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Live Twitter Debate on Social Workers’ Role and Professional Identity

Examining the history of social work as well as the prevailing legislation ranging from Family and Children Services to Adults Care and Mental Health Services, social workers are expected to maintain a delicate balance between support and safeguarding with a person-centred focus, and always aiming to empower their service users and to protect and enhance their quality of life.

However, from its inception in 1800s as an agent of government intervention to ensure everyone, “at least to a minimal extent”, remained compliant with the “social code of conduct and standards” to the therapeutic approaches of mid 1900s to today’s conception of social work, social workers’ role and identity has fluctuated between poles of support and control.

Therefore, in today’s debate we will examine social workers’ role and professional identity and aim to address questions such as:

  1. How should we define the role of social workers in our society (Are statutory social workers’ an agent of state? and What is the role of non-statutory social workers?)
  2. Are social workers such a consistent failure or is social work the easiest “Social Scapegoat”?
  3. How can we establish and sustain a more engaged and positive role and identity for social workers?

We therefore, invite you to join us in attempting to answer the above questions. This is an open debate and there will be no censoring of your comments or rephrasing of your views. Just an open online debate to explore ideas and learn through sharing…

We have invited a few practitioners and academics as well as BASW and the College of Social Work, and would like to thank all of those who have accepted our invitation and will enrich tonight’s debate.

A Couple of Important Notes:

  1. Open and Equal – We have invited a few practitioners and academics to enrich the debate and ensure a diversity of opinions, however, in our effort to create an open and equal space where everyone can engage freely and where everyone’s ideas are welcomed and appreciated, we have avoided creating a formal panel. This is not withstanding the kind support and participation by our special guests who have our profound respect and gratitude. Nonetheless, we want to emphasise the collaborative nature of our project where we aim to minimise power imbalances, hierarchies, and a sense of inclusion versus exclusion.
  2. A Dynamic and Non-linear Debate and a Learning through Sharing process – We have selected Twitter as the medium for debate since it provides the possibility for non-linear sharing of ideas. This means that unlike face-to-face interactions and voice-based debates where one person at a time can speak and others have to wait for their turn, Twitter allows for simultaneous sharing of views where all participants can interact, speak and contribute to the debate at any time they wish. This offers an unstructured exchange that enriches the very interaction and creates more possibilities for idea and knowledge generation. In this sense twitter debates are more of a mind-map rather than a flowchart.

Once again we thank you for taking the time to read this announcement and look forward to your participation in our debate as follows:

Topic:   Social Workers’ Role and Professional Identity

Date:    Tuesday, 18 October 2011

Time:    20:00 to 21:00 GMT   (15:00 to 16:00 EST)

To join the debate follow: Social Work and Media Network @SWSCmedia and search hashtag: #swscmedia

Sponsored by:

  • Social Work and Media Network             @SWSCmedia
  • Goldsmiths University of London             @GoldsmithsUoL
  • The Open University                                    @OpenUniversity


3 thoughts on “Live Twitter Debate on Social Workers’ Role and Professional Identity

  1. The Centre for Welfare Reform and its Fellows have been working with the assumption that social work is a vital and valuable discipline, but that often it gets emeshed in systems that undermine its effectiveness. Hence our recent work on ‘rescripting’ social work to better enable effective working and to challenge systems that burden and damage social work practice.

    In addition, I think that it will be important to reflect on the difference between ‘social work’ and ‘social worker’. Some of the most effective social work is done by people who are not qualified social workers. Arguably any attempt to try and define a set of tasks where social workers are monopoly providers will be problematic. Real social work, at its best, is so wide-ranging, facilitative and empowering that to treat it just as a professional role is self-contradictory and damaging to the discipline itself. It leaves too many people outside the doors of the profession.

    Is there not another way? Could the profession not find a way of redefining its role to include more people, to champion multiple forms of innovation and empowerment, to see social work in many different people’s roles. It may be easier to ape the ‘successful professions’ like doctors – but will that satisfy anyone in the end?

    I am sorry I cannot join you for the debate – off to Wales to argue that the current government cuts are unfair and target disabled people and older people.

    Posted by Simon Duffy (@simonjduffy) | October 18, 2011, 10:39 am
  2. Thanks for setting this up. Highly enjoyable and useful. I think a space for broader discussion of social care beyond social work would be fantastic too and will stay tuned!

    Posted by ermintrude2 | October 20, 2011, 5:32 am
  3. I am a first year student in the social work degree course. I have alreay completed 2 year in Social work and it is quite confusing as to what specifically is expected of social workers. I do realise there are many areas yet they seem to be expected to be miracle workers.

    Posted by Bernadette Scott | October 23, 2011, 5:51 pm

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