Social Work and Social Care


Current concepts and strategies of contemporary ideas and strategies of “risk”, “power”, “difference” and “identity” are crucial and dynamic influences in social work theory and practice, and they can, thus, be anticipated to have a considerable influence on the ways in which social work is represented, practiced and estimated. This paper articulates distinct concepts and discusses each of these, prior to considering the implications of these for people’s considering what social work is, and what it should be.

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Social Work and Social Care Work

There is a strict difference among social work and social care work: basically, the aim of social work is to assist human beings in living more successful life within the local communities by assisting them in discovering solutions to their troubles. Social workers are professionally competent personnel members, who evaluate the needs of service users and create the personal packages of care and support, which best help them. Yet, the professional qualifications are not necessary in order to become a proficient social care worker. Social care workers offer vital practical support to assist humans in preserving the independence and live fuller lives.

In the United Kingdom, social work (skilled, registered profession with protected title) is different from social care (mostly incompetent and unregistered personnel). Social care presupposes offering personal care, supporting humans with challenges of daily life and helping people to connect with the communities. Social care frequently embraces more straight contact with humans than the social work. Yet, there is an increasing interest in relationship-based social work which stresses the significance of the relations social workers have with people they are working with.

The Concept of Risk

The significance of risk has increased over the last twenty years for administrations, policy makers, scientists and practitioners. Ulrich Beck asserts that people have entered into the societal phase by classifying preoccupations with risk in manufacturing, chemicals, pollution, terrorism, nuclear accidents, and global warming. Consistent with Beck, risk society, “selects developmental phase of modern society in which political, social, economic and individual risks are inclined to escape the institutions for observation and protection in the social order”. Reflexive modernity “manufactures” new risks and uncertainties in dissimilar ways to preceding times: risks become worldwide, rather than territorial; risks are contrasted to hazards and natural dangers as they are created by social order; and risks cannot be restricted, thus, cannot be insured against or compensated for.

Basically, risk is an ambiguous notion making it extremely hard to classify. There are many clarifications, which rely on situational context, sphere of usage and accepted point of view. Risk is frequently clarified in probabilistic terms as it relates to the predictable losses that may be preceded by the risky event and to the likelihood of the event occurring. Principally, the harsher the loss, the worse the risk. The pessimistic idea of risk may be contrasted with far more positive explanation based on risk taking in business venture as a measure of possible results. Systematic management of risk is recognized as the risk management, and the methodology for estimating risk is recognized as risk assessment. The approaches for managing and assessing risk may differ significantly across various professions with the effect that some jobs, such as social work, are described consistent with their capability to deal with risk. Thus, social work practice is mainly concerned with managing and estimating risk, as opposed to concentrating on social need and fairness.

In the cognitive science sphere the key research issue concerns the fact how dissimilar types of decision making under circumstances of hesitation may have numerous risk outcomes. The basic question here is whether decision-making is coherent or whether there is illogical basis to decision making, recognized as heuristics in the scientific literature. Heuristics are economical devices for making decisions. They reflect psychological short-cuts, which humans take in processing daily data as part of cognitive mechanisms. Heuristics are likely to be applied under circumstances of hesitation and frequently lead to prejudice or self fulfilling forecasts. Heuristics have been demonstrated to play a crucial part in risk evaluation and professional judgment (Webb 2006, p. 370-378). Professionals make decisions on the foundation of heuristics even in the face of statistical proof providing another decision way. Humans have problems in reasoning all the possibilities instinctively. Eileen Munro’s work reveals that mistakes and prejudice are inescapable under risky circumstances and that social workers unavoidably make decisions on the foundation of own beliefs or principles rather than the proof offered to them.

The reconfigurations among nations, politics, knowledge and humans, as the outcome of replies to risk, are especially experienced in the globe of social work. This may be explained by the fact that the social work always deals with susceptible, hazardous and challenging people under circumstances of hesitation and crisis. The chances for risk conditions to occur are high, with the obvious outcome that social work tries to evolve ever more general risk management and actuarial approaches to try to control risk.

