Norwegian University of Science and Technology
Department of Social Work
THE IMPACT OF
SOCIAL POLICIES ON THE FORMATION OF SOCIAL WORK
The title of this
paper is open to different interpretations. The impact on
the formation might indicate a social policy and social work
history paper as well as one focusing on social work practice.
I will present a brief introduction of social work in its
formative years from voluntary service to a vocation and a
profession with ties to society at large. This means I will
not trace social care back in history and I will not enter
the development from work done by the church and monasteries
to responsibilities taken up by the state. These formative
years were of course tainted by history and influenced by
politics at any one time.
Social work is
said to have become an institutionalized profession due to
its function within established institutions. This is particularly
the scenario within the Norwegian welfare system where we
must add the governmental and the public aspect as well and
not just confine social work to a philanthropic aspect. Norwegian
social workers are, due to the system, challenged with how
to interpret, advocate and transform social policy and existing
welfare programs into practice in accordance with prevailing
governmental intentions; they are also challenged in evaluating
these and finding strategies of how to contribute to policy
development as well as knowledge development in order to further
their professional work.
Social work as
a vocation, profession and discipline has evolved during the
last 150 years. It has reached different levels of acceptance
in countries across the world, been banned by authorities
and reappeared. Due to its theoretical impetus as well as
to its moral aspects, social work is hard to ban over time.
Work was born in the slums of London in the late nineteenth
century” according to Younghusband (1981), a pioneer
in social work in England. “Social Work is an American
product. It is a profession that evolved out of the industrialization
of the United States and its consequences” (Goldstein,
1976). Goldstein and Younghusband alike are both relating
the future of social work as connecting the development of
social work to specific societal conditions, human needs and
available knowledge. The establishment of social work was
made possible by pioneers and their reaction to overwhelming
mass poverty, brutality and ignorance. Human suffering among
great numbers of people living in cities forced itself onto
those who administered welfare donations as well as idealist
and well-to-do persons - women in particular. Democratic ideas
and a humanistic perspective influenced the reactions to living
conditions and the felt responsibilities for suffering citizens.
This goes for London as well as for the major cities in the
eastern states in the United States of America.
The social work
pioneers who started their struggle against poverty, brutality,
and ignorance made several discoveries that have been built
upon and added to ever since. These are:
1. Knowledge was, then as now, bound up with ideologies,
2. there was almost no usable knowledge to guide the pioneers,
3. social work methods,
4. social work itself and training for it,
5. kinds of organizational structures and procedures through
which particular help could be most effectively given, and
6. social care that had to be combined with each of the other
discoveries to set social work
on the tortuous road towards becoming a profession (Younghusband,
Their first discovery
related to the deterrent Poor Law from 1661 and its underlying
ideology, which was based upon the Malthusian theory of population,
Benthamism and later Darwinism applied to human society. The
pioneers were lacking other theories to fight and they substituted
the existing dominating ones. Their arguments became therefore
ethical and religious, promoting the dignity of human beings,
the worth of the individual above just being one in the masses.
The motto of the Barnetts’ in the well known London
settlement Toynbee Hall was treating people one by one, and
Octavia Hill in the Charity Organization Society thought knowledge
of the passions, hopes and history of people was crucial (Younghusband,
1981). They focused on democratic ideas in everyday life as
well as in politics. The problems they faced in regards to
their assessment and conviction were made into societal concerns.
They considered it a task for society at large to alleviate
stressful living conditions in order to promote productive
social living. “Social work leadership made a significant
impact on social policy through the improvement of public
welfare services and enlargement of programs of voluntary
social agencies” (Bartlett, 1970).
and changing target-groups led to the psychoanalytical input
to social work after World War I in the U.S.A. However, the
depression in the thirties put poverty and unemployment back
to a major concern of social work. These problems were out
of reach to be solved by social work, but were accessible
to society at large. Social workers could illuminate the negative
social processes, urge for societal involvement and distribute
resources in kind. They could provide cash for the poverty
stricken to survive and somehow cope with social as well as
with physical ills.
of misery faced by social workers and the growing knowledge
base added to a constant demand for self-reflection and exposition
in social work. Challenges and discussions have over the years
followed the dichotomized lines:
ideology - theory
public - private
neighborly care - profession
apprenticeship - education
Social work deals with people interacting with society. Social
work is thereby a reaction to the way society sets up its
own system to care for its citizens or does not care for special
groups. The need for - or the very being of - social work
reflects society whether social work is run by private institutions
or public offices. The very existence of social work has value
and is a reaction to dominating ideology as well as theory.
