring that no one is left behind in the tapestry of our communities.

As social workers, you are the linchpin that connects these services with the individuals who need them most. This guide is your compass, offering guidance on how to access the vast resources available, empower your clients, foster community engagement and social inclusion, secure essential funding, and draw inspiration from successful community support initiatives. Embrace this journey through the world of community support, as together, we strive to create inclusive, caring, and vibrant communities where every individual can thrive.

Overview of community support services and organisations

Community support services enable people to lead fulfilling lives within their communities, often with a focus on older adults, those with a disability, physical or mental health challenge and groups at risk of social exclusion.

Community support services and organisations form the backbone of a robust and caring society. They encompass a wide array of resources and assistance designed to enhance the wellbeing and quality of life for individuals facing a variety of challenges. Social workers play a central role in connecting individuals in need with these vital services and organisations.
In this comprehensive overview, we delve into the world of community support, detailing the scope of services, the organisations involved, and the pivotal role of social workers in this landscape.

Diverse range of services

Community support services encompass a diverse range of services that cater to the multifaceted needs of individuals.

These services can be broadly categorised into areas such as:

Key organisations involved

Several key organisations and institutions are instrumental in providing community support services. These include:

Information on how to access community support networks and resources

Accessing community support networks and resources can be a pivotal aspect of social work, allowing individuals to receive the assistance they need to improve their quality of life.

The following is a detailed guide on how social workers can effectively support those that draw on care and support and expand their network to enhance services.


Begin with a comprehensive assessment of the individual’s needs, strengths and goals. Understand their specific challenges, strengths, and aspirations. This assessment will serve as the foundation for identifying appropriate resources and support services.

Develop a personalised support plan

Establishing trust: Building trust is foundational to effective support. Create a safe, non-judgmental environment where the person feels comfortable sharing their thoughts, concerns, and preferences.

Active listening: Practice active listening by giving your full attention, demonstrating empathy, and validating the person’s feelings and experiences. Show that you respect their autonomy and choices.

Establish trust and rapport

Build a trusting and supportive relationship with the individual. Ensure they feel comfortable discussing their needs and concerns with you. A strong client-worker relationship is key to effective support.

Provide clear information

Provide clear information about the available resources and services offered by community support organisations, their rights and how to effectively engage with support organisations. Explain the benefits of accessing these resources and how they can improve the individual’s quality of life.


Based on the assessment, make referrals to relevant community support organisations. These referrals should align with the individual’s specific needs and goals. Discuss these referrals with the individual, obtain their consent, and explain the purpose and benefits.

Resource directory

Create and maintain a resource directory that includes a list of local support organisations, services, and contact information. This directory should be regularly updated readily accessible.


Act as an advocate for your clients in their interactions with community support organisations. This may involve assisting them with paperwork, applications, and communication. Your advocacy can help streamline the process and ensure that individuals receive the services they need. Your advocacy can help streamline the process and ensure individuals receive the services they need.

Accompany individuals to appointments

Offer to accompany individuals to appointments with community support providers, especially during initial meetings. This can help reduce anxiety and ensure clear communication.

Seek out funding and financial assistance

Explore available funding options and financial support for accessing community support services. This may include grants, subsidies, or assistance programs.

Regular follow-up

Maintain regular contact with those that you support to assess their progress in accessing community support services. Address any challenges or concerns promptly.

Monitor and evaluate progress

Continuously monitor and evaluate progress toward the individual’s goals. Make adjustments to the support plan as necessary to ensure it remains effective.

Empower those that draw on care and support with information

Teach those that draw on care and support how to navigate the system and access resources independently. Provide them with the knowledge and skills needed to advocate for themselves.


Establish professional connections with community support providers, including local government agencies, non-profit organisations, healthcare providers, and social service agencies. Attend meetings, conferences, and workshops to expand your network.

Collaboration with other professionals

Collaborate with other professionals, such as healthcare providers, therapists, and educators, to access resources that cater to holistic needs. Multidisciplinary collaboration can provide a more comprehensive approach to addressing individual needs.

