What Is Social Work

For the purposes of confidentiality, all names and identifying features in the following piece of work have been removed or changed.

In considering what social work can be, I thought it important to start with a currently accepted definition given by the International Federation of Social Workers (IFSW). This definition is widely used in social work literature and gives a broad yet concise description of a social worker's responsibilities and wider motivation: “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” (IFSW, 2000).

Social work developed primarily for the purposes of social change, when groups such as the Charitable Organisation Society (COS) were formed in the latter half of the 19th century in order for predominantly middle-class women to co-ordinate charitable efforts for those less fortunate. Here, we first see the concept of 'deserving and undeserving poor', which interestingly is in the forefront of our minds in these days of economic recession. This week, The Sunday Telegraph featured an article detailing government plans to launch a White Paper creating Work Activity Placements for those claiming Jobseeker's Allowance. If claimants choose not to work, a 'significant financial sanction will be imposed' (Kite, 2010). It is easy for society to see those who choose not to work as undeserving, but   we must look beyond initial prejudices, as some of those with whom we work will be long-term unemployed and yet should still have equal rights as a service user. It is worth mentioning that poverty is not the only social change in which social works have participated. Feminism, for example, has been a key debate in social work since...