It was once a fight against Darwinism applied to human society.
Social work is
distinguished by its simultaneous focus on the client and
the social environment. Social policies and programs are a
highly significant feature of the clients’ surroundings,
demanding every bit as much care and attention from the working
professional as family, community, psychological and work
factors. It is no secret that, for better or for worse, the
lives of all private citizens are subject to serious and widespread
invasions by governmental social policy (Chambers, 1986).
concern is in general a positive attitude in society and an
ideology to be supported and fostered. This does not mean
neighbors have the needed resources to alleviate, solve or
start processes leading to change or betterment for problems
in general, or the knowledge and trust needed in special situations.
Neighborly concern and charity is an important part of social
functioning and, as such, not in conflict with social work.
aspect as well as the need for training were both areas of
conflict at the turn of this century, the end of the 1800s
and the beginning of the 1900s, between the Charity Organization
Society (COS) and the Settlement Movement in England and the
U.S.A. alike. The COS stressed the need for an education composed
of theory and fieldwork for persons working directly with
At the turn of
this century social work training was established in the U.S.A.
Courses soon developed into graduate training for women in
particular, who had a college degree but no place to put it
into work. The history of social work is also a history of
able and well- educated women creating work opportunities
for themselves in a new arena and also a history of how ideas
traveled across continents.
NORWAY - A CASE EXAMPLE
The first courses
in social work in Oslo were founded in 1920 by a private women’s
organization (Norske Kvinners Nasjonalråd). The educational
program offered consisted of social courses for women who
wanted to seek their lifework and means of livelihood in social
service (Kiær, 1937). The training program was a one
year course modeled after the school of Alice Salomon in Berlin.
Theory and practice were to go hand-in-hand, with practice
during the summer months and theory in the fall and in the
spring. The students were introduced to positive work in society,
challenged in their way of reflecting and their solidarity
was developed. Personal suitablity was the main entrance requirement.
The first public
school of social work had quite a different starting point.
The administration of the new social welfare legislation grew
complicated and led to a bureaucracy. Public servants became
in need of training to obtain sufficient competence to interpret
and act upon the laws and regulations and thereby increase
their qualifications to serve the target population. At the
starting point of the school, management was the engine and
along came a separate unit for social work.
In 1950 a one-and-a-half
year plus an additional year program was offered at the state
school in Oslo, but with no classes in social work. Most students
admitted to this program at that time were men. Students most
likely experienced a lack of some kind in the program and
had a drive to learn more than what was on their curriculum.
They initiated evening classes in social work. These classes
were led by a teacher who had an MSW from the U.S.A. The first
teacher hired to teach social work entered the school in 1960.
Social work had become a separate subject for examination
This very brief
introduction of the two first schools of social work in Norway
serves as an introduction of two different starting points.
The first had a bearing of personal development and of service
that was offered to women only while the second had a bureaucratic
and public service focus for men and women. The latter school
ended up absorbing the first.
When the third
school of social work started in Trondheim in 1962, courses
in social work like social case work, communication and interviewing
were part of the program from the very start. The dean and
her assistant both returned from studies in the U.S.A. and
their qualifications influenced the Trondheim school. Students
that were admitted had graduated from high school, or from
junior high school. This means the students were not well
founded in university studies in related fields such as psychology
and sociology. This is mentioned as a contrast to the social
work education at the graduate level in the U.S.
Group work and
community work were both included by 1970. Community work
found its tie to the radical movement and the Marxist influence.