The theoretical structure was evolved that analyzed social work in terms of twin rationalities of risk management and risk security and the interaction among them (Webb 2006, p. 370-378). The creation of social work was demonstrated to occur in a complex scheme, which embraces: social element, as an element of risk society; political element, as a part of advanced neoliberalism; and cultural element, as an aspect of reflexive modernity (Webb 2006, p. 370-378). Social work is a risk management system established on the reason of estimation and regulation, which tries to manage risk within advanced liberal political regulation. It is asserted that new technologies of care, for instance, evidence-based practice, appear within this condition, which lessens individual work and holistic systems of working with people, and that in the face of risk social work is more and more transformed into low-level administrative duties (Webb 2006, p. 370-378).

A sharp difference has been drawn among the pragmatist and social constructivist points of view on risk. This split tends to work out as tension among the scientific system to risk and a social and cultural studies viewpoint. Also, Beck’s notion of risk society has obtained important reasoning in the way he has attempted to contrast current notions of politics with preceding periods of industrial and even advanced capitalist social order in terms of risk (Webb 2006, p. 370-378).

Frank Furedi (1997, p. 73-107) agrees that today people live in the social orders preoccupied with risk. However, his analysis differs from the liberal-conservative observation revealed by Beck. Furedi asserts that risk aversion culture is established on the way that the character of threats is exposed in the media and by politicians (Furedi 1997, p. 73-107). Humans are no longer expected to rise above difficulty or supported to get on with the lives after they encounter delays (Furedi 1997, p. 73-107). They are instead casualties, who are scarred and continually haunted by risk and troubles. Trust becomes the limited and weak source. People treat themselves as enduring casualties and attempt to assign guilt and accountability onto other people, causing irregular speculation concerning potential future harms. For Furedi this is a formula for financial and social paralysis and low ethical opportunities (Furedi 1997, p. 73-107).

Ian Culpitt (1998, p. 117) and other scholars influenced by Michel Foucault, for instance, Pat O’Malley, Nikolas Rose and Dean Mitchell, have evolved a standpoint on risk, which concerns the outcomes of neoliberal political regulation, with a special accent on elements of “governmentality.” In the neoliberal societies risk is more and more privatized and created as an element of “capitalist self” (Culpitt 1998, p. 117). As Culpitt (1998, p. 117) asserts “neoliberalism evolves the atmosphere of risk to justify its general politics.” Neoliberalism wants to take the wellbeing state to pieces and till all wellbeing is privatized, it establishes command and control policies on the social work to control its actions. The resulting impact is the expansion of audit social order, in which performance, responsibility and quality control becomes the major aspects of risk management in social work (Webb 2006, p. 370-378).

The Concept of Power

The social work has to be treated as the course of change, which releases the individuality of the service user, together with the necessity of social workers accepting power differentials and taking accountability for own power, to evolve constant critique of the empowerment course (Jupp 2005).

Foucault asserts that awareness and power are integral (Foucault 1977, p. 93-150), and value put on the professional awareness marginalizes restricted awareness, or “subjugated knowledges” that are relocated by “central truth” (Pease 2002, p. 141). Foucault treats the focus on professional awareness as professional dialogue, and it is this notion that is the major factor in analyzing power within the social work. So, why should social workers pay attention to the issue of power?

Social work is “naturally political and all about power” (Bar-On 2002, p. 998). As a result, it is important that the social workers realize the impacts of power within the social order, and within the organizations in which they work. This causes a fascinating paradox. Social workers are frequently reported within the media as ineffective or extremely influential, putting them in the weird dichotomy. Social workers acknowledge this, feeling powerless when working with other service providers (Bar-On 2002, p. 997), but thinking that they are too powerful in terms of the legal powers. This reveals two key streams of thought in realizing why social workers have to take issues of power into consideration. First of all, they have to acknowledge why they feel powerless within the work. In order for them to successfully challenge power structures, which perpetuate repression, they are obliged to see their position within those structures. For “if social workers are not part of the resolution, they are the part of the problem” (Braye Preston-Shoot 2003, p. 114).

