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|Activity sectors||Pursuit of social welfare and social change, psychotherapy|
Social work is a professional and academic discipline that seeks to improve the quality of life and wellbeing of an individual, group, or community by intervening through research, policy, community organizing, direct practice, and teaching on behalf of those afflicted with poverty or any real or perceived social injustices and violations of their human rights. Research is often focused on areas such as human development, social policy, public administration, psychotherapy, program evaluation, and international and community development. Social workers are organized into local, national, continental and international professional bodies. Social work, an interdisciplinary field, includes theories from economics, education, sociology, medicine, philosophy, politics, anthropology, and psychology.
The concept of charity goes back to ancient times, and the practice of providing for the poor has roots in many major ancient civilizations and world religions.
Social work has its roots in the social and economic upheaval wrought by the Industrial Revolution, in particular the struggle of society to deal with poverty and its resultant problems. Because dealing with poverty was the main focus of early social work, it is intricately linked with the idea of charity work, but it must now be understood in much broader terms. For instance, it is not uncommon for modern social workers to find themselves dealing with the consequences arising from many other "social problems" such as racism, sexism, homophobia, and discrimination based on age or on physical or mental ability. Modern social workers can be found helping to deal with the consequences of these and many other social maladies in all areas of the human services professions and in many other fields besides.
Whereas social work started on a more scientific footing aimed at controlling and reforming individuals (at one stage supporting the notion that poverty was a disease), it has in more recent times adopted a more critical and holistic approach to understanding and intervening in social problems. This has led, for example, to the reconceptualisation of poverty as more a problem of the haves versus the have-nots rather than its former status as a disease, illness, or moral defect in need of treatment. This also points to another historical development in the evolution of social work: once a profession engaged more in social control, it has become one more directed at social and personal empowerment. That is not to say that modern social workers do not engage in social control (consider, for example, child protection workers), and many, if not most, social workers would likely agree that this is an ongoing tension and debate in the profession. For ≈example, see the debate between the structural social work and humanistic social work.
Contemporary professional development
The International Federation of Social Workers states, of social work today, that
"social work bases its methodology on a systematic body of evidence-based knowledge derived from research and practice evaluation, including local and indigenous knowledge specific to its context. It recognizes the complexity of interactions between human beings and their environment, and the capacity of people both to be affected by and to alter the multiple influences upon them including bio-psychosocial factors. The social work profession draws on theories of human development, social theory and social systems to analyse complex situations and to facilitate individual, organizational, social and cultural changes."
The education of social workers begins with a Bachelor's degree (BA, BSc, BSSW, BSW, etc.) or diploma in Social Work. Some countries offer Postgraduate degrees in Social Work, like master's (such as MSW, MSS, MA, MSc, MRes, MPhil etc.) or doctoral studies (such as PhD and DSW (Doctor of Social Work)). More and more graduates of social work continue to post-doctoral studies. Some argue that social work education is a lifelong process.
A number of countries and jurisdictions requires registration or licensure of people working as social workers, and there are mandated qualifications. In other places, a professional association sets academic requirements for admission to membership. The success of these professional bodies' efforts is demonstrated in that these same requirements are recognized by employers as necessary for employment.
Social workers have a number of professional associations, which provide ethical guidance and other forms of support for their members and for social work in general. These associations can be international, continental or semi-continental, national, and regional. The main international associations are the International Federation of Social Workers (IFSW) and the International Association of Schools of Social Work (IASSW). The largest professional social work association in the United States is the National Association of Social Workers.
In the United Kingdom, just over 50% of social workers are employed by local authorities, and many of these are represented by UNISON, the public sector employee union. Smaller numbers are members of Unite the union and the GMB (trade union). The British Union of Social Work Employees (BUSWE) has been a section of the Community (trade union) since 2008. In 2011, the British Association of Social Workers launched a trade union arm for the second time (it first tried this in 1976) called the Social Workers' Union, but this body is not recognised by the TUC or by any employers.
Role of the professional
The main tasks of professional social workers can include a number of services such as case management (linking service users with agencies and programs that will meet their psychosocial needs - mainly common in US and UK), counseling and psychotherapy, human services management, social welfare policy analysis, policy and practice development, community organizing, international, social and community development, advocacy, teaching (in schools of social work), and social and political research.
- Payne, M. (2011). Humanistic Social Work: Core Principles in Practice. Chicago: Lyceum, Basingstoke, Palgrave Macmillan.
- "Definition of Social Work". IFSW General Meeting in Montreal, Canada, July 2000. International Federation of Social Workers. 04/10/2005. Retrieved 2008-02-19.
- The National Association of Social Workers (NASW, 2005). NASW Fact Sheet. Retrieved November 15, 2006 from http://www.socialworkers.org.
- "Catholic Social Workers National Association".
- Agnew, Elizabeth N. (2004). From Charity to Social Work: Mary E. Richmond and the Creation of an American Profession. Urbana, IL: University of Illinois Press. ISBN 0-252-02875-9 [Amazon-US | Amazon-UK]. OCLC 51848398.