The Norwegian translation of community work was “societal
work” (samfunnsarbeid) with an underlying understanding
of societal reform. In the early 1970s social work literature
presenting case work and social work with groups originating
in the superpower U.S.A. was treated like trash by the radical
wing and considered a degradation of what they wanted from
social work. They set the stage with intensity in the schools
of social work and fellow students with other interests were
silenced. This period did not promote social work approaches
and work in neighborhoods did not come into focus. As compared
to the turn of the century when there was a commitment to
societal change and a restructuring of living conditions with
virtually no theory as a base, the radicals of the 1970s relied
on Karl Marx.
Politics govern policy in public offices. Since the majority
of social workers in Norway are employed at public welfare
departments, social work and social policy appear strongly
intertwined. Because of this close connection and the fact
that social workers are hired in this type of office, the
social work community is challenged to facilitate social work
practices in that particular arena of the welfare state.
There is a close
connection between social work and society at large. Social
work is concerned with the well-being of people as well as
oppressive systems. Its ideology and ethics have not been
in accordance with all political systems over time. During
World War II the only education program in social work in
Norway at that time was closed down by the authorities that
had come into power. We read of the same thing taking place
in Germany and of the exodus of scientists and professionals
- among them social workers - from Europe to the U.S. during
the nazi time (West, 1990). We also know of the destiny of
social work in Communist regimes.
After the Chinese
Communist Party took power in 1949, all university sociology
and social work departments in China ceased to enroll new
students and by 1952 they were all closed down. This was partly
in order to follow the Soviet model of education. Materialism
was perceived to be the true science of proletarians; sociology
and social work were labeled the pseudo-science of the bourgeoisie
and as such should have no place in socialist universities
and colleges. Furthermore the socialist society would not
encounter the social problems that sociology and social work
purported to address (Jinchao, 1995).
as well as new knowledge and new technology all add to as
well as hamper the ongoing challenge in social work. Theories
and approaches will continue to be challenges in the formative
years and the professional ethics and ideologies will be under
constant scrutiny. Social work deals with social functioning:
the interplay between people as well as that between people
and institutions and can therefore not reach its final stage
as long as the core is in a continuous changing process. As
mentioned earlier, the radical students of 1970s Norway silenced
their fellow students and defied social work literature and
society at large. The radicals of the 1950s and 1960s in the
U.S.A. were silenced by the McCarthyism and the haunt for
communists. Social workers and social work faculty belonged
to those fired during this period due to their sympathies
or alleged sympathies to Communism and radical ideas. Universities
had become more dependent on government funding and therefore
susceptible to pressure. Social workers became increasingly
passive on social issues. This decline of social activism
among social workers slowed the development of the welfare
state, particularly in the areas of public assistance and
health insurance (Andrews & Reisch, 1997). “McCarthyism...
left many formerly radical social workers unable or unwilling
to risk fighting back or to engage in social action to any
great extent” (Andrews & Reisch, 1997). This period
also left a fear of being found ideologically incorrect.
in general are not designed with the needs of individuals
in mind, and social welfare policies and programs are certainly
no exception. They are designed for groups of people who share
a common social problem. It is of utmost importance for social
work practitioners to understand that. Precisely because of
this feature, all social policies and programs will always
fail some individual persons on some occasions (Chambers,
conditions and thereby the possibilities within the service
system are often decided by other conditions than the needs
and problems presented by the individual” (NOU, 1986,
author’s translation). “Generally, the Nordic
model of social welfare is universal, need-based and prevention-oriented”
(Hämäläinen, 1997). Government sanctions social
work in public offices. Public policies assign areas for work
and leave social workers to be members of the grass root bureaucrats.
As public servants, social workers provide available services
and benefits of different kinds. They are at the same time
paid to be part of the resources offered to the public. This
means they are a resource in themselves through their knowledge
and skills; they handle public funds and draw their salaries
from somewhat the same sources. In consequence, the administration
they are placed under keeps control over their bureaucratic
as well as their professional work. Social workers are left
with dual loyalties - to their employer, to their clients,
and to their profession. Their assignments hold direct services
to individuals along the intention level of social policy,
regardless of available resources. We can then pose the question
of what goal attainment on different levels (client, professional,
practitioner, agency) is to be measured up against.
as social workers procure services and apply their professional
knowledge, they are expected to get involved in solving problems
on a societal level. “Social workers should take part
in or create a process that can change the situation of those
in misfortune” (NOU, 1972). This might end up in split
loyalties since the impediments can be upheld by insufficient
public services. The Norwegian system does not present a national
level for public assistance. On the contrary, the Welfare
Act states the importance of professional assessment in each
The social welfare
agencies serve as a safety net for the population in crises.
