movements that have changed role of the social worker.
When looking at government policy within Britain since the Second World War it is possible to look at the development of the welfare state and how those governing the country have influenced and shaped the welfare state of today. Pluralism represented majority wide spread values within post war Britain having substantial historical legitimacy explaining contemporary decisions, supplying the most satisfactory foundation on which to examine the post war British welfare state.
Reluctant collectivism was the main overriding political ideology of the time period influencing strategy within post war Britain resulting in the recommendations of the Beveridge Report 1942. (Timmins, 1996)
1941 saw the government commissioning Sir William Beveridge to produce a report into the ways that Britain should be rebuilt after WW2, published in 1942 with recommendations to fight the five giant evils of Want, Disease, Ignorance, Squalor and Idleness. (Timmins, 1996)
Key points, despite later changes were that in organising social security the state shouldn’t suppress encouragement, opportunity and responsibility. The states position to Social Insurance and Assistance System should be rigorously limited to guaranteeing citizens a subsistence income. Anything above that minimum should be determined by personnel effort and voluntary contributions to private insurance, not the state. (Lowe, 2005)
Beveridge had strong commitments to the free market believing that the state intervention should be kept to a minimum promoting maximum freedom of the individual and therefore political autonomy, economic effectiveness and social diversity. Beveridge also indicated a need for greater state regulation acknowledging that politically it was crucial. He was concerned that should economic waste and social inequalities persist parliamentary democracy could damage and discredit political stability. (Lowe, 2009)
Beveridge was a reluctant collectivist intending his recommendations for the welfare state to be a safety net for those who would need it the most believing in limiting the role of the government. Beveridge believed that the overall cost of medical care would decrease as people became healthier, hence needing less treatment (Batholomew, 2004).
1945 saw the appointment of Clement Atlee of the labour party as the new prime minister. He went on to introduce the welfare state as outlined in the 1942 Beveridge Report. By 1948 the National Health Service was created introducing free medical treatment for all, reformist socialist looked upon it as a framework for development shifting towards an egalitarian society, whilst those such as Hayek had never been convinced of a need for the welfare state in the first place.
A national system of benefits was introduced to provide social security to protect from “cradle to the grave” Partly built on National Insurance Scheme set up by David Lloyd George 1911. People in work had to make contributions each week as did employers but the benefits provided were now much greater.
Social work was first recognised in 1898 with classes being offered at Columbia University. Social work and the “five giants of want, disease, ignorance, squalor and idleness” were deep rooted and radical welfare reformers often saw violence, alcohol misuse, child abuse being mainly caused through the absence of welfare and that the introduction of the welfare state as a way of solving these. (Lowe, 2005)
The provision of services following the Beveridge Report saw the introduction of many Acts, policies, reports and events that brought about changes to services and the law. In 1945 the death of Dennis O’Neil highlighted the plight of foster children. The Mockington Report 1945 found the poor supervision, coordination and overdue action being key contributing factors in the death of Dennis O’Neil. The Monckton’s committee Report and Curtis Committee Report 1946 brought about changes in relation to children in foster care. Stipulating that a fit person be it an individual or the local authority must care for the child as their own. (Horner, 2009, Jordan, 2007)
The Curtis Committee Report focused on children in care in particular those in residential care settings and directly resulted in the Children Act 1948 with local authorities becoming more responsible in the professional recognised service and recognised the need for a more personal approach within the care of children.
When looking at the knowledge and skills required for this role the Curtis Report noted the need for this position to be the responsibility of a graduate with experience of children:
Her essential qualifications, however, would be on the personal side. She should be genial and friendly in manner and able to set both children and adults at their ease
(Curtis, 1946 as in Jordan 2007)
The Origins of social work can be traced back to COS (The Charity Organisation Society founded in 1869) and the Settlement Movement both influential yet declined mid twentieth century. Younghusband’s report 1947 noted a wide variety of social work, family case work, settlement work, and work within physically and mental health, probation, youth work amongst others she also believed that both the COS and the settlement movements sought to integrate casework, group work and community work. Younghusband’s report went on to position social work into five specific settings, Children’s Departments, Welfare Departments, Health Departments linked to psychiatric services, Health Departments and medical social workers and Probation Departments ( Younghusband, 1981, Horner 2009)
In 1954 Younghusband played a key part in establishing the first generic training ensuring all social workers had a common base of knowledge for professional social work training. Further reports of Younghusband led to the founding of a Council for Training in Social Work and a social work certificate (Wilson et al, 2008). More recently through the Modernising Social Service Agenda and the Care Standards Act 2000 there have been huge developments within social work education with major changes ensuring that qualified Social Workers are educated to honours degree level ensuring common shared knowledge, skills and values (Department of Health, 1998)
Banks (1995) acknowledges the complex interaction of social work and how it involves interconnected complex issues, ethical, technical, legal and political. All of these are part of the shared knowledge, skills and values of the modern qualified social worker. These shared knowledge, skills and values are more important when considering as Parton (1997) argues the position of the social worker, between the rights of the individual and the states responsibilities.
