The global definition of the social work profession provided by the International Federation of Social Work (IFSW) and the International Association of Schools of Social Work (IASSW) (2014) states:
“Social work is a practice-based profession and an academic discipline that promotes social change and development, social cohesion, and the empowerment and liberation of people. Principles of social justice, human rights, collective responsibility and respect for diversities are central to social work. Underpinned by theories of social work, social sciences, humanities and indigenous knowledge, social work engages people and structures to address life challenges and enhance wellbeing.” (BASW, 2018).
When looking at this definition it is suggestible that social work is a highly skilled and knowledgeable job (Trevithick, 2012). Therefore, it is important that a social worker has a large diverse skill base and sound knowledge to be able to work in an effective manner for their service users (Healy, 2012).
Social work skills determine the success and define the distinctive nature of social work practice. Social workers can work in many different settings: including statutory, voluntary, private and independent. The role of the social worker will differ depending on which setting they choose to work in (Graduate Prospects, 2018). Consequently, some of the skills a social worker will use are generic and can be transferred to a wide range of social work settings. However, each social work setting has its own individual challenges that influence the skills social workers need to use and develop (Mantell, 2013).
In a statutory role, a social worker must adhere to the laws that exist to protect the vulnerable service users that they work with. Social workers have a duty to abide by the legislation and the power to enforce it. In non-statutory roles, social workers still work with a similar service user group but are not specifically responsible for enforcing the law. They will be employed in the private sector or in specialist roles, such as providing support for drug and alcohol users. Social workers can also work in early intervention roles, aiming to prevent the escalation of problems in society to where statutory involvement is required (Graduate Prospects, 2018).
During my shadowing experience I was placed on a statutory placement with a child and families social worker, working for Wolverhampton Council. The main role of the social worker I shadowed was to protect children from harm and she appeared to do this effectively by utilising her skill base and knowledge. She used her skills to help individuals, families and communities to promote independence, provide support and prevent harm, neglect and abuse. Therefore, from my observation without her skill base the social worker would have been unable to fulfil her job role effectively.