Some people tend to go from one crisis to the next and almost
end up as serial-crises-ridden. They constitute a task for
the welfare state as well as for social work. Social workers
who meet them in their daily work can supply data to build
on to those willing to listen.
themselves function within the policy model chosen by the
government. This could be a Nordic, a Catholic, or a liberal
model. In their different ways they will support or hamper
ideas and development of services and hence the formation
of social policy. Historically this can be illustrated through
two major forms and structures of social welfare: Cash versus
in-kind benefit and Cash and Care.
Cash versus in-kind
Cash versus in-kind
benefit touches upon a discussion we can trace back to the
turn of the century. Benefits can be given in cash so that
persons in need can purchase articles or services where and
when needed according to their own judgment. This leaves the
responsibilities and opportunities up to the person. The in-kind
benefit supplies them with specific articles like food or
medical services in a clinic. Food stamps are a phenomenon
in social work. It was considered a way of providing the poor
basic food products. However, in 1939 in the U.S.A. the food
stamp plan was foremost a plan to dispose of agricultural
commodities (Encyclopedia of Social Work, 1995). It was a
way to make sure that farmers could sell certain products.
This particular setup was “in the best interest of”
those forceful enough to develop the program: the farmers
and poor people who weren’t farmers. We are reminded
that “the basic issue for the person who wishes to understand
social policies and programs is that a particular social problem
viewpoint underlies every social policy and program”
prevalent ideology in social policy and social work degrades
in-kind services. This is obvious as long as we restrict the
in-kind to cover merchandise. According to policy a person
is assigned to the welfare department in his neighborhood,
the foster home or through an available home-service person.
People in Norway are free to choose where to go for groceries,
but not where to go for public social services. They also
are not able to chose the homemakers who enter their home.
This may also be illustrated by how the need for special care
becomes a major obstacle when planning to move from one municipality
Cash and Care
When we look
back on social work history as well as on social policy, services
related to money are recognized, however, the philosophy behind
dimes and dollars distributed has varied. We see the alms
given with minimal sums to help poor people manage their day
to day crisis. We see the struggle for support of an extent
that is not plentiful but assumed sufficient enough to provide
an opportunity to self-support. The sporadic dimes given was
one of the challenges for the Charity Organization Societies
(COS) at the turn of the century in the U.S.A. as well as
in England. They invested in coordination of local charities.
The COS in London found in the end of the nineteenth century
that to organize the district was more important than case
work with individuals (Younghusband, 1981). COS workers acknowledged
that poverty and ignorance demanded more than a bare minimum
if the objective was betterment over time. Simultaneously
they believed in treating people as individuals and began
to discover what was later named social care. This dimension
NORWAY AND THE SOCIAL WELFARE ACT
When we trace
social work tasks back to fight poverty, we find post-World
War II to present several acts alleviating material hardship
in Norway. The Norwegian social acts provide for widows, the
disabled, the elderly, single parents, child support, workmen’s
compensation, sick pay and rehabilitation, for example. We
can add socialized medicine and free public education with
governmental student loans to pay for living expenses, books,
room and board. These legal rights are important for social
policy and for the well-being of the citizens. This again
has an indirect influence on the tasks left for social work.
Social workers are not central in management of the acts regulating
the above-mentioned benefits. We do, however, find social
workers in particular closely connected to putting the acts
concerning child care services and social welfare services
into practice. These social acts include a spectrum of services
as well as financial support.
When we look at the main principles in the Norwegian Act of
Welfare Services from 1991, we find:
services adapted to a spectrum of needs
• cooperation and coordination within the public system
• the rule of law (legal protection) [rettssikkerhet]
• strengthening of self-determination for those served
• the securing of a minimum of services at the municipal
• that services must be available (Rundskriv, I-1/93
Lov om sosiale tjenester, author’s translation).
are all easily acceptable at face value. The challenge rests
in giving them content and in realizing them in practice.