The Department of Health (2002) states
Social work is a practical job and therefore the degree requires social workers to demonstrate their practical application of skills and knowledge ability to problem solve. Whilst providing hope for those people who rely on social services.
Some definitions such as Jones (2002) link more towards individual difficulties and raises questions of social control. When looking at different definitions it is possible to look at the different practice context. The department of health definition highlights skills and interventions this views social work as practical interactive activity which requires a set of beliefs, knowledge and interpersonal skills linking the ethics and values of social work (Oko, 2009)
Titmuss (1965) acknowledge the changing role of social work in relation to social problems stating that within the past two decades social problems brought about a call for more trained social workers. Focaults (1977) noted that government increased employment opportunities upon realising the capacity of social work to control populations those populations troublesome to social order. Foucault (1977) and Parker (1990) also acknowledged the importance of historical awareness and understanding of social work when reflecting upon the present to enable more productive and effective outcomes. The General Social Care Council (GSCC) views reflection as essential to high-quality social work and key to ongoing professional development and acknowledges this within the National Occupational Standards and General Social Care code of practice (GSCC, 2002). The BASW have recognised that the duty of the social worker being to assist with the solving of social problems and conflict at the personal level.(Oko, 2009)
National Occupational Standards define reflective practice as:
‘Reflective practice is grounded in the social workers repertoire of values, knowledge, theories and practice, which influence the judgements made about a particular situation. The characteristics of reflective judgments indicate that the practitioner has developed the ability to view situations from multiple perspectives, the ability to search for alternative explanations, and the ability to use evidence in supporting or evaluating a decision or position’
(Training Organisation for the Personal Social Services (TOPSS, 2002)
Learning through reflection is a life long process of development Lindeman (1926) viewed it as a process autonomous with life and revolves about non-vocational ideas noting adult education to be around situations putting the student needs first and acknowledges that it is the learner’s experience, if education is life, then life is education. Within the learning and qualification elements of social work training and qualification, anti oppressive and anti discriminatory practice is key.
Anti oppressive and anti discriminatory practice is fundamental to social work. This is clearly emphasized in the GSCC code of practice highlighting the need to respect diversity and promotion of equal opportunities. In order to undertake the role of a social worker it is essential to have some basic understanding of anti discrimination legislation. The Race Relations Act 1976 and Disability Discrimination Act 1995 make it illegal for authorities to discriminate as do elements of the Children Act 1989. Social work commitment to anti oppressive and anti discriminatory practice gained significance having recognised the lack of response to discriminatory and oppressive practice on the part of social workers in the 1980s towards the needs disabled people, women and ethnic minorities (Taylor, 1993). It is this fundamental practice that is recognised within the training and a major part of qualifying courses with in social work. (Wilson et al, 2008) It is this core commitment of the social worker to anti oppressive practice and anti discriminatory practice that encourages and supports active involvement on the part of the service users. Direct payments and individual budgets support individual choice and empowerment. Mullender (1997) stated that in order to understand the oppressions and discrimination people face it is essential perceive the way in which people are disadvantaged. With many forms of oppression and discrimination all of which impact upon social clients, it is important to recognise that negative use of power is at the heart. Thompson (2001) states that for social workers this power lies within their knowledge and expertise, access to resources, statutory powers and influence of individuals and other agencies. Historically this links back to the variety of social work as originally set out in Younghusbands Report 1947 as mentioned on page 4.
As people became more satisfied with each of the welfare services this resulted in them becoming a better resourced service dispelling previous anxieties changing the climate of opinion. The personal social services in 1950’s had very little increase in expenditure although 1960 – 1968 expenditure doubled.
As social work continued to develop so did policy and legislation, 1963 saw the first lawful vital Act that enabled preventative developmental social work enabling early intervention, the Children and Young Persons Act of 1963. This enabled preventative and rehabilitative social work enabling social workers to work towards changing conditions, to prevent children entering local authority care or the juvenile court.
It was as a result of pressure from probation and children’s services which led directly to the establishment of the Seebohm Committee in 1965 and the passage of the social work (Scotland) Act in 1968.
In 1968 Fredric Seebohm led a committee appointed by the government (Committee on Local Authorities and Allied Personal Social Services) who’s task was
To review the organisation and responsibilities of the local authorities personal social services in England and Wales, and to consider what changes were desirable to secure an effective family service.
