For social work to be enhanced orrecognized as a profession, it should fulfil certain requirements like otherprofessions.
According to Greenwood (1957), all professions tend to possessfour elements which includes: (1) systematic knowledge, whereby knowledge arearranged into theories, (2) authority, which stems from the recognition ofother professionals, (3) community sanction, where the community enforces powerand privilege of a certain profession, and a set criteria of accreditation orlicensing and (4) ethical codes which are set by the profession.Systematic knowledge, also known as’science’, is a body of knowledge organized into theories through observationand experiments (Mitroff & Kilmann, 1977). To establish and enhance socialwork as a profession, practice models which are used to structure direct socialwork practice, have to be continuously and further developed. In line withOkpych and Yu’s (2014) journal article, many practice models have beendeveloped over the years. Although each practice models are different in theirconcepts, they contribute to the evolution of practice paradigms in socialwork.
A consensus was reached whereby practitioners in a profession, areexpected to go through empirical literature, use interventions that have beenempirically supported and tested, and to systematically evaluate clientoutcomes. Service which are supported byempirical research, allows social workers to justify their intended treatmentdecisions and be able to operate in an ethical and more effective manner. Thus,social workers are required to be skilled in their interpersonal communication,be competent and committed to their ethical practice to be recognized by otherprofessionals. To do so, social workers require an accredited educationqualification.
Education, training and supervision is vital in promotingprofessional growth, development and performance of social workers (Wilson& Kelly, 2010). Being accountable in service provision helps social work tobe professionally recognized.In the past, the SingaporeAssociation of Social Workers (SASW) have been making efforts inprofessionalizing their members and social workers since its establishment in1971. Enhancing social work as a profession then, was an up-hill task as SASWhad a lack of resources, such as financial and manpower which limits the scopesof initiatives, programs and activities conducted (Fan & Nee, 2013). Associal work is steadily recognized for its impact on the social and economicdevelopment of Singapore (Vasoo, 2013), the Singapore government have startedto increase the resources for the social service sector to develop the requiredmanpower to make significant contributions for the social work profession. Itappears that the public’s views and attitudes on social work impacts on how itis seen as a “profession”. Therefore, having strong support and recognition bythe government may be essential in shaping and enhancing social work as aprofession.
In terms of enforcing the power andprivilege of social workers, much work could be done. In a paper written byMurphy and McDonald (2004), social workers were disadvantaged in the currentevidence-based health sector, as scientific evidence was lacking to informpractice decisions. Social work as a profession are being devalued andmarginalized within the multidisciplinary team as they have “generalizedskills” and are not “experts in anything”. In order to gain status and recognitionin relation to other disciplines, social workers are compelled to developevidence-based methodology which are empirically tested and supported, whilegoing about their casework and interventions.In summary, it is an up-hill task toenhance social work as a profession as its practice models are drawn fromdivergent theories.
Furthermore, social science knowledge are often contestedand incomplete. Nevertheless, social work has garnered much attention and manyhave been advocating for the welfare of social work. ReflectionRegardless of the similarities anddifferences in psychologists, counsellors and social work as a profession, itis both disheartening and amusing to see that the public has difficulty inpin-pointing the exact roles of a social worker. The social worker’sover-lapping roles may makes it difficult to be recognized as a profession,compared to other professions. Nevertheless, social work has been gainingrecognition in addressing complex societal issues and perplexing areas of humanexperience.
As a new worker in the social worksector, it was hard to imagine that social work can be so complex in thebeginning. Social work deals with various complex problems and perplexing areasof human experience. Even as a practicing worker in the social setting, alongwith many social workers, we tend to still be unconfident in our skills. It maybe true that experience help in the development of “practice wisdom” skills.However, social workers are expected to make their own judgements when crisisarise and there is still the self-doubt and fear of making the wrong decisions,which can be detrimental to both the worker and client.Many research has shown that asignificant number of social work students felt that more social work skillstraining and more concrete practice situations are required (Sharpe et al.,2011). Social work is a volatile field and in order to become a proficientsocial worker, one needs to be aware of why they are engaging in a particulartask and be able to explain their interventions, not only to their client andtheir families, but also to other professionals or authorities.
Thus, developingthe ability to ‘reflect’ and be ‘aware’ are two of the skills which may assistin developing expertise within social workers to bring about meaningful andeffective change for clients. Therefore, the many hours of training, supervisedpractice and qualifications for necessary skills are essential to be qualifiedas a competent ‘social worker’.As time progresses, it seems that counsellorsand psychologists are beginning to work alongside with social workers in aclinical or institutional setting. The ‘specialized skills’ tend to be’blurred’ and the professionals seem to have adopted a more flexible specialtyto work with clients and families more effectively. Therefore it is importantfor all professionals to remain updated with current research, theories andadvancements in practice, especially when they are working together to bringeffective change for the client.