1 The importance of law in social work education
In this course you will be asked to reflect on the meanings of both social work and law. You will find that these concepts are open to a range of possible definitions, and that the functions of social work and law can change depending on the practice context. Their meaning is also affected by the perspective from which they are viewed, for example the service user's experience of social work and law will not always match the expectations of the professional, or the perceptions of the general public.
This course will also explain why you need to understand this relationship through considering the professional practice requirements of social work in Scotland and the importance of law in social work education.
Whatever your background and motivation for taking this course, you already possess valuable knowledge about social work and the law. You know what they mean to you. This might seem an ambitious statement, particularly if you lack personal experience of social work, or are approaching the study of law with some nervousness because of its apparent complexity. You will be reassured to know that the course presumes no previous knowledge of either social work or law.
The starting point for our investigation into the relationship between social work and the law is the recognition that people do have preconceptions about what each involves, and that these will inevitably affect their understanding. During this course you will be asked to examine your ideas about social work and the law in order to develop, and in some cases challenge, your initial perceptions. You will also be asked to think about how the views of practitioners, service users and the wider public might impact on the social work role. An appreciation of people's views is essential to good social work practice. Social workers also need to understand their role and the importance of its legal context so they can operate within its bounds and communicate effectively with the public.
We will now consider the nature of the social work task in Scotland.