Totally Socially

Today, 20 March, is World Social Work day.

This year emphasises ‘Promoting Community and Environmental Sustainability’, which relates to the third pillar of the Global Agenda for Social Work and Social Development.

The Agenda, created in 2012 after a global gathering of social workers, educators and development workers, sets out where we can and should make a difference to the world:

  • Promoting social and economic equalities
  • Ensuring the dignity and worth of peoples
  • Promoting community and environmental sustainability
  • Strengthening recognition of the importance of human relationships.

In the UK, social workers strive to realise all of these aims. If you look at the Social Worker of the Year awards, you see social workers advocating for looked after children’s rights, securing support for asylum seekers, helping people to connect with their communities, building relationships with people who have experienced exploitation.

World Social Work Day's focus on our environment and communities is timely. It seems obvious to point out that social work is social – it is about people in context. However, the ideology of individualism can mean that policy asks us to fix people, whilst ignoring what surrounds them.

Across the UK, social work is asserting its social nature. From research setting out the links between adversity and intervention in child protection, to community focused social work, to our professional association’s anti austerity campaign pack, we are maintaining our identity, purpose and values as “a practice-based profession and an academic discipline that promotes social change and development, social cohesion, and the empowerment and liberation of people” (IFSW Definition).

For our part, at Helpful Social Work podcast, we ground our podcast in three social principles:

  • Social work is practice by people in context with people in context
  • Social work improves by understanding what helps the person and what changes the context
  • Social workers need a good context themselves to do this work well.

In each podcast, we have explored how we can maintain our integrity and be helpful within particular constraints, and how we can affect change in the context around us.

In our next series of podcasts, starting in April, we will be exploring the social work journey from first contact through assessment, planning, review up to the transition or closure at the end of our work. We will also be looking at what we can learn from other disciplines. We will draw on science, social sciences and the arts to gain insight, for example learning from counselling about how to build relationships or from economics about how to make fair decisions about funding. In all our discussions, we will keep the social firmly in mind.

We hope that this World Social Work day is an opportunity for social workers to reaffirm belief in our ability to change the world, and to find ways to support each other to achieve this.