In social policy
we face a discussion of ends and means, of effectiveness and
of product. What will a product in social work be? What is
effective and what is efficient? Effectiveness is attached
to goal attainment. Policy goals do not necessarily coincide
with goals for each individual in the target group. It is
therefore of importance to be able to keep different levels
apart when evaluations of effectiveness are being carried
can be considered a frame, a means provider, a context in
which social work is carried out. The more active the social
policy, the more interfering and penetrating in every day
social work practice. Social policy might provide a good arena
for social work at the same time as the pressure between the
bureaucratic and the professional role is very tight. “It
seems to be a well-developed practice at welfare-departments
that executive case management is given priority to betterment
of clients’ life situations” (Eriksen, 1998, author’s
translation). The main reason for giving preference to executive
tasks is to secure financial support and clients’ legal
rights connected to the bureaucracy.
theories and approaches have traveled across continents. Poverty
and social suffering have not been restricted to certain geographical
areas only. The way countries and systems have found to fight,
alleviate, or deny social problems differs over time.
embrace the importance of the individual, and this is in accordance
with values in social work as we know them. Social work focuses
on social functioning and social care, therefore approaches
developed seek to alleviate human suffering and make resources
– be it cash or services - available to the public.
The common human needs for food, shelter, and safety are of
major concern. In addition, human suffering in interpersonal
relationships, during time of crises, illness or strain of
living matters in social work. In short, social work strives
to provide means and opportunities for people to deal with
external and internal conditions that hamper their social
approach human suffering. When problems in human interaction
are responded to on an individual level and coped with through
the interaction between social worker and client, the process
aspect in social work is illustrated. Since the starting of
a process is considered valuable in itself, this understanding
might come in contrast to the problem-solving and goal attainment
paradigm and it might question some effectiveness measures.
Social workers are accountable to their clients. Their work
is based on how situations are presented and how hardships
are taken by each one. The problems to be worked on are to
be described by potential clients and the investment from
people involved is added. This means social workers are not
just handing out services in cash or in kind. Their relationship
with each client and engagement in work done will influence
the results (Maluccio, 1979). This touches upon the evaluation
of the personified public resource - in this context, social
Norway with its
democracy and well-developed welfare system embraces social
work and social work ideology. More than half of the trained
social workers are to be found within social welfare departments.
There, they are primarily expected to carry out the intentions
in the Social Welfare Act and the Child Welfare Act. Distribution
of resources and making services available are setting ends
in themselves. In social work, available resources are means
towards ends that are seen as processes as well as observable
products. The resources in social service offices hold services
and cash as well as they hold professionals.
Social Reform Committee described (NOU, 1972) social workers’
future tasks as not only to be restricted to respond to demands
for cash and services based on legal rights. They were expected
to take part in solving problems on a societal level that
creates social damage and undesirable living conditions. This
means that social workers are expected to continuously sense
and register unfortunate conditions and flaws in the system.
Their observations, reports and actions are directed against
the very same society who buys their loyalty through employment.
They appear to be in a double bind situation and held responsible
both for registration and reporting as well as for taking
action to prevent, alleviate and solve. Social workers are
not left in a position to just leave their observations with
the politicians; they are committed to a wider responsibility.
During the 1970s
social work went through a tough period when perspectives,
approaches, and values were criticized. The social reform
heritage from the past was considered dormant and politicized.
Work with the individuals and with families became conservative
at the same time as the tasks related to reform on the societal
level were quite overwhelming for each worker to relate to.
Available approaches in social work were considered as preservation
of society at large as well as hard to put into practice in
agencies with growing caseloads and where clients’ rights
according to criteria were to be upheld.
