Since its’ inception the role and identity of social work has been a subject of debate and it seems that even after a century past Flexner social work has never gotten fully over some of the challenges raised in his speech.
Indeed, Askeland and Payne (2001) suggest: “Social work has always been subject to competing claims of definition and practice, as social workers, politicians, service users and policy makers have struggled to lay claims on what social work is, and what it might be’ (p. 14).
In the absence of an agreed basis for the development of the “profession” of social work, establishing the exact role social work will remain problematic and contested and this was precisely the challenge raised in Flexner’s (1915) thorny question of whether social work constituted a profession in the strict sense of the word. Flexner stated:
“Consideration of the objects of social work leads to the same conclusion. I have made the point that all the established and recognized professions have definite and specific ends: medicine, law, architecture, engineering – one can draw a clear line of demarcation about their respective fields. This is not true of social work. It appears not so much a definite field as an aspect of work in many fields. An aspect of medicine belongs to social work, as do certain aspects of law, education, architecture, etc “ (Flexner, 2001, p.161).
However, even a century ago Flexner recognised that social work was characterised by “professional association,” “altruism,” and “knowledge building.” Indeed, in spite of the changing role attributed to social work, and while its function and purpose have remained and are healthily debated and constestable, its values have remained relatively unchanged.
Therefore, in today’s debate we wish to explore the following questions:
- Who is a social worker?
- What are the defining characteristics of social workers’ professional identity?
- Is social work a profession? & Are social workers professionals?
- In a world of increasing specialisation are social workers’ generalists rather than specialists? & Is it necessary to be a specialist?
- Can social work claim and sustain its own knowledge base?
- What is the role of social work in society and in practice?
- What should be the role of social work in society?
- In a world of specialisations, are social workers “Generalists” ?
- Is the role and identity of social work and social workers misunderstood? If yes, why?
Join & share your view about “Social Work and its’ Professional Identity” Today (30 October) 8:00 PM UK / 4:00 PM EDT / 13:00 noon PDT @SWSCmedia.
Askeland, G.A., & Payne, M. (2001). What is valid knowledge for social workers? Social Work in Europe, 8(3) 13–23.
Flexner, A. (2001). Is social work a profession? Research on Social Work Practice, 11, 152–165.