The Future of Social Work

On this World Social Work Day, it is pertinent for Social Workers to reflect and weigh in on the future of the profession.

Based on past experience – a 20 year and counting career in Social Work (SW), I believe that the profession is faced with many challenges that will create many positive changes. We need to remember our crisis theory training – with every crisis comes opportunity!

Breaking Down Barriers: Exclusiveness vs Inclusiveness

The regulation of social work creates barriers, silos, isolation, and a monopoly. True SWs understand that the profession is creating false and perhaps even delusional boundaries around what constitutes a professional social worker. The truth is that SWs are helping professionals as are psychologists, psychiatrists, sociologists, and the like. A licence (U.S.) or registration (Canada) does not make a social worker.

Clearly a licence is a worthy accomplishment, but it does not make a better social work. The reality is that licences and other forms of regulation create monopolies. Monopoly is a contradiction to social work and is incongruent with social work principles. I for one am under no illusion that because I have an Master degree in Social Work that I am any better or more qualified than someone with a Child Youth Worker diploma who has been practicing as a helping professional for the same amount of time. How do we find ways to turn their work experience, in-service training and continuing education into an accelerated social work degree?

As a helping profession, we social workers should be focused on inclusiveness and welcoming those who are practicing social work but may not be social work educated in a formal sense. The truth about social work is that it is an eclectic profession borrowing from economics, political science, psychology, psychiatry, philosophy, a long history of charity work, and community and political organization. We need to be proud of our roots and start to grow the rest of our tree out of inclusiveness. Exclusivity has the potential to corrupt because it is based on power and control dynamics.

Global Communication, Solutions, and Change

Perhaps the greatest change and challenge to social work is the global communication market. If and when silos exist, they are false and a function of one’s unwillingness and lack of acceptance toward the global information market. The web has changed us and while this poses obvious challenges and has, on the one hand, made it easier for mans’ inhumanity toward man, on the other hand, it has created a world where we no longer exist alone and in isolation. Isolation, as we know is unhealthy and allows dysfunction and pathology to manifest and grow.

The internet age allows us to practice micro, mezzo, and macro SW on a global level and on a more even playing field. What happens in one corner of the world now impacts the entire world and while this has created things like global anxiety and global trauma (c) it has also created abilities and benefits which far outweigh the negative.

Since coming to Social Work Helper, I am amazed at how there are so many obvious solutions to macro level problems. For example, the crises in Child Welfare are occurring all over the world and pilot solutions are being had all over the world too! Imagine what would happen if we could get Child Welfare Organizations truly sharing information and solutions?

This would solve so many issues, the greatest perhaps being “poor pay” and “low recognition” for our skill sets. In the current climate of austerity, why do we need to fund solutions for risk assessments and the like all over again repeatedly? The answer of course is we don’t – we simply need to talk and share with one another which we as individual social workers seem to do much better than our organizations do.

ONE Union for all

It is now the time to rise and accept the challenges we face as a society and to organize in a way that can effectively challenge the status quo of our world and which allows us to create sustainable change. Sustainable solutions to world poverty and world peace are now available to us and we need to organize in a manner that gives us the credibility we deserve as a global professional group. This, my friends, is the frontier of social work in the 21st century and Social Work Helper is well positioned to make this happen. We need to unite, not divide!

At the risk of being grandiose, Plato envisioned a world which was governed by philosophers who he termed Guardians. Plato believed that philosophical reasoning was the key to a just society and one whereby people were not taken advantage of. Is social work the new philosophy?

Published by

Clint Robson

Clint is a Canadian Social Worker who earned an Honors Bachelor of Social Work (BSW) from Laurentian University and a Masters of Social Work (MSW) from McGill University. Clint is in his 20th year of Social Work practice with interest and expertise in macro and systems level analysis and intervention, domestic family violence, trauma, stress, and post traumatic stress, child maltreatment, and solutions to reduce the impact of trauma in the helping professions.

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