Social Work (Assorted Definitons) HTML version

Dr. Ninad Jhala
Social Work is concerned and involved with the interactions between
people and the institutions of society that affect the ability of people to
accomplish life tasks, realize aspirations and values, and alleviate
distress. These interactions between people and social institutions occur
within the context of the larger societal good. Therefore, three major
purposes of social work may be identified:
to enhance the problem-solving, coping and developmental capacities of people;
to promote the effective and humane operation of the systems that provide people
with resources and services;
to link people with systems that provide them with resources, services, and opportunities.
International Federation
of Social Workers,
The social work profession promotes social change, problem solving in human
relationships and the empowerment and liberation of people to enhance their
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.
A perusal of the above definitions clearly indicates that it is very difficult to define social work
but still keeping in view its historical development from service to professional service and its
concern from helping people in need to changing the social system, we may define social work
as : "Social work is a specialized kind of work - honorary or paid, done by making use of
scientific knowledge and technical skills with humane and democratic outlook, to render
help to people in need to enable them to realize their potentials optimally, to perform their
social roles effectively and to live in a free, decent and dignified manner, particularly by
introducing required changes in personality as well as social structure."
Social work is relatively a newer and socially less recognized profession, mainly because of its
inability to demonstrate the ready visibility of the results that follow from its practice. The
most important reason behind this inability is the use of social relationships as the major
medium of professional practice/help that by their very nature are intangible. The major
concern of this practice/help with changing personality structure of people and social structure
and system in society both of which again are not distinctly visible. Because of the nascent
growth of the profession, there is a lot of confusion in respect of various terms which are used
while teaching in class-room, doing research in social work and practising the profession with
people in need in society. Since effective professional practice demands clarity in terms of the
varied kinds of concepts used, it becomes obligatory to clarify and define them and point out
the distinction between similar concepts used in social work or the same concepts used in other
social sciences like Sociology and Psychology from which social work has heavily borrowed.
Social work which emerged out of the need to provide poor relief in a systematic manner
gradually grew into a semi-profession or profession having expert knowledge and technical
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