The London School of Economics were the first to sanction the first generic Social Work Course in 1954. The Seebohm Committee was set up in 1965 resulting in the structure of social services which predominately exists today. Resulting from this, the different components of social services was uniformed into one system run by the local authorities, from this the “Local Authority Social Services Act” came into force in 1970. As a result of these changes the decision was made that Social Workers were now generically trained, meaning they were not trained in one specialist area, but trained in all areas of social work and having the capability to deal with a range of different areas and provide a variety of support for service users.
The main tasks for social workers includes a variety of roles such as case management (networking clients with external agencies and programmes that meet their needs e.g. rehabilitation); medical social work; counselling; caseworker; care manager; agent of social control; social welfare; community organising; advocacy; teaching and social science research. Social workers also work in a variety of settings including: non-profit, public social service agencies, private, advocacies, hospitals, local authority, hospices, schools, charitable and voluntary, the lists are endless.
There is still no clear definition of a Social Worker; a Social Worker undertakes so many different roles that over the years this has become an increasing problem for them to undertake their positions. They are continuously stretched mentally and physically through their workloads and this is where errors begin to occur which is always publicised to its full extent by society today, not ever reporting the thousands of cases that have a high percentage of success rates.
For example the case of Victoria Climbie, was a case that should never have occurred but with sincere regret from many, did happen. The case shows continuous miscommunication between the authorities which later led to her death. Due to the severity of this case the government announced that a public enquiry was to be issued, this was the first in Britain to use specific wide-ranging powers to look at all areas of the role of a social worker to police and child protection…..disciplinary action was taken against the two workers involved in her case who were dismissed for gross misconduct; one of them later stated to the press that they were used as scapegoats. This case then led to the government green paper being issued titled “Every Child Matters” in 2003.
The government want to look at improving the direction that people and organisations worked with children and young people, the aim of this was to ensure that such an horrific tragedy never occurred again, that whatever your background or circumstances, to have the support they deserve outlining them to “be healthy, stay safe, enjoy and achieve, make a positive contribution and achieve economics well being”. This then meant that all organisations involved in providing services for children were to be teamed up in new ways by sharing information, increased communication and working together to ensure the safety of children and young people.
From this, various acts are also being put into place for example the Children’s Act 1989, 2004. This particular Act first came into force in 1989 as part of the legislative framework. The Act was initially devised to ensure that all local authorities were equal standards of provision to children, young people and their families. In 2004 The Children’s Act was re-established to accompany Every Child Matters: Change for Children, which formed as an outlook for children’s services. Statutory duties were implemented for local services with help and support the swift progression of this was fulfilled.
Many factors over the years have threatened the role of social workers and indeed at present the credit crunch is a major threat in many ways and having a huge knock on effect. The current financial crisis is having a major impact; not least for children services and public spending will be under massive scrutiny. The downturn of house prices, inflation on prices e.g. food and petrol and the increase of unemployment will affect the communities thus affecting the workloads of social workers. Every Child matters offers the support to young people and their families but through these financial constraints children services are struggling, without the resources, what can be done. Local authority job cutbacks will be evident; the struggle is to be unknown.
Social workers, as we have listed, have a number of tasks to undertake, more often than not in very difficult situations. They are there to support people with problems that they are unable to deal with themselves. It is important to remember though that no only is there many different activities and tasks to be carried out; that there are the ways in which they should be carried out but also the fact that what is being done!