What is Social Work?

Social work is considered a professional activity, which deals with assisting whole families or individuals. Social work takes place in various settings such as day centers and hospices. It should be noted that social work is connected with the services that local authorities provide to people in some other countries such as the United States. Four types of social work have been identified, and they include structural, conventional, anti-oppressive, and radical social work. Different ontological assumptions facilitate the understanding of different theoretical perspectives underpinning social work. These include modernism, pre-modernism, and post-modernism. These ontological assumptions aid in explaining different world views supporting them with theoretical perspectives. In their turn, these theoretical perspectives differ, which is determined by the choice advanced by social workers in different parts of the world. The theoretical perspectives under social work include psy-theories and psychodynamic approaches and systems, and complexity theories. It is essential to note that not everyone conforms to the idea of conventional social work. Fook (2002) asserts that some critics, for example Marxists, deem conventional work as contributing to the agenda of social control. This goes against one of the intentions of social work, which is described as been “emancipatory” by nature. The critics have advanced their points basing on colonialism and post-colonialism, feminism, and feminist social work. Social workers are charged with the responsibility of responding to the needs of people. This is the reason why social workers need to be familiar with economic and social policies, cultural systems. They should also have background information about the human development. Thus, this essay expounds on the main ideas of informing social work practice, differences and similarities between various theoretical perspectives that form social work, and an analysis of the assumptions underpinning different theoretical perspectives.

The Key Ideas of Informing Social Work Practice

Social work has been described as a means of improving people’s lifestyles in society. This means that social work is responsible for daily happenings in society. The task of social work is to ensure that members of society lead a good life, which means it has the mandate to support the needs of children, young people, and families. From the responsibilities mentioned above, we can deduct several ideas that inform social work practice in healthcare.

Service is the first idea that informs social work practice in healthcare. Service is a principle in social work practice that allows social workers to assist people who are in need. The ethical principle also requires workers to be at the forefront in addressing social problems. Shannon & Young (2004, p 150) asserts that social workers put their self-interest aside when providing others with their service. Notably, social workers are trained in the field and possess knowledge, skills, and values, which enable them to assist people in trouble. In healthcare, social workers are sometimes expected to provide their services without expecting any financial benefits in return. This is a true indication of service to the people by healthcare workers.

Social injustice is the second idea that informs social work practice. Social injustice informs social work practice, as social workers promote social change. According to Adams et al. (2009), social workers ensure that there is no injustice through campaigning for social change. Thus, social workers strive for social change through focusing their efforts on matters related to discrimination, poverty, and unemployment. From the description given above, a social worker in healthcare can ensure that there is no injustice through facilitating people in providing access to information, resources, and services. In addition, a social worker in healthcare can ensure social change through enabling people to engage in decision making processes related to their health issues.

The worthy of a person is also an idea that informs social practice. This informs social work practice, as social workers hold a person’s dignity in high-esteem. Notably, social workers are keen on a person’s cultural and ethnic diversity; thus, they show respect and care when dealing with a person. A social worker in the healthcare practice usually interacts with different people. Thus, in their effort to treat a person, they usually preserve a person’s dignity through respect and care. Allan et al. (2009, p 101) point out that in the healthcare practice, social workers also retain a person’s dignity because they believe that everyone has the potential to take care of their own needs; thus, they advance relevant advice that can assist an individual.

Relevance of human relationships also informs social work practice. Social workers respect human relationships, as they are familiar with the essence of affiliation. This is because social workers believe that human relationships are essential for effective changes in society. This explains why social workers involve people in their activities and make them feel as partners. Mullaly (1997, p 77) reports that a social worker in the healthcare practice promotes human relationships through involving relatives and close friends of a person who is to be taken care of. A social worker in the healthcare practice does so with intent to enhance family relationships.

Competence is another ethical principle that informs social work practice. Carniol (2005) observes that competence informs this field, as social workers advance services that they are competent in, while at the same time seeking to expound their knowledge and enhancing their expertise professionally. A social worker in the healthcare shows their competence when attending to a person in need. This emanates from the fact that social workers in the healthcare make every endeavor to contribute to the field of healthcare.

Integrity is the last idea that informs the healthcare practice. Notably, integrity as a social work ethical principle requires social workers to conduct themselves in a trustworthy manner. Thus, this requires social workers to have background knowledge regarding their mission, ethical principles, values, and ethical standards of being a social worker. Mullaly (2002) reports that this is why social workers in the healthcare practice must be honest and responsible when acting on behalf of the organizations that have employed them.