Second, all social workers have an exceptional position within the social order in that these people work and for service user, and for the wellbeing of society in general. These roles may result in pressure among the devotion to service users and to service agency and municipal authorities at the same time (Askheim 2003, p. 235). As a result, social workers are forced to select between what may be the best for a service user, and what the social order expects of them. The proof suggests they are more heavily impacted by the requirements of society than interests of the service user. This reveals their dependence on covert forced power by the usage of legislation, which in sequence strengthens the dichotomy (Jupp 2005).

The major term when speculation on how social workers have to take power into consideration with the work with people is empowerment (Jupp 2005). Yet, this term is highly disputable. First of all, it presupposes that power is something that may be provided; that to “empower” somebody is to give power (Pease 2002, p. 137).

This attitude leads to confusion, as it may be argued that it is only the demoralized, who may free themselves, as any efforts from the oppressors to empower is a fake generosity. Empowerment is not merely about giving power. It is about the oppressed humans taking power and demanding to be heard (Braye Preston-Shoot 2003, p. 100). Also, the term is applied at dissimilar degrees. The micro degree of empowerment concentrates on the person and augmenting the feeling of power, while the macro degree is a course of actions augmenting shared political power (Jupp 2005). Furthermore, the word has also been applied to support fundamentally opposing philosophical and ideological points of view (Pease 2002, p. 136). As a result, some researchers assert that empowerment may be manipulated to cover and strengthen existing power structures (Braye Preston-Shoot 2003, p. 102).

The fundamental concern within power is knowledge. Hence, to empower service users there has to be a relocation of knowledge and change of controlled knowledge (Foucault 1977, p. 93-150). Post-modernists assert that as the professional knowledge legitimizes discourse, which excludes service users, the single way to empower service users is to forget about professionalism (Bar-On 2002, p. 997). However, far more practical approach has been evolved into the system of productive social work (Parton 2003, p. 4). Based on post-modernism and social constructionism, the approach to social work integrates critical position towards acknowledgement of and assumptions concerning the world advocated by constructionism. The focal point is on social processes instead of an effort to create single theory concerning the nature of the globe. Special forms of knowledge are treated as products of culture and history, and as a result, there are many types of knowledge as opposed to professional knowledge being the single lawful form. This is far more realistic approach as it incorporates numerous dimensions, which embrace the oppressed people and social workers (Jupp 2005).

First, a step away from the modernist concentration on professional awareness to far more serious approach challenges the main concepts and questions the link between knowledge and power (Pease 2002, p. 142). This creates unusual social work approaches, which aim for social change (Graham 2002, p. 46) to amplify in authority. Service users’ knowledge and skills emerge of personal and shared experiences, and as such the theoretical framework will fundamentally differ from the framework of theoreticians (Askheim 2003, p. 235). In order for official social work to find out from service users and community institutions, which have confirmed to be more efficient than traditional social work patterns (Graham 2002, p. 37), it is crucial that involvement is “on own terms” to guarantee real empowerment, rather than empty words, which results in the persistence of oppression and bias (Askheim 2003, p. 235). The addition of non-institutional wellbeing delivery would assist in creating a balance among the compensation of expertise, and the empowerment of people. This change in approach would decrease the unfairness in service provision. The distrust of existing mental health services between communities causes the delays in searching for assistance and later and severe stage of illness. This is one of the grounds for higher levels of admission (Jupp 2005).

The step towards social courses is a major alteration in terms of empowerment within the social work. Empowerment is a constant process of development and change. The stress on process supports the social worker to listen to the issue of a service user, thus, externalizing it and letting the service user to preserve more control on how to handle or cope with the trouble (Parton 2003, p. 13). Rees (1991, p. 86) asserts that “the course of empowerment can conceal the story of life”. This “dialogical approach” (Friere, 1996) avoids criticisms of existing social work practice by enabling service users to classify their requirements and solutions rather than having to correspond any social model. This is a basic move in mental health services as existing practice results in humans, especially from minority groups, being offered drugs rather than taking treatments like psychotherapy and counseling (Jupp 2005).