These organisations often have established relationships with various community support networks and can facilitate access to resources.

  • Local service centres: Many communities have dedicated service centres that serve as hubs for accessing various resources. These centres often have knowledgeable staff who can provide guidance on available services and how to access them.
  • Government agencies: Local government agencies and social services departments are important resources for community support. Social workers can liaise with these agencies to access a range of services, from housing assistance to disability support.
  • Community-based events: Attend community-based events, fairs, and resource expos. These events often bring together a wide range of organisations that offer information and support services. They can be a valuable one-stop source for accessing resources.

Encourage peer support

Encourage individuals to participate in peer support groups where they can connect with others facing similar challenges. Peer support can be empowering and informative.

Utilise technology

Leverage technology to help individuals access community support resources. Show them how to use online directories, websites, and applications to find information and services.

Many community support organisations have online platforms and websites where individuals can find information, request services, and communicate with providers.

Online databases and directories

Utilise online databases and directories that compile information about community support services in your area. Websites and apps that focus on healthcare, social services, and community support can be helpful.

Social services hotlines

Many regions have dedicated hotlines or helplines for social services. Encourage individuals to call these hotlines to enquire about available resources or seek guidance on accessing services.

Maintain cultural sensitivity

Ensure that your support is culturally sensitive and respectful of the individual’s background, beliefs, and preferences. Consider cultural norms and values in the support process.

Stay informed

Continuously update your knowledge of available resources and community support organisations. Attend training, workshops, and conferences to stay informed about new developments and services.

By following these steps and providing continuous support, social workers can empower individuals to access community support networks and resources effectively. This approach helps individuals receive the necessary support to enhance their quality of life and achieve their goals. Remember that seeking support is a positive step toward personal growth and wellbeing.

Overview on promoting community engagement and social inclusion

Promoting community engagement and social inclusion is a vital aspect of community support, and social workers are instrumental in facilitating this process. These activities enhance individuals’ overall wellbeing, build stronger communities, and ensure that everyone has an opportunity to participate fully in society.

Understand individual needs

  • Start by conducting a thorough assessment of the individual’s needs, interests, strengths, and challenges. Each person’s journey toward community engagement and social inclusion will be unique.
  • This assessment will serve as the foundation for creating a personalised plan for community engagement and social inclusion.

Develop a person-centred plan

  • Collaborate closely with the individual to create a person-centred plan that aligns with their specific goals and aspirations. This plan should include clear objectives related to community engagement and social inclusion.
  • Ensure that the plan is flexible and adaptable to evolving needs.

Access community resources

  • Utilise your network of community resources, including local government programmes, non-profit organisations, and community centres. Identify relevant events, activities, and support services that align with the individual’s interests.

Encourage participation in local activities

  • Coordinate services such as medical care, therapy, vocational training, and recreational activities to minimise disruptions in the individual’s routine.
  • Ensure that appointments and activities are scheduled to accommodate the person’s preferences and daily routines.

Address barriers

  • Identify and address any physical, psychological, or social barriers that may hinder participation. Ensure that individuals have access to necessary accommodations, such as transportation, mobility aids, or specialised support services.

Raise awareness and education

  • Advocate for the importance of social inclusion and community engagement within the community. Organise awareness campaigns, workshops, and seminars to educate the community about the value of inclusion and diversity.

Promote education and skill development

  • Support individuals in accessing education and skill development opportunities. This can include enrolling in courses, workshops, or vocational training.
  • Education can boost self-confidence, open doors to new experiences, and enhance social inclusion.

Foster peer support

  • Encourage individuals to join peer support groups where they can connect with others who share similar experiences. Peer support can provide a sense of belonging, shared experiences, and valuable advice.

Collaborate with local schools

  • Collaborate with local schools to create inclusive environments for students, particularly those with special needs. Working with educators can help ensure that all children feel welcome and included.

Advocate for accessibility

  • Be a vocal advocate for accessible infrastructure and accommodations within the community. This includes advocating for wheelchair ramps, accessible transportation, sign language interpretation, or sensory-friendly spaces.

