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Introducing social work: a starter kit
Introducing social work: a starter kit

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6 Summary of Session 3

In this session you have learned that social workers need to know about social divisions and diversity for the following reasons.

  • Many of the people who use social work services are poor, and poverty can have a significant impact on people’s life chances and wellbeing. Some people are poor because of unwise choices and limited skills. However, there are many other explanations for poverty, relating to structural, social and political forces that can disproportionately impact on poor people and make it much harder for them to achieve and sustain baseline levels of stability in health, education and social development. Social workers need to understand the complexity and impact of these issues, to avoid contributing to the social discourse of ‘blame’ where the poor are viewed as being fully responsible for causing and for resolving their circumstances.
  • Not being able to participate at a reasonable level in society, that is, being subject to social exclusion, is damaging and is a denial of human rights and human potential. People who are members of certain groups or who perhaps have certain unusual characteristics are especially susceptible to social exclusion. This can include individuals with disabilities or health conditions, certain ethnic groups, older people, and many others. Social workers need to be fully aware of the persistent and changing nature of social exclusion, and work with people on the basis of equity and social justice, addressing positively wherever possible the causes and consequences of exclusion.
  • Social work intervention and contact while generally useful is nevertheless transitory and time-limited. On the other hand, people spend the majority of their time living in their communities, which provide primary sources for identity, validation and support. It is important therefore that social workers acknowledge and contribute where possible to the development of community resources, promoting the creation and access to social capital for social development and community safeguarding.
  • Individuals generally behave differently in groups than they might behave alone. This may be reasonably self-evident. However, social workers need to know about the patterns, dynamics, and triggers for group behaviour. An ability to work positively with these forces can help significantly when working with service users, and also when working with and within organisations.
  • The law shapes much of the social welfare system, social work practice, and society generally, and professional intervention with individuals and families carries with it many legal duties and responsibilities. The law protects, and it also allows for rights and opportunities to be delivered, facilitating the management and healing of social divisions and the equitable enforcement of rights. However, the law is always ‘work in progress’ and it is unlikely to ever be fully fair or proportionate for all. Therefore, a full and continually updated knowledge of the law is a pre-requisite for effective and empowering social work practice.

Now that you have considered some of the social aspects that social workers need to engage with and understand in their work, in the next session you will look at various aspects of human development. Generally, this begins with the individual, and the numerous factors that may influence their capacity and potential.

You can now go to Session 4 [Tip: hold Ctrl and click a link to open it in a new tab. (Hide tip)] .