The Concept of Difference

Difference is more and more applied in academic and common discourse, however, its connotation is not at all obvious. Difference is understood to denote broad and ever expanding set of certain groups or categories, for instance, race, sex, age, class, sexual orientation, and physical or mental ability. The defining characteristics of “difference”, as the general notion, however, are unclear (Stainton Swift 1996, p. 76).

Anti-oppressive connotations of difference are developing, mainly as the outcome of the challenges placed by post modern theorists. Yet, no matter how they are visualized, there is a conformity concerning the centrality of this concept for efficient anti-oppressive practice. The centrality is reflected in the education of future social workers. An idea that “mainstream” social workers have to be educated about groupings different from themselves has evolved over the last thirty years. This idea has become to be reflected in social work education via the creation of courses dealing with the experience of being “different” from the mainstream populace. Starting with the concept of “class” difference in the 1960s and expanding into areas of sex, race, culture, age and physical and intellectual capability, the number and variety of such courses have increased quickly in the 1990s (Stainton Swift 1996, p. 75). In the effort to guarantee equality social workers at times deny difference. Whilst with good intent, this approach, which is called a color blind approach has repressive connotations (Stainton Swift 1996, p. 75-87). These include the denial of personal connotations of difference, practice approaches, which are culturally unsuitable, and a denial of the influence of repression and domination. Simultaneously, there are risks disregarding resemblances and in reifying difference that may possibly lead to dichotomous opinion, which results in the the opposite categories. As Collins (1998, p. 146) asserts “defining one side of the binary by the absence of features of another side affords one side normality and relegates the other to the abnormal, oppositional other.” Basically, denial of racial differences, an supposition that people of color are the same as whites, may be just as racist as negative bias against people of color (Rossiter 1995, p. 9-27).

The Concept of Identity

The way social workers treat themselves, other people, the surrounding situation and relations among people is the basic issue, which is concerned with professional evolvement of social work. The course of socialization of every social worker is one that is guided by constant expansion of the scope of self-work and communication, endlessly deepening of interpersonal activities and incessant standardization of behaviors . Social position and categorization of social position of social workers have own distinctiveness, a course for selection of identity of dissimilar public institutions and change of the degree. As for social workers, how they come to understand properly the work they are engaged in can directly impact the identity. It is founded via research that the dedication to certain working practice itself may reinforce the identity of social workers. The classification of the meaning and notion of self social work will strengthen the professional identity and further recognize and obtain supportive data to give full play to its initiative and creativity .

There is a long path to go for identity of the social workers that is created upon the widespread identity of the social order. The disbalance exists among the uncertainty of people in the acknowledgement of the role of social workers and their identity of the existing system . In the eyes of ordinary humans, social work is not always clear notion. Yet, as social workers, they have to encounter reality and troubles, have a right acknowledgement in social work, and dedicate all enthusiasm in the work they are involved in and efforts to support social work career with sincerity and working spirit to serve people . They hold strongly the opportunity in which a direct project is regarded as the social work evolvement and have belonging of professional identity’s future evolvement.

The key targets of social work are those who have faced hazards or problems in practical social living, are atypical in terms of physiology or psychology or have been injured in some ways . Today, many nations have treated all members of the social order as scope of service or study of social work. So, the market of social work target in its general sense is quite large. The bilateral choice of the market is of particularity, which has also the two choices of selection and non-selection for social workers . The cause is that some markets neither have been opened nor have effectual demand. Obviously, there is one more opportunity that they have shaped effectual demand, but have no means to get service of social work through suitable and effectual channels . Also, the existing target markets have been engaged by conventional standard social work in numerous aspects lacking in absolute demand and suitable fulfillment of social work. Specifically, the target markets may vanish due to emergence of other types of service .

Generally, social identity of humans in the specialization and professional development is not as high as anticipated. There are many misinterpretations that social work does not require special training or social work may be done via part-time work . Also, there are even individuals, who think that so long as one possess awareness in psychology, he may take the place of social workers to participate in social work service in all spheres of living. All these prejudices limit the progress of facilitation specialization and professionalization of social work .