Differences and Similarities in Various Theoretical Perspectives that Form Social Work

The emphasis on similar values in social work service delivery is one of the key similarities underlying theoretical perspectives informing social work in healthcare. All the perspectives that inform social work in the field of healthcare emphasize similar core values and ethics that include integrity, accountability, care, compassion, and professionalism. Theoretical perspectives that form social work articulate that an effective and committed healthcare social worker must be able to deliver services with the required level of integrity. A social worker is not expected to ask for a bribe before delivering essential healthcare services. On the contrary, a social worker must deliver their services willingly guided by their integrity. All the theories assert that integrity must be the guiding principle in the delivery of healthcare services. According to Turner (2011, p 150), a social worker should cater for the needs of different groups equally, without being selective. In addition, a healthcare social worker must serve all geographical regions allocated, without being biased in their choice. Healthcare social workers must also be able to account for their work. This means that they should manage all healthcare resources effectively in the process of delivering service in different areas. They should ensure that the allocated resources, for example medicines, are well-distributed to needy individuals without mismanagement. Thus, healthcare social workers must be able to deliver comprehensive reports indicating how the resources have been managed, and how they have been utilized to address the existing health-related needs in society. Furthermore, all these theories assert that a healthcare social worker must be compassionate while delivering their services. This means that such an individual must be able to empathize with other people, which is sure to facilitate in the process of delivering social services. Auslander (1997, p 115) asserts that compassion would make a social worker perform all the required services with commitment and dedication in order to ensure that the existing needs are addressed to at the required level. Lastly, a social healthcare worker is supposed to utilize their professionalism in the delivery of services to the community. This would ensure that quality services are delivered to members of society.

Another key similarity is that all the theoretical perspectives highlight similar duties and responsibilities. All the theoretical perspectives that inform healthcare social work around the globe articulate similar duties and responsibilities for individuals. They assert that all healthcare social workers are expected to care for the community where and when it is required. In addition, social healthcare workers have the responsibility of protecting the health of the community. Beder (2006, p 96) points out that social healthcare workers must have the duty of caring for the community. This means that they owe the community the duty of care, and they must ensure that they will not breach their duty. They are also responsible for providing services at any time they are required to do so. In fact, all social healthcare workers are supposed to only pursue courses of action that indicate their care towards the community. With the duty of care, healthcare workers must educate the community on the significance of leading a healthy life and factors that would contribute to healthy living. Also, this should be done with the purpose of averting further healthcare problems that could have been addressed before their occurrence. According to the theoretical perspectives, all social healthcare workers are responsible for protecting the health of the community. This means that they must ensure that they deliver services in a manner that would not harm members of society but would be beneficial. The services delivered must be of high quality in order to ensure that they address properly health needs in society instead of doing more harm. According to Parry (2000), social healthcare workers should observe and adhere to their duties and responsibilities because they are perceived to play a vital role in solving health problems that society faces. The theoretical perspectives assert that social healthcare workers must ensure that they promote and uphold all these duties in order to provide the required services in an efficient manner. The fulfillment of their duties and responsibilities would promote better healthcare in society.

Salary negotiation among healthcare social workers is the key difference among theoretical perspectives on social work. These theories do not take a similar approach regarding the ability of social workers to negotiate their payment. Some theoretical perspectives that inform social work practice in healthcare assert that a healthcare social worker is an individual dedicated to serve the community; thus, they should not demand excessive payments. Moreover, some of these theories assert that an individual committed to delivering health services to the community should not prioritize financial benefits but must first consider the health the community. Lurie & Rosenberg (1984) asserts that the focus on financial benefits would make the entire practice inefficient. It would lead to cases of poor service delivery among healthcare social workers. These theories further propose that a healthcare social worker should be given salaries that are meant to appreciate the quality services that they deliver. Therefore, it would not be logical to see healthcare social workers engaging in strikes and other similar activities with the purpose of demanding excessive wages. Other theories that promote the opposite idea indicate that social workers should be treated like all other employees. They point out that healthcare social workers have the right to join trade unions that would help in articulating their demands. They should be remunerated accordingly in order to ensure that they deliver quality services. Chan & Rhind (1997) assert that healthcare social workers have the right to receive fair remuneration and to agitate for their rights in cases of violation. In addition to high salaries that healthcare social workers are supposed to be paid, in order to motivate social healthcare workers, research must be conducted with a view to coming up with improved facilities for delivering services to the community. Therefore, healthcare social workers should be compensated in terms of the services they deliver to the community, as this would be a motivation leading to improved services.

Analysis of the Assumptions Underpinning Different Theoretical Perspectives

Social work has assumptions underpinning its noble perspectives. Thy include colonialism, post-colonialism, and feminism.