The Local Authority Social Services Act 1970 went on to see the enactment of the Seebohm Report in 1971. The report changed the delivery of the welfare Servcies into Social Services with a new generic social worker role.
The report recommended a generic integrated social care approach to social services, family orientated, and community based service available and accessible to all, as an integrated service rather than totally separate departments run independently. This new personal Social Services being one of five parts of the social security policy arena, the other four being Social Security, Health, Housing and Education in which Social workers and Social Care are as Walker (1984) says viewed as the safety net of the five.
This saw the appointment of a director of social services accountable to the Social Services Committee. Resulting in breaking down fragmented services between health and welfare committees and associated departments and leading onto the development of generic social work training developed through central council for education and training of social workers (CCETSW)
Claire (2000) post Seebohm, noted staff struggles to the new generic approach given that many had specialism’s within a now integrated service. Whilst Willmott (1975) acknowledged how social work reforms brought about change which meant the families would have one lead social worker as a means to one for each area of need, resulting in a more holistic approach to the need of the individual or family. Toronto (1993) held a collectivist view of this that in order for society to be judged as a morally admirable society it must, among other things, adequately provide care of its members. Thompson (2005) noted that in working within integrated approaches positive outcomes can come about for all concerned, but warns that it can also make some situations worse and the potential for these situations needs to be recognised in order to minimise harm and maximise the good. It could be argued that the recommendations of the Seebohm report 1968 was not wholly new as the Ingleby Report 1960 with a main focus upon juvenile delinquency, child neglect and the entry of children into care it noted the need for state intervention when families are seen to be failing. The Ingleby report commented upon a solution being to reorganise various services concerned with families into one unified family service in effect Ingleby was a forerunner to integrated social care. (Boss, 1971)
The Seebohm reforms created changes to management systems and coordination in children and welfare departments for many this was a high point of collectivism, state intervention of the state in social welfare and formal education with the state at the fore front. With major developments also taking place within education, council housing and urban regeneration. Jordan also noted how the collective institutions were not seen as reliable and able to resolve disagreements. This was demonstrated through trade union consciousness amongst those working within social services, coming together against many of the state’s strategies and policies. Freire (2003) would see this as people understanding of their social and political position within society, consciousness raising and critical thinking enabling people to challenge their position and start the process of change, viewing empowerment as conscientization education of the consciousness, in which communities become aware of issues affecting them. Freire used the term conscientization to refer to “learning to perceive social, political and economic contradictions and take actions against the oppressive elements of reality”.
The Victoria Climbie inquiry overseen by Lord Laming saw the production of the green paper Every Child Matters (ECM), published along side Lord Laming’s report. The report had four key focus points, improving the way in which carers and families are supported and notes the critical influence upon the lives of children, preventative interventions prior to crisis point situations proactive action to stop children falling through the net, addressing underlying weak accountability and poor integration and make sure those people working with children and young people are appreciated, rewarded and trained. one of the outcomes of ECM was to set five outcomes for all children and young people, be healthy, stay safe, enjoy and achieve, make a positive contribution and achieve economic well being. In relation to social work there are many areas covered and given consideration, foster care, care matters, child trust funds, independent reviewing officers, health care, adoption, educational achievement of looked after children, secure children’s home, family and friends carers and social work practice pilots. Within this new Joint Area Reviews (JAR) inspections focused on communication and integrated care. In addition there is substantial coverage of issues around safeguarding. The ECM has seen a multi agency approach with integrated services, strategies and governance as a result of the depth and breadth for the ECM and subsequent ECM papers.
In conclusion social work mediates between the state and its members the roles and responsibilities therefore can vary significantly based upon the over riding views within society and the elected government. This in turn will affect responses to the “needs” of people in relation to individual rights and responsibilities verses collective responsibility.
Social workers often engage with those most in need, struggling to participate within society. Frequently caught somewhere in the middle of conflicting political ideologies of left/right wing policies, engaging and supporting those most marginalised yet often employed within the political, social and economic setting that may have gone some way to contribute to that marginalisation. Therefore it is essential for social workers to have a commitment to understanding their modern role and how that has developed through the range of different and often conflicting political thinking of government influencing power in relation to culture, thoughts, actions, attitudes, feelings and structural levels.
Social work will continue to evolve along with legislation, movements and unfortunately high profile incidents and therefore training will follow a parallel in line with the current discourse. Through looking back through time from the implementation of the state welfare the collectivist approach was dominant. That was until the Thatcher years which saw an anti collectivist approach to welfare services which viewed the welfare state as over developed creating dependency, irresponsibility and keeping people from using their initiative. Whilst New Labour believed in a limited role, reducing the role of the state and by supporting and promoting schemes such as sure start and new deal with the focus being upon social inclusion.
As governments and common ideologies change so will the roles of social workers as, administrators of social policies.
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