Cultural sensitivity

  • Recognise and respect the diversity of cultural backgrounds in the community. Tailor your approach to ensure cultural sensitivity, and consider the unique cultural norms and values of the individuals you are assisting.

Promote independence

  • Encourage individuals to take on active roles and responsibilities within the community. This could involve participating in local committees, volunteering for community events, or leading initiatives.

Regular progress evaluation

  • Continuously assess the individual’s progress in achieving their community engagement and social inclusion goals. Make adjustments to the support plan as needed to ensure continued growth.

Establish support networks

  • Connect individuals with mentors, peers, and allies who can provide ongoing support, guidance, and encouragement in their community engagement efforts.

Leverage technology

  • Utilise technology and social media platforms to help individuals access virtual communities, online events, and resources that align with their interests and goals.

Celebrate achievements

  • Recognise and celebrate the individual’s achievements and milestones in community engagement and social inclusion. Positive reinforcement bolsters self-esteem and motivation.

Engage with families and caregivers

  • Involve families and caregivers in the process and ensure they are informed and supportive of community engagement efforts. Their support is invaluable.

By following these guidelines, social workers can empower individuals to become active and valued members of their communities, fostering a sense of belonging and empowerment, whilst also facilitating a more inclusive and diverse society by promoting community engagement and social inclusion.

Funding options and financial support

Funding options and financial support for community support services are crucial to ensure that individuals with diverse needs can access the assistance and resources they require. Social workers serve as essential guides in this process, helping clients access the necessary financial resources.

Here is detailed information on funding options and financial support available in the UK for community support.

Local authority funding

Local authorities provide a range of community support services, including social care, housing, and mental health programs. Social workers often assess an individual’s eligibility for local authority funding based on their specific needs and circumstances.

Personal budgets and direct payments

Personal budgets, sometimes referred to as individual budgets, are allocations of money provided to individuals by the local authority to purchase their own care and support services. This approach offers greater control and choice. Social workers assist those that draw on care and support in managing personal budgets and direct payments effectively.

Disabled facilities grants

Disabled facilities grants are available to individuals with disabilities to fund home adaptations and improvements to make their living environment more accessible. Social workers can help individuals apply for these grants to ensure their homes meet their needs.

Carer’s allowance

Carer’s allowance is a government benefit provided to those who care for individuals with disabilities. Social workers can assist individuals and their caregivers in applying for this allowance, which can provide financial support to those providing care.

Welfare benefits

Social workers help individuals navigate the complex system of welfare benefits, including universal credit, Employment and Support Allowance (ESA), Personal Independence Payment (PIP), and more. These benefits provide financial support to those with disabilities and other specific needs.

Charitable organisations

Various charitable organisations in the UK offer financial support and grants to individuals with specific needs. Social workers often maintain a database of these organisations and assist clients in applying for relevant grants.

Trust funds and foundations

Trust funds and foundations can provide grants to individuals for various purposes, including disability-related needs, medical expenses, and education. Social workers may help individuals identify and apply for funds that align with their requirements.

Universal credit/housing benefit

Universal credit/housing benefit is available to individuals who require financial assistance with their rent. Social workers can assist individuals in understanding their eligibility and help them apply for this benefit.

Support from education authorities

In cases where individuals require educational support, social workers can collaborate with education authorities to access funding for special educational needs (SEN) services and support.

Social care grants

Some local authorities offer social care grants to help individuals cover the cost of specific services or equipment needed for their care. Social workers can guide clients through the application process.

Independent living funds

The Independent Living Fund (ILF) provides financial support to individuals with disabilities who want to live independently. Social workers can assist in applying for ILF grants.

Community-based fundraising

Social workers can help individuals and their families explore community-based fundraising initiatives, such as crowdfunding campaigns, to cover specific expenses, adaptive equipment, or modifications.