Students with professional training in social work are doubtful to engage in the job of social work. Due to numerous causes, those young professionals who have got teaching in social work infrequently participate in a job of the social work profession after graduation . Consistent with the statistics, the level of appropriate employment is less than thirty percent among the students, who graduate from the department of social work and there are less than ten percent people, who prefer corresponding jobs of social work. Yet, the social order has high demand on the professional students .

The connotation of professional development of social work embraces numerous aspects of qualification, technical title system, certification, and supervision and so on . Today, setting of social work is still not ideal . Though there are many institutions, which are involved in undergraduate schooling of social work, the majority of them are just set up for the practice and case studies in the classroom, so internship for students to dedicate themselves to the society is infrequent.

Consistent with O’Hagan, thinking about own story of life and those of other people helps to understand that people are not merely interested in other humans’ experiences, but in what the experiences mean to them and how they influence their lives. Generally, some events will appear more significant than the others. Thus, the picture of identity may be created.

This view that identities are continually altering assists to remind us that, for many individuals, the identities are in a course of change, as they make new commitments and are subject to pressures, troubles and changes in how they see themselves and their globe. This can have significant implications for social workers and service users, as O’Hagan makes obvious, “professionals in social care, know too well that the process of identity modification may comprise a crucial crisis for the clients. That course is frequently risk burdened, heightening estrangement and susceptibility, and necessitating sympathy and empathy.”

This more multifaceted viewpoint on identity has been evolved by Stuart Hall, cultural theorist who has asserted that identity is not merely offered or established, “it is a matter of “becoming” as well as of being” (Hall 1990, p. 51). He declares that identity is something that is never whole and that it is more useful to consider “identification” as a process rather than “identity” as the fixed state (Hall 1990, p. 51). Hall’s concepts suggest that identity is strongly determined by feeling a sympathy with “people like us” or individuals with whom we share thoughts, principles, viewpoints or knowledge (Hall 1990, p. 51). Many humans will share these resemblances with individuals surrounding them as they grew up, however, Hall’s thoughts of identity also let people be strongly impacted by experiences and relations later in living that may have evenly deep impacts on how people see themselves (Hall 1990, p. 51). In the situation of social work, instances could be a human being becoming familiar with the birth heritage as a grown-up, evolving new spiritual attitudes or even own experience of engaging with the professional training, which for some humans can offer a strong sense of recognition, however, for others may feel quite estranging (Hall 1990, p. 51). Evenly, for some humans, their “professional” living is not central to how they identify themselves; this might be less important to their sex, marital status, religion, ethnicity, or other facets of themselves (Hall 1990, p. 51).

The importance of certain aspects of a human being’s identity can differ. For example, in much of contemporary Britain, it is not customary for citizens to define themselves by the adherence to a certain branch of the Christian religion. However, in Scotland and Northern Ireland to portray oneself as “Catholic” or “Protestant” is to make a crucial statement not merely concerning religious belief, but also about belonging to the certain community and all that it embraces. Under those conditions, the religious association defines human identity even more strongly than lots of other characteristics (Hall 1990, p. 51). Likewise, for some supporters of Islam, being a Muslim is considered to be far more crucial and more essential to one’s identity than nationality, ethnicity, or class. Other individuals might derive own identity from the geographical area or region, or one of the nations of the United Kingdom. Frequently people apply the same terms in order to stress their difference from other people.


The way social workers see themselves and other people, especially minority groups, and the way they understand risk and empowerment, are is the central issues, which are concerned with professional development of social work. Hence, the existing crucial concepts of “risk”, “power”, “difference” and “identity” are significant influences in social work theory and practice, and they can, thus, be anticipated to have a huge impact on the ways in which social work is represented, projected and practiced. This paper articulated the distinct concepts of “risk”, “power”, “difference” and “identity” and discussed each of them, prior to considering the implications of the notions for people’s considering what social work is, and what it should be.