define social work
The following definition was approved by the IFSW General Meeting and the IASSW General Assembly in July 2014:
“Social work is a practice-based profession and an academic discipline that promotes social change and development, social cohesion, and the empowerment and liberation of people. Principles of social justice, human rights, collective responsibility and respect for diversities are central to social work. Underpinned by theories of social work, social sciences, humanities and indigenous knowledge, social work engages people and structures to address life challenges and enhance wellbeing.
The practice of social work is very difficult to define. Social work, unlike medicine for example, is not a clearly defined technical profession based on scientific knowledge directly applied in practice. Social work practice is beset by uncertainties about the nature and relevance of much information and about theories relating particularly to individual welfare and community development in a complicated society. It is misleading to refer to the social work task because social workers have many tasks, and it is not clear that social work can be identified as an activity, as teaching or nursing can. In practice social workers have a number of functions in the social services, and they deal with various problems which are experienced by different kinds of individuals and groups. Society (including many social groups from the legislature, the judiciary, and groups of citizens representing various interests) expects social workers to be both caring and controlling, but there are different views about the weighting to be given to the two in different situations.
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. the professional activity of helping individual, groups, or communities to enhance or restore their capacity for social functioning and to create societal conditions favorable to this goal. Social work practice consists of the professional application of social work values, principles, and techniques to one or more of the following ends: helping people obtain tangible services; providing counseling and psychotherapy with individuals, families, and groups; helping communities or groups provide or improve social and health services; and participating in relevant legislative processes. The practice of social work requires knowledge of human development and behavior; of social, economic, and cultural institutions; and of the interaction of these factors.
Social Work may be defined as the applied science of helping people achieve an effective level of psychosocial functioning (Barker, 1991, p.221). The National Association of Social Workers (NASW), the largest professional association of social workers in North America (1973, pp 4-5), described social work as: