What is Social work and what is its role in society today:
Social work is concerned with social problems; it is concerned with the wellbeing of the worlds’ peoples. It helps individuals adjust to their environments and be able to live productive and meaningful lives; this can be with immediate relationships like friends, family, school, workplace, it permeates and influences policy and institutional structures to promote social development.
There are broadly three major functions/ roles of social work: Remedial social work, preventive social work and development change functions
- Remedial /problem solving function involves the provision of services including counseling,, material assistance to help those in need and restore them to normal living – Eg provisions of assistive devices to those with disabilities , the elderly and those in extreme deprivation /lack –This is what we call case work / clinical social work .
- Preventive social work – is concerned with preventing social problems from occurring- This is usually in Community and youth work. Social mobilization is at the centre in this function.
- Social Development function – Concerned with promoting people’s wellbeing by addressing wider social conditions that impede progress and bringing about positive improvements in standards of living and democratic participation. It seeks to radically alter existing oppressive conditions that prevent people from realizing their potential. It involves engaging at policy level, community practice, political lobbying and social development. ( One will find Social work in poverty reduction, social policy, in political advocacy, in addressing such challenges as: Armed conflict, safe water supply, addressing the needs of children, land distribution among others).
(In actual practice these are not as distinctive as they appear here for example, a remedial worker will still cause change by linking the individual to economic empowerment opportunities to prevent social problems from recurring).
Why is Social work even more important today / critical?
There is still need to respond to the social problems of both individuals and communities especially today because:
- Break down/ weakened traditional systems due to urbanizations, money economy , widespread social problems and HIV/aids with attendant problems- The traditional social protection and social security systems are so weakened and are unable to respond to issues such as : Family conflict, orphan hood, child protection. Clans and communal support and sanctions resolved such problems. Therefore there is need to strengthen the formal systems both policy and practice to respond. Today increase there is an in Child abuse, there are more children on the streets, elderly destitution, increased youth crime and exploitation including trafficking, recruitment in armed conflict, drug trafficking , and drug and substance abuse etc. ( The Community development officers at the district local governments, Probation and welfare officers, welfare and rehabilitation officer in prisons, children homes and remand homes, medical social workers are some of the officers who offer social work services on behalf of government
- Wide spread poverty: This requires large scale systemic mobilization and coordination of activities. Thus the need for professional social work to undertakes the roles as change agents and policy analysis and advocates as well as program Managers to assure positive outcomes.
- There is rapid Social change impacting on the social order – Such changes are as a result of for example the information age; new technologies, mass movement of people in search of opportunities, less human cohesion as a result of anonymity among others .Therefore, new phenomena emerge such as single parenthood, child trafficking, new cultures and practices like homosexuality. Social institutions have also changed for example institutionalization of children from as early as three months up to when they are adults- due to working mothers and father all these have fundamental impact to the functioning of society and the values. Hence impacting on the wellbeing of especially the vulnerable groups like children, women, youth and the elderly. This calls for social work to promote and assure adequate social protection, empowerment and restoration through remedial services to restore individual and group functioning.
- The economic development (GDP) often leaves some segments or individuals to fall through the cracks; social work picks them up and restores their abilities to “move” along. For example through increased activism/advocacy and research on for example conditions of work for particular populations that are employed in the industries, land distribution or compensation in case of large scale displacement of people to create space for infrastructure project etc