“Social work is a practice-based profession and an academic discipline that promotes social change and development, social cohesion, and the empowerment and liberation of people. Principles of social justice, human rights, collective responsibility and respect for diversities are central to social work. Underpinned by theories of social work, social sciences, humanities and indigenous knowledge, social work engages people and structures to address life challenges and enhance wellbeing.” (IFSW 2014)
Social work is a profession that has it basis in the promotion of social justice. Social work aims to empower individuals, groups and communities to take charge of their own lives within their own environment and social context. It does this through its unique knowledge base which has developed from the integration of sociological, psychological and other relevant theories and practice.
Social workers share a common aim of promoting equality. They play a crucial role in highlighting and addressing issues relating to discrimination and inequality in society. Social work practitioners are required to have a broad, generalist skill-base to equip them to work effectively with the complex, multi-faceted demands of the job.
Social workers take a holistic view of people and their difficulties. This perspective guides the range of interventions social work can take. These interventions include individual counselling and family work, group work, crisis intervention, problem-solving, assessment, advocacy with and on behalf of service users, community work and social action to influence organisational, social, political and economic structures.
Social workers work in a variety of settings. These settings are diverse and include hospitals, community care settings, mental health services, child and adolescent services, child protection and welfare settings. Their work is mainly concerned with problem solving, with supporting service users, and working with service users and allied professionals to find solutions and to effect change. The problems and challenges span the life cycle. The issue might be a crisis or emergency or it could be providing support, information and advice to a person to cope with ongoing difficulties or loss. Social workers rarely work alone, often based in a social work or multi-disciplinary team.
Social work education takes place at degree and master’s level in university – however, the education and skills development of social workers is an ongoing process through Continuing Professional Development, professional supervision as well as further study, teaching and research which contributes to the development of the profession.
The Irish Association of Social Workers was founded in 1971 and it is the national organisation of professional social workers in the Republic of Ireland.