It might seem
as if social work first and foremost reacts to situations
where people are already involved in hardship. This is partly
the case. We also see that it is possible for social workers
to offer services and act because of available theory and
developed approaches. The desire to act has both a theoretical
and a practice impetus. Furthermore, it has an ethical dimension
if entering into other people’s lives also means to
identify problems not presented and decide how to act or not
to act in accordance with this knowledge.
work intervention in problems at any level is particular,
developed out of the perceptions of that problem achieved
by those involved, including the social worker” (Gibbons
at al., 1985). The ongoing task for social work is to develop
approaches that are appropriate for situations workers are
faced with. Since the social welfare department is the only
institution with a safety net function, how to respond to
people in such a situation can first and foremost be developed
related to that setting. Several types of work areas are overlapping
with other agencies and are impelling forces for joint efforts.
has appeared in the forefront over time. During the 1990s
we find terminology from economics and law replacing psychological
and medical terms. Goal orientation, effectiveness, time limit
and contracts have been part of social work terminology over
time along with process and relationship. The prevailing terminology
conveys a message of the public, correct way of thinking.
The closer the social worker is tied to other fields - here
particularly social policy - the more the correctness in that
arena will influence the way of thinking as well as acceptable
actions within the practice settings.
SOCIAL WORK AND
In this paper
I have given social work as a profession a starting point.
In doing so I have not traced it back to theoretical, philosophical
or religious antecedents. When it comes to social policy,
a policy appears to be taken for granted. A society cannot
be without a social policy, or if pretending to, that is policy
as well with its ideological base. The presentation does not
include policy directed towards health and education or the
development and practice in medicine and pedagogy, even though
it might have been of interest to compare how social policies
have influenced these fields. It is however, not defined as
the purpose of this paper.
a social policy based on the Nordic model might in one way
influence social work more strongly than where the liberal
model is chosen. However, the Nordic model might not feel
a threat of social reform from activists and not hamper “progressive”
activity in the same way as other models.
social problems is a challenge for social policies as well
as for social work. Social policy might apply social workers
as one of several prevention tools. If so, social workers
will most likely be assigned a certain social policy role.
At the same time, this assignment is a sanction from society
for social work to be in operation. This puts social workers
on the front line and therefore in a position to have first-hand
information of how social policies serve and reach the target
populations. Social workers can act as informants in a feedback
loop back to the politicians. Information as such does not
necessarily serve as change agent on the political arena.
According to the results in a study conducted by Ronnby (1991)
in some rural areas of Sweden, politicians and administrators
there showed no active interest for accumulation and application
of knowledge from social workers as a base for development
of a more offensive social policy, or use of such knowledge
in planning when to be on the offensive for the development
of social policy.
The Social Welfare Act as well as the Child Welfare Act open
up services that give room for interpretation. The already
mentioned main principles in the Social Welfare Act are an
illustration of politically correct terminology. They convey
a message of social care and of services, however, abiding
the Act in everyday work touches upon available resources
in each municipality.
The main principles
in the Welfare Act set the stage. What room do they give for
social work practice? On paper there are no clear criterion
and no restrictions. It appears rather to be the contrary
- it opens up great opportunities. The Act serves as a sanction
for social workers to practice. According to the governing
idea in the Act, the level of public assistance given each
applicant is to be based on expert assessment and not on national
standardized norms. This leads social workers in welfare departments
to spend a fair share of their time calculating the amount
of welfare money for each applicant based on presented needs,
standards set in the particular municipality, professional
assessment and, some might say, ideology. Sufficient funds
provide for food and shelter, but they are also viable to
people in order to prevent negative social processes like
isolation and marginalization. It is a social work concern
to prevent social deprivation, and one available tool is money.
Public assistance is meant to give financial security on a
temporary base. The goal is to provide opportunities for people
to become self-sufficient and not to encourage them to stay
The amount of
money and the number of services received by each client can
be counted and reported. The care involved and the positive
or negative processes started ask for a different type of
registration and it is questionable if they can best be expressed
in effectiveness and product terminology. However, it might
appear paradoxical that in the Norwegian society, with all
its benefits and the low unemployment rate, social work is
in demand. Most likely a bypassing tourist will not spot poverty
or slums. Slums are not to be spotted and poverty covers more
than what is easily noted.
The main principles
in the Social Welfare Act do not appear to represent a limitation
of professional social work. The intentions are seemingly
all good. So how can you fight or complain about such a positive
federal statement? However positive, it is not in connection
to our welfare departments. We are used to find units for
research and a tradition for knowledge development. However,
social scientists have found welfare departments to be an
interesting arena for research, and politicians are asking
for effectiveness. The welfare department deals with money,
stigma and values, and can easily be made into a scapegoat.