Post-colonialism accounts for the challenges of colonial identity. This influences the way in which the colonized do undertakings socially in terms of maintaining life in society. Davies & Leonard (2004, p 107) assert that the influence of colonialism jeopardized the sound judgment of the colonized, as it was particularly based on the colonizer. For instance, in the healthcare field, indigenous people used the same drugs and health amenities that their colonizers used.

On the other hand, Neo-colonialism emanates from the effects of colonialism. Some countries collapsed after colonialism, as it had led to a political crisis. Colonialism deprived people of their freedom of expression and this hampered the social well-being of the colonized. However, some viewed colonialism as a way of civilization. These opposite points of view greatly polarized the social lives of the affected countries. Neocolonialism is introduction of independence by means of surviving the colonial system although with no political recognition of independence. For instance, the concept is well-supported by Marxist economists (1950) whose focus was Latin America. This implies that colonizers are still in control of the colonized but as puppets.

Feminism, on the other hand, is a social movement that strives for changes based on gender roles. Cultural contexts differ from one jurisdiction to another. According to Dominelli (2004, p 77), gender parity is an assumption underpinning the perspective of social work, considering the impact of the feminist view on social work conditions based on sex, general capabilities, and general norms of a group of people, which influences the nature of social obligation. For instance, feminists argue that prenatal and postnatal child-care is essentially for females. Despite the fact that social norms deprived women of the most prestigious jobs, these conditions gave them the opportunity to engage in other social practices like moral reforms, such as anti-drug abuse and anti-prostitution campaigns. The second wave of feminism gave women the chance of liberation and provided support to women who were in trouble. For instance, it provided psychological counseling to women who were battered. McDonald (2009, p 250) points out that socialist feminism, on the other hand, provides a possibility for sensitizing the public on the role of sex disparity aimed at bridging the gender gap. On the other hand, socialist feminism sees the oppression of women as a result of the introduction of the capitalist system. For instance, women are misused in the workplace as they are underpaid or they are responsible for household chores, which attract no pay at all. However, this should be taken with resistance or bringing together the oppressed groups so as to find a common ground of oppression, hence, a common solution. On the other hand, according to radical feminism, men are endowed with more power and supremacy, which suppresses women and violates their rights.

Modernism is also one of the factors that underpin social work. For instance, case work is regarded as a group of family members who are eager to help their own family member in need. The needs may range from diseases to addictions like drug abuse.

Group social work involves members of a community coming together to build up a social amenity like classrooms, a hospital or contribute land with the purpose of constructing houses for the homeless or building playgrounds for children.

Through a community organization, a community or organization gets involved in contribution of funds to finance agencies that facilitate the purchase of essential commodities and provision of overlooked needs that include the creation of rehabilitation centers.

Post-modern social work involves social workers rather than counselors. Lakoff (2004) points out that it is the shift from unprofessional work to a more modern industrialized system of working aimed at provision of the poor. It essentially involves eradication of poverty and promotes independence of society. It is the creation of professionalism including art, science, literature, and all other forms of innovation for individuals, so as to create no room for social imbalances.

Post-modern social work primarily considers the direct payment of the individuals involved. Although this is not an easy task, it calls for a radical push for the fulfillment of the mentioned objective, as the core mandate is initiated by those in power. Consequently, social work done in the postmodern manner by the mentioned professionals meets the challenges of misappropriation and conflicts between decision makers, including the authority. McLeod (2000, p 77) points out that this happens because both the authority and professionals have opposite views on what is right. In this case, no right answer is ever available. Thus, these views have shaped the perspectives of social work.

In conclusion, social work is a professional activity that entails assisting families and individuals. The four types of social work that have been identified in this paper include structural, conventional, anti-oppressive, and radical social work. The ontological assumptions that facilitate the understanding of different theoretical perspectives underpinning social work include modernism, pre-modernism, and post-modernism. These ontological assumptions facilitate in explaining different worldviews, on the basis of which the theoretical perspectives are grounded. It should be noted that different individuals hold different views with regard to social work. Social work is grounded on key ideas that include integrity, human relations, worth of a person, competence, service, and social justice.  According to Gillingham (2007, p 111), healthcare social workers are guided by these ideas and should uphold them while delivering their services to the community. Theoretical perspectives that explain social work in relation to healthcare are similar in the manner they express values of healthcare social workers, and they have similar duties and responsibilities. They differ on the issue of remuneration of healthcare social workers. Some people believe that salaries should not play an important role in social work, while others point out that salaries are a source of motivation for social workers. Critics of social work have advanced their points on the basis of colonialism, post-colonialism, feminism, and feminist social work.

The most important issue is that social workers are charged with the responsibility of responding to the needs of people, and this should be promoted all over the globe.

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