Financial advice and planning

Social workers can connect individuals with financial advisors who specialise in disability-related financial planning. These advisors can offer guidance on managing finances, accessing benefits, and creating long-term financial plans.

Researching and applying

Social workers play a crucial role in researching available funding options, assessing eligibility, and assisting clients in preparing and submitting applications. They also help individuals understand their financial rights and responsibilities.

Appeals and advocacy

In cases where individuals are denied funding or benefits, social workers can provide advocacy and support throughout the appeals process, ensuring that clients receive the financial assistance they are entitled to.

Regular reviews

Social workers conduct regular reviews of funding and financial support to ensure that the assistance aligns with the changing needs of the individuals they support. They make adjustments and modifications as necessary.

Social workers are valuable allies in navigating the complex web of funding options and financial support for community support services. They play a central role in assessing individuals’ needs, determining suitable solutions, and advocating for their financial wellbeing to ensure that they have access to the support they require. 

Non-profit organisations, grants and charities

There are several charitable organisations, non-profits, and grant programs that offer financial support for community support and related services. These organisations may provide grants, funding, or financial assistance to individuals, families, or community groups. These organisations focus on various aspects of community wellbeing, social services, and support.

Here are some notable ones:

The National Lottery Community Fund

This fund distributes money raised by the National Lottery to support community projects and initiatives across the UK. It provides grants for various community and social projects, including those related to education, health, social inclusion and environmental sustainability.

The Big Lottery Fund

Now part of The National Lottery Community Fund, it focuses on supporting community projects that improve people’s lives. They fund a wide range of initiatives, including those that address social issues, community development, and wellbeing.

Comic Relief

Comic Relief raises funds and supports charitable organisations working to tackle social challenges. They provide grants to initiatives that promote community wellbeing, both in the UK and internationally.

The Henry Smith Charity

This charity offers grants to organisations that work to alleviate disadvantage in the UK. They support a wide range of community projects, including those related to education, health, and social services.

The Tudor Trust

Focusing on social justice and equality, the Tudor Trust funds initiatives that address the root causes of issues faced by individuals and communities. They support charitable organisations making a positive impact.

The Robertson Trust

This trust supports charitable organisations and initiatives in Scotland that aim to create a fair and inclusive society. They provide grants for community projects, social services, and educational programmes.

The Esmée Fairbairn Foundation

This foundation supports charitable activities across various sectors, including the arts, education, and social change. They fund initiatives that have a significant and positive impact on communities.

The Lloyds Bank Foundation

This foundation supports small and medium-sized charities working to tackle disadvantage and improve lives. They provide grants and support for organisations focused on social issues and community wellbeing.

The Wellcome Trust

Primarily known for funding health-related research, the Wellcome Trust also supports initiatives that positively impact public health and wellbeing. They fund organisations that work on various health and community issues.

The Garfield Weston Foundation

This foundation provides funding to charities on community initiatives, education, and health projects. They offer grants to organisations that make a meaningful difference in their communities.

Joseph Rowntree Foundation

Focusing on issues related to poverty and social justice, this foundation supports research and initiatives that address the root causes of social problems and work toward building a more inclusive society.

Barrow Cadbury Trust

This trust supports initiatives and projects aimed at advancing social justice. They fund organisations working on issues such as inequality, poverty, and community wellbeing.

Social Investment Business

This organisation provides financial support to social enterprises and charities. They offer loans, grants, and other financial products to promote community impact and social change.

Please note that the eligibility criteria, application processes, and focus areas of these charitable organisations may vary. Social workers can help individuals and community groups identify the most suitable funding sources and navigate the application process to access financial support for their community support initiatives.

Community support services and organisations play a crucial role in providing the necessary assistance for those in need. Accessing these services and promoting community engagement and social inclusion is achievable through a strategic approach. By securing funding and financial support, social workers can ensure the sustainability of these vital programmes. Successful community support initiatives serve as inspirational examples of the transformative power of social work in action. By applying the principles and strategies outlined in this guide, social workers can further their mission of empowering individuals, fostering inclusive communities, and making a positive impact on the world of community support.


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