This includes applicants and staff alike.
cannot be directly applied to a case. They are too general
and the program they cover is an aggregation of services provided
according to legislative mandates and public responsibilities.
They are normative and they reflect political aims. There
is no technology for carrying out broad agency goals applied
on individual clients. Clients’ goals can be in accordance
with agency goals and professional goals alike, and they are
the only practical way to carry out goal oriented strategies
for individual case action (Epstein, 1980).
A circular from the national Department of Child and Family
Affairs (1997) states the principle that siblings are to be
placed in the same foster home. This can be deviated from
as an exception only. Are we then discussing social policy
or social work or psychology for that matter? This statement
came in 1997. To my knowledge there is no new theory to support
or challenge the wish to keep up contact between family members
during foster home placement. Practice might have shown that
siblings get split up when they are placed out of their home.
There could be a good reason for doing so. The tendency is
to keep children in their home as long as possible. We can
ask if they are kept at home until they are so hard to live
with that foster parents do not see how they can handle more
than one. Separation can serve as one strategic tool when
a change in negative processes is the goal. This example is
given to illustrate how a specific policy and professional
work can be intertwined. At the same time it spurs a wondering
why such a directive appears.
sets the stage for foster home recruitment and it also provides
funds. Professionals are governed by knowledge and structure.
In the above-mentioned policy statement, the basis for professional
judgment and the recommendation for placement are threatened
by political interference.
The blurred boundaries between social policy and social work
leave social workers vulnerable for attack by the public.
Dissatisfaction needs an address. Complaints regarding an
agency or a policy leave a receiver with no face. An agency
and a policy can be personified through those employed to
implement public policies. Social work approaches and the
reasoning behind why a particular perspective has been chosen
in a specific situation are not common knowledge to the public.
Due to confidentiality only fragments may be discussed in
the open and the public is left free to make their own interpretations
and judgments. For clients who are dissatisfied with services
or decisions made in situations where, for example, interference
in child care becomes the focus, the involved social worker
is an obvious target for complaint. The social workers are
tied to bureaucratic regulations and criteria as well as to
professional assessment based on knowledge and ethics. These
combined aspects are carried out by each worker according
to his or her skills. As long as work is based on both policies
and professional competence, the professional can readily
be the one to carry the burden of the evaluation of both.
In treatment settings, the professional is foremost held responsible
for her knowledge and skills.
If we look back on the principles discovered by the pioneers,
the first one mentioned relates to knowledge being bound up
by ideology. This binding is to be noticed; either the combination
is considered positive or negative for different bureaucratic
levels within the organization or for people involved. As
put forward by Chambers (1986), social policy rests on some
to do”, the social work approaches, have a theory base
and social work has a code of ethics. The code states the
equality of people regardless of race, age or gender as well
as the protection of the individual. The individual viewed
in its context, however, is not to be sacrificed on behalf
of the group. Jinchao (1995) points to the self-actualization
ideal in the west as undesirable in China and therefore not
to be put forth by Chinese social workers. A statement of
this kind as well as the haunting of reform ideas are setting
a stage for the development of social work – be it approaches
structure of public agencies is, to a large extent, decided
by the state. When we face universal public services, social
workers enter into the establishment. Social work then becomes
part of the care dimension that the welfare state wants to
show its citizens. Thus it is a continuous challenge for social
workers to relate the social care expectations to the previous
discoveries as mentioned by Younghusband (1981) and at the
same time not be able to act in accordance with the intentions
of social policy but within the frame and resources provided.
When social workers
become absorbed in bureaucracy, they are no longer altogether
free to question the system of which they are part. How to
keep balance between the mediation of public services to the
citizens and “get their head above water” to find
ways for improvement in services and ways of meeting people
of all ages who contact or are brought to the attention of
social agencies are ongoing challenges to street level bureaucrats
like social workers. They experience the consequences of public
policies. It is a task for policy makers to make room for
critical assessment of the system in order to follow up their
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