“In 2014 there were 1.5 million people working in adult social care, and 1.4 million working in the NHS. Together they account for 1 in 10 of the working population and around 70 per cent of the expenditure for the average health and social care provider.” (1)
Many people in the social work field… But what do they exactly do?
Social Work is a wide-ranged field: Social Care, Social Work, Youth Work, and many other subfields. A field that growing and changing every day according to society’s needs. In the UK there is a growing shortage of Social Workers. Despite the high demand in the field, it is not well known due to its wide and changing nature.
According to the International Federation of Social Workers (2001):
The social work profession promotes social change, problem-solving in human relationships and the empowerment and liberation of people to enhance well-being.
Utilising theories of human behaviour and social systems, social work intervenes at the points where people interact with their environments. Principles of human rights and social justice are fundamental to social work.
Yet it is almost impossible to encapsulate this area especially considering developments that happened in the last 20 years. According to this definition, the key factors of Social Work are “problem-solving” and “empowerment”. Social workers mostly practice with people who are vulnerable or/and who struggle to fully participate in society, which makes it a very practical area.
Now let’s see a recent definition from the same federation:
The following definition was approved by the IFSW General Meeting and the IASSW General Assembly in July 2014:
“Social work is a practice-based profession and an academic discipline that promotes social change and development, social cohesion, and the empowerment and liberation of people. Principles of social justice, human rights, collective responsibility and respect for diversities are central to social work. Underpinned by theories of social work, social sciences, humanities and indigenous knowledge, social work engages people and structures to address life challenges and enhance wellbeing. The above definition may be amplified at national and/or regional levels.” (4)
The second definition focuses on collective concepts like “social cohesion” “collective responsibility” “diversity”. One can say it is related to globalisation, countries are getting more interdependent so are people. This leads to a growth in “international social work”.
Types of Social Work
There are different classifications of Social Work for different organizations. To have a deeper understanding and to be more precise we can take a look at the types of social work practice. According to the National Association of Social Workers (NASW) (2):
Administration and Management
Advocacy and Community Organization
International Social Work
Justice and Corrections
Mental Health and Clinical Social Work
Mental Health and Substance Abuse Social Work
Occupational and Employee Assistance Program (EAP) Social Work
Policy and Planning
School Social Work
Levels of Social Practice (3):
Micro Social Work Practice
Micro practice involves working directly with individuals themselves or first persons like family members. Clinical practice, for example, individual, couple, or family therapy is micro social work practice.
Mezzo Social Work Practice
Mezzo practice involves small groups of people. For example, working with a community. Micro and Mezzo Social Practice are the most common ones among these three.
Macro Social Work Practice
This practice entails working on a broader scale to promote bigger groups for communal, societal, collective, or cultural change.