A social worker is a professionally trained person employed in the administration of charity, social service, welfare, and poverty agencies, advocacy, or religious outreach programs. Social workers may also work with community health agencies. In developed countries a large number of social workers are employed by the government. Other social workers work as psychotherapists, performing individual counseling, frequently working in coordination with psychiatrists, psychologists, or other physicians. Additionally, some social workers have chosen to focus their efforts on social policy.
Table of contents
- Child abuse
- Battered women's shelters
- Workers' compensation for on-the-job injuries
- Birth control and family planning
- Family crisis intervention
- Administration and coordination of services for disabled infants, children, and adults
- Hospital Settings
- Providing short-term counseling and referrals to workers through employee assistance programs
- Administering government welfare programs
- Needle exchanges, and drug addiction
- Shelter Programs (ie homeless shelters)
- Food bank programs
- Adoptions and foster care monitoring
Policy & Advocacy
- Helping the poor organize for better conditions – both economically (food banks, buying clubs) and politically – voting blocks during election campaigns, running candidates, organizing demonstrations
- Providing assistance to work through government red tape, including other social work agencies
- Tenants' rights
- Refugee assistance (refugee camps, relocation, political asylum help)
- Program evaluation to determine if various programs are providing services as they should, or how a program may be improved.
- Advocacy, community support, and counseling for adults and children with mental illness
- AIDS awareness
Social work in the UK
In the UK the title "Social Worker" is protected by law and can be used only by people who have a recognised qualification and are registered with the General Social Care Council. The main qualification is a Post Graduate diploma in Social Work (DipSW), although this is now being phased out and replaced with a standard BA (Hons) or Masters degree in Social Work. Purporting to be a Social Worker without being registered is a criminal offence. This arrangement protects vulnerable groups from unscrupulous people.
Social work in the United States
A social worker practicing in the United States usually requires a Master's degree (MSW) or a Bachelor's degree (BSW) in Social Work to receive a license in most states. In some areas, however, a social worker may be able to receive a license with a Bachelor's degree in any discipline.The National Association of Social Workers (NASW) is the largest organization of professional social workers in the United States.
Certain types of social workers are more likely to suffer criticism than most other workers because they often work in scenarios which are highly emotionally charged. Examples include:
- taking a child away from parents who are regarded as unfit
- failing to remove children from parents who subsequently hurt or kill them
- organizing demonstrations
- supporting activities that are highly controversial – abortion, needle exchanges
Social workers would respond that often problems with social workers can be traced to poor pay, inadequate training, excessive case loads, inadequate funding, and bad government policies. The reason social workers are singled out is because they are the ones who directly face and deal with the public.
Social workers are often criticized because they are identified with the bureaucracy of their organizations. Social workers often have to ask clients to fill out time-consuming paperwork and sign large numbers of documents as a requirement of their jobs. Clients and others thus tend to think of social workers as paper-pushers.
In response, in many regions Social Workers are seeking efforts to professionalize the profession. Many regions have passed legislation making it illegal to use the title social worker without a license. This prevents unqualified persons from acting under the title of social worker and has resulted in the creation of discipline boards. These boards have the authority to punish social workers who violate their legislation through fines, suspension or revocation of their license. This protects the public by having social workers accountable to their code of ethics.
Professional Associations / Regulatory Bodies:
- British Association of Social Workers
- Canadian Association of Social Workers
- International Federation of Social Workers
- National Association of Social Workers (NASW)
- Ontario Association of Social Workers
- UK regulator for social workers
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