The word 'social' comes from the Latin 'socius', which means friend or ally. The word in a larger sense refers to human society and its organization. The word 'work' comes from the German 'weorc', which means to complete a specific task and improve by varying degree. Social work therefore involves studying and improving the lives of people and societies.
It spans micro and macro systems to address and resolve issues and challenges that are very much prevalent in the everyday society. It does not matter what the level or economic status of the person or group involved is and this eliminates the possible side-lining of the poor and sick.
It does not work individually, but incorporates the contribution made by the other social sciences. This vital combination helps to improve the existent conditions and positively impacts the society.
The idea is to ensure social justice and enhance the quality of life of the person or group. It involves the structuring of steps to draw the full potential of each individual in the society, making the world a better place. They work towards correcting social ills within a comprehensive approach. The concept is linked with charity work.
Roots and Evolution
The basic concept of charity is ancient and all the world religions advocate providing for the poor. In fact, charity used to be considered a responsibility. It includes forms of direct relief like financial resources and needs like food and shelter.
The large-scale migration that was the direct outcome of the Industrial Revolution ushered in many related social problems. The steps taken and measures applied to eradicate the ills of poverty led to an increase in social activism. It also has connections with the 19th century missionaries pushing for these contributions to the society.
The workers directed mission efforts to resolve problems like poverty, prostitution and disease. The 'friendly visitors' or social workers worked through direct relief and prayer.
The Past―The Settlement Movement
In the settlement movement, the focus was on the causes of poverty and the effective application of research, reform, and residence. The workers whose services were pledged to the movement, provided services in education, justice and health. Interestingly, these programs ushered in changes in social policies.
The workers in the settlement movement were so involved and adopted the cultures of those they were helping. This led a question, that is social work a profession or not? Communities of social workers from within formalized processes began to show up, despite the argument that it lacked specialized knowledge and theoretical and intellectual application.
Social work follows a method derived from an evaluation extensively researched and practiced. The application involves a thorough understanding of the complex interactions between communities, individuals and the environment. The work involves measures to influence and motivate people to tap their inherent capacity to alter bio-psychosocial factors.
It is designed along observations of human behavior and social systems. These observations help to analyze situations and influence constructive changes in individuals, societies and cultures across the world. There are professional social workers who earn a professional 'Degree in Social Work' and work within rules and regulations set by a license.
Social work is a serious job that involves getting a Bachelors, a Masters or a Doctorate in social work. These individuals are also called Social Services Assistants or Care Managers or Care Coordinators. Professionals strive to make social justice a reality well within reach and eradicate unequal social structures, thus, adding immense value to the world.