Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Social Work as a Profession

It’s Social Work Week in the Philippines. The celebration commemorates the anniversary of the Republic Act 4373, otherwise known as the Social Work Law. The passage of the Social Work Law on June 19, 1965 has regulated the practice of social work and the operation of social welfare agencies in the Philippines. Subsequently, it has created a new interest in social work and in the field of social welfare. Incidentally, the date falls on the birthday of the Philippine national hero, Dr. Jose P. Rizal.

While the celebration is national in scope as endorsed by the association of professional social workers, the dynamism is more felt in Iloilo and the whole Western Visayas where the annual celebration has been institutionalized by virtue of provincial resolutions/ordinances. This year’s theme is Social Workers Responding to the Challenges of the Time. The choice has been inspired by the theme for World Social Work Day on March 15, 2011 - “Social Work voices responding to global crisises: Together we develop the Agenda!“

The celebration is a good opportunity to blog about social work. Contrary to perennial misconception, social work is a profession. While it started from charitable act, the welfare activities have emerged and joined the noble professions in the world. As a start of this series of blogs on the subject, I am presenting in toto the international definition of social work as adopted by the International Federation of Social Workers (IFSW) in Montréal, Canada, July 2000


The social work profession promotes social change, problem solving in human relationships and the empowerment and liberation of people to enhance well-being. Utilising theories of human behaviour and social systems, social work intervenes at the points where people interact with their environments. Principles of human rights and social justice are fundamental to social work.


Social work in its various forms addresses the multiple, complex transactions between people and their environments. Its mission is to enable all people to develop their full potential, enrich their lives, and prevent dysfunction. Professional social work is focused on problem solving and change. As such, social workers are change agents in society and in the lives of the individuals, families and communities they serve. Social work is an interrelated system of values, theory and practice.


Social work grew out of humanitarian and democratic ideals, and its values are based on respect for the equality, worth, and dignity of all people. Since its beginnings over a century ago, social work practice has focused on meeting human needs and developing human potential. Human rights and social justice serve as the motivation and justification for social work action. In solidarity with those who are dis-advantaged, the profession strives to alleviate poverty and to liberate vulnerable and oppressed people in order to promote social inclusion. Social work values are embodied in the profession’s national and international codes of ethics.


Social work bases its methodology on a systematic body of evidence-based knowledge derived from research and practice evaluation, including local and indigenous knowledge specific to its context. It recognises the complexity of interactions between human beings and their environment, and the capacity of people both to be affected by and to alter the multiple influences upon them including bio-psychosocial factors. The social work profession draws on theories of human development and behaviour and social systems to analyse complex situations and to facilitate individual, organisational, social and cultural changes.


Social work addresses the barriers, inequities and injustices that exist in society. It responds to crises and emergencies as well as to everyday personal and social problems. Social work utilises a variety of skills, techniques, and activities consistent with its holistic focus on persons and their environments.

Social work interventions range from primarily person-focused psychosocial processes to involvement in social policy, planning and development. These include counselling, clinical social work, group work, social pedagogical work, and family treatment and therapy as well as efforts to help people obtain services and resources in the community.

Interventions also include agency administration, community organisation and engaging in social and political action to impact social policy and economic development. The holistic focus of social work is universal, but the priorities of social work practice will vary from country to country and from time to time depending on cultural, historical, and socio-economic conditions.

* This international definition of the social work profession replaces the IFSW definition adopted in 1982. It is understood that social work in the 21st century is dynamic and evolving, and therefore no definition should be regarded as exhaustive.


  1. I'm so happy to find someone making a blog about social work and social workers!

    Padayon and God bless us! So proud of all social workers who continue to make a difference in the lives of others...

    -Richelle H. Verdeprado
    Empowerment of Survivors Officer/Social Worker
    Coalition Against Trafficking in Women-Asia Pacific

  2. Thanks, Richelle. Feel free to share experiences and advocacy related to your work. Will promote in the blog