For the years. Although each practice models are

For social work to be enhanced or
recognized as a profession, it should fulfil certain requirements like other
professions. According to Greenwood (1957), all professions tend to possess
four elements which includes: (1) systematic knowledge, whereby knowledge are
arranged into theories, (2) authority, which stems from the recognition of
other professionals, (3) community sanction, where the community enforces power
and privilege of a certain profession, and a set criteria of accreditation or
licensing 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 observation
and experiments (Mitroff & Kilmann, 1977). To establish and enhance social
work as a profession, practice models which are used to structure direct social
work practice, have to be continuously and further developed. In line with
Okpych and Yu’s (2014) journal article, many practice models have been
developed over the years. Although each practice models are different in their
concepts, they contribute to the evolution of practice paradigms in social
work. A consensus was reached whereby practitioners in a profession, are
expected to go through empirical literature, use interventions that have been
empirically supported and tested, and to systematically evaluate client

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Service which are supported by
empirical research, allows social workers to justify their intended treatment
decisions 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 other
professionals. To do so, social workers require an accredited education
qualification. Education, training and supervision is vital in promoting
professional growth, development and performance of social workers (Wilson
& Kelly, 2010). Being accountable in service provision helps social work to
be professionally recognized.

In the past, the Singapore
Association of Social Workers (SASW) have been making efforts in
professionalizing their members and social workers since its establishment in
1971. Enhancing social work as a profession then, was an up-hill task as SASW
had a lack of resources, such as financial and manpower which limits the scopes
of initiatives, programs and activities conducted (Fan & Nee, 2013). As
social work is steadily recognized for its impact on the social and economic
development of Singapore (Vasoo, 2013), the Singapore government have started
to increase the resources for the social service sector to develop the required
manpower to make significant contributions for the social work profession. It
appears that the public’s views and attitudes on social work impacts on how it
is seen as a “profession”. Therefore, having strong support and recognition by
the government may be essential in shaping and enhancing social work as a

In terms of enforcing the power and
privilege of social workers, much work could be done. In a paper written by
Murphy and McDonald (2004), social workers were disadvantaged in the current
evidence-based health sector, as scientific evidence was lacking to inform
practice decisions. Social work as a profession are being devalued and
marginalized within the multidisciplinary team as they have “generalized
skills” and are not “experts in anything”. In order to gain status and recognition
in relation to other disciplines, social workers are compelled to develop
evidence-based methodology which are empirically tested and supported, while
going about their casework and interventions.

In summary, it is an up-hill task to
enhance social work as a profession as its practice models are drawn from
divergent theories. Furthermore, social science knowledge are often contested
and incomplete. Nevertheless, social work has garnered much attention and many
have been advocating for the welfare of social work.


Regardless of the similarities and
differences in psychologists, counsellors and social work as a profession, it
is both disheartening and amusing to see that the public has difficulty in
pin-pointing the exact roles of a social worker. The social worker’s
over-lapping roles may makes it difficult to be recognized as a profession,
compared to other professions. Nevertheless, social work has been gaining
recognition in addressing complex societal issues and perplexing areas of human

As a new worker in the social work
sector, it was hard to imagine that social work can be so complex in the
beginning. Social work deals with various complex problems and perplexing areas
of human experience. Even as a practicing worker in the social setting, along
with many social workers, we tend to still be unconfident in our skills. It may
be true that experience help in the development of “practice wisdom” skills.
However, social workers are expected to make their own judgements when crisis
arise 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 a
significant number of social work students felt that more social work skills
training and more concrete practice situations are required (Sharpe et al.,
2011). Social work is a volatile field and in order to become a proficient
social worker, one needs to be aware of why they are engaging in a particular
task and be able to explain their interventions, not only to their client and
their families, but also to other professionals or authorities. Thus, developing
the ability to ‘reflect’ and be ‘aware’ are two of the skills which may assist
in developing expertise within social workers to bring about meaningful and
effective change for clients. Therefore, the many hours of training, supervised
practice and qualifications for necessary skills are essential to be qualified
as a competent ‘social worker’.

As time progresses, it seems that counsellors
and psychologists are beginning to work alongside with social workers in a
clinical or institutional setting. The ‘specialized skills’ tend to be
‘blurred’ and the professionals seem to have adopted a more flexible specialty
to work with clients and families more effectively. Therefore it is important
for all professionals to remain updated with current research, theories and
advancements in practice, especially when they are working together to bring
effective change for the client.