- Axinn, June and Mark J. Stern (2008). Social Welfare: A History of the American Response to Need (7th ed.). Boston, MA: Pearson/Allyn and Bacon. ISBN 978-0-205-52215-6 [Amazon-US | Amazon-UK]. OCLC 86038254.
- Balgopal, Pallassana R. (2000). Social Work Practice with Immigrants and Refugees. New York, NY: Columbia University Press. ISBN 0-231-10856-7 [Amazon-US | Amazon-UK]. OCLC 43323656.
- Barker, Richard (2009). Making Sense of Every Child Matters - multi professional practice guidance (1st ed.). Bristol, UK: Policy Press. ISBN 1-84742-011-7 [Amazon-US | Amazon-UK].
- Barker, Robert L. (2003). Social Work Dictionary (5th ed.). Silver Spring, MD: NASW Press. ISBN 0-87101-355-X [Amazon-US | Amazon-UK]. OCLC 52341511.
- Butler, Ian and Gwenda Roberts (2004). Social Work with Children and Families: Getting into Practice (2nd ed.). London, England; New York, NY: Jessica Kingsley Publishers. ISBN 1-4175-0103-0 [Amazon-US | Amazon-UK]. OCLC 54768636.
- Davies, Martin (2002). The Blackwell Companion of Social Work (2nd ed.). Oxford, UK; Malden, MA: Blackwell. ISBN 0-631-22391-6 [Amazon-US | Amazon-UK]. OCLC 49044512.
- Fischer, Joel and Kevin J. Corcoran (2007). Measures for Clinical Practice and Research: A Sourcebook (4th ed.). Oxford, UK; New York, NY: Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-518190-6 [Amazon-US | Amazon-UK]. OCLC 68980742.
- Greene, Roberta R. (2008). Social Work with the Aged and their Families (3rd ed.). New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction Publishers. ISBN 978-0-202-36182-6 [Amazon-US | Amazon-UK]. OCLC 182573540.
- Grinnell, Richard M. and Yvonne A Unrau (2008). Social Work Research and Evaluation: Foundations of Evidence-Based Practice (8th ed.). Oxford, UK; New York, NY: Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-530152-6 [Amazon-US | Amazon-UK]. OCLC 82772632.
- Grobman, Linda M. (2012). Days in the Lives of Social Workers: 58 Professionals Tell Real-Life Stories From Social Work Practice (4th ed.). Harrisburg, PA: White Hat Communications. ISBN 978-1-929109-30-2 [Amazon-US | Amazon-UK]. OCLC 745766042.
- Mizrahi, Terry and Larry E. Davis (2008). Encyclopedia of Social Work (20th ed.). Washington, DC; Oxford, UK; New York, NY: NASW Press and Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-530661-3 [Amazon-US | Amazon-UK]. OCLC 156816850.
- Popple, Philip R. and Leslie Leighninger (2008). The Policy-Based Profession: An Introduction to Social Welfare Policy Analysis for Social Workers (4th ed.). Boston, MA: Pearson/Allyn and Bacon. ISBN 0-205-48592-8 [Amazon-US | Amazon-UK]. OCLC 70708056.
- Reamer, Frederic G. (2006). Ethical Standards in Social Work: A Review of the NASW Code of Ethics (2nd ed.). Washington, DC: NASW Press. ISBN 978-0-87101-371-2 [Amazon-US | Amazon-UK]. OCLC 63187493.
- Richardson, Virginia E. and Amanda Smith Barusch (2006). Gerontological Practice for the Twenty-First Century: A Social Work Perspective. New York, NY: Columbia University Press. ISBN 0-231-10748-X [Amazon-US | Amazon-UK]. OCLC 60373501.
- Sowers, Karen M. and Catherine N. Dulmus and others. (2008). Comprehensive Handbook of Social Work and Social Welfare. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons. ISBN 0-471-75222-3 [Amazon-US | Amazon-UK]. OCLC 155755265.
- Specht, Harry; Courtney, Mark E. (1994). Unfaithful angels : how social work has abandoned its mission. New York: Free Press. ISBN 0-02-930355-9 [Amazon-US | Amazon-UK].
- Statham, Daphne (2004). Managing Front Line Practice in Social Work. New York, NY: Jessica Kingsley Publishers. ISBN 1-4175-0127-8 [Amazon-US | Amazon-UK]. OCLC 54768593.
- Thyer, Bruce A. and John S. Wodarski (2007). Social Work in Mental Health: An Evidence-Based Approach. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley. ISBN 0-471-69304-9 [Amazon-US | Amazon-UK]. OCLC 65197928.
- Turner, Francis J. (2005). Canadian Encyclopedia of Social Work. Waterloo, ON: Wilfrid Laurier University Press. ISBN 0-88920-436-5 [Amazon-US | Amazon-UK]. OCLC 57354998.