Social Work grew out of humanitarian and democratic ideals, and its values are based on respect for the equality, worth, and dignity of all people. Since its beginnings over a century ago, social work practice has focused on meeting human needs and developing human potential. Human rights and social justice serve as the motivation and justification for social work action. In solidarity with those who are disadvantaged, the profession strives to alleviate poverty and to liberate vulnerable and oppressed people in order to promote social inclusion. Social work profession addresses the barriers, inequities and injustices that exist in society. Its mission is to help people to develop their full potential, enrich their lives, and prevent dysfunction. Professional Social Work is focused on problem solving and change. As such, social workers are change agents in society and in the lives of the individuals, families and communities they serve. It responds to crises and emergencies as well as to everyday personal and social problems. Social Work utilizes a variety of skills, techniques, and activities consistent with its holistic focus on persons and their environments. Social Work interventions range from primarily person-focused psychosocial processes to involvement in social policy, planning and development. These include counselling, clinical social social work, group work, social pedagogical work, and family treatment and therapy as well as efforts to help people obtain services and resources in the community. Interventions also include agency administration, community organization and engaging in social and political action to impact social policy and economic development. The holistic focus of social work is universal, but the priorities of social work practice will vary from country to country and from time to time depending on cultural, historical, and socio-economic conditions.
Social Workers attempt to relieve and prevent hardship and suffering. They have a responsibility to help individuals, families, groups and communities through the provision and operation of appropriate services and by contributing to social planning. They work with, on behalf of, or in the interests of people to enable them to deal with personal and social difficulties and obtain essential resources and services. Their work may include, but is not limited to, interpersonal practice, group work, community work, social development, social action, policy development, research, social work education and supervisory and managerial functions in these fields. The field of practice for Professional Social Worker is expanding day by day.
Fields Of Practice For Professional Social Workers
There are three general categories or levels of intervention for Social Work Professionals. The first is "Macro" social work which involves society or communities as a whole. This type of social work practice would include policy forming and advocacy on a national or international scale. The second level of intervention is described as "Mezzo" social work practice. This level would involve work with agencies, small organizations, and other small groups. This practice would include policy making within a social work agency or developing programs for a particular neighborhood. The final level is the "Micro" level that involves service to individuals and families.
Social Workers help people to overcome some of life’s most difficult challenges: poverty, discrimination, abuse, addiction, physical illness, divorce, loss, unemployment, educational problems, disability, and mental illness. They help prevent crises and counsel individuals, families, and communities to cope more effectively with the stresses of everyday life. Social Work is a profession that serves individuals, families, and communities who seek preventative and rehabilitative interventions for an improved quality of life. Focused on social and emotional development within the social environment, the scope of social work is national and international. The profession is social justice and action oriented.
Adopting a holistic approach and forging therapeutic relationships are not unique to social work. What makes the role of the social worker distinct is that it combines both. The social worker seeks to understand the person’s entire situation (the holistic approach) and to work with this. Developing an effective helping relationship with people who use services is central to the role of the social worker in order to ensure better outcomes. Social Workers need sufficient time to combine knowledge of skills and values and demonstrate the effective listening, respect and sensitive engagement which this involves. The ability to form and maintain such relationships can be eroded by a workload which exceeds resources, by over management of risks and by increasing expectations from people who use services of the social worker’s capacity to meet their needs.
Prospect for Professional Social Workers in Development sectors:
At present the development sector is largely controlled and managed by the welfare or non-governmental organizations (NGOs) – who are doing the pioneer work towards the overall development of the society. A person with a degree (preferably a Master degree) in Social Work is highly preferred in developmental agencies and NGOs. In other words, it can be said that NGO sectors as well as the development sectors are being dominated by the professional social workers. As far as the salary of a professional social worker in development sector (in India) is concerned – it varies from organization to organization. Generally it is negotiated at the time of interview. As salary is negotiable in development sector, likewise flexibility also exists in the recruitment process. Sometimes it is also observed that a person gets recruitment in a particular position – though he/she has not fulfilled the minimum requirements. Percentage of marks in M.S.W hardly matters in recruitment-process of development sector; 50% to 55% marks in M.S.W is enough to get a good job in a reputed organization. What does matter – is relevant working experiences, possession of suitable technical skills of project management, sound knowledge managing NGO administration (see table 3) etc; sometimes the reputation of the academic institution – from where the applicant obtained the degree in Social Work – is taken into consideration by the recruiting organizations. Students completing M.S.W from institutes like TISS, XISS, Delhi University – are generally preferred and gets higher salary at the beginning.
Most of International NGOs have a specified pay structure for different positions – which may vary from Rs. 30,000/- per month to up to Rs. 2 lakh per month. For example, in organizations like DFID, Water Aid, Oxfam – the salary starts with on an average Rs. 35,000 to Rs. 50,000 per month; whereas organization like UNICEF provides Rs. 1, 75,000/- per month (those who are recruited directly by UNICEF, like UNICEF program officer – not applicable for the employees of UNICEF-funded project) at the beginning. But generally for entering into these organizations – at least three to five years’ prior working experiences in a reputed developmental organization is necessary.
Professional Social Workers are found in every facet of community life—in old age homes, orphanages ,schools, hospitals, mental health clinics, prisons, corporations and in numerous public and private agencies that serve individuals and families in need. Social Work is not just about doing good deeds and helping the under-privileged. Over a period of time, it has evolved into a profession. Correctly it is not a ‘conventional’ career. But with issues of disability, drug misuse, poverty, mental ill health, problems associated with aging etc. rising constantly, social work has become a vital need of our society today. If you are willing to take up a profession for emotional fulfillment and if your purpose of working is not just financial, this would be the ideal career for you.
Assistant Professor in department of Social Work at Assam (Central) University.
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