Contemporary Social Work, Challenges and Solutions | The first part

Each year in March, the Social Work Day is celebrated in many countries around the world and the efforts of social workers in different fields are appreciated. This day is very important in the history of the social work; while being named by one of the occasions and the problems of the global community, it is an opportunity for talking about the most important challenges and worries of social workers.

Although each year in Iran, the day of the social work has been honored on birthday of Imam Ali (PBUH) 1. In any case, the day called the social work indicates the importance of this profession and its effects on human societies. This article gives a brief discussion of the environment and its impact on human societies and some of the most important challenges of the social work in the country in several sections will be considered and finally, some solutions to reduce such these problems will be presented. Although the challenges of this profession are numerous but it seems that some of more important ones will be addressed.

It is worth noting that the criticism causes the growth and dynamism from the writers’ viewpoint and it is possible to reduce its problems with the proper understanding of existing trends and identifying its strengths and weaknesses. In the end we try to consider some of the most important challenges of social work and its strengths and suggestions will be presented here for promoting the social work activities.

This year based on the global calendar has been entitled by Promoting the Community and Environmental Sustainability. Anyone knows the importance of environmental resources conservation because these resources are usually non-reproducible or difficult to recuperate over time. Today, environmental crises have been one of the most important problems and concerns of many human societies because it directly affects the ecosystem of humans in cities and villages. Moreover throughout history, the battle over natural resources, including water has been one of the challenges and tensions among governments. Today the human life in many countries including our country is endangered  due to the gradual decline of natural resources on the one hand and the population growth, migration, environment and air pollution on the other hand so that  many experts warn about city wars and imminent drought in the country. This shows dangers which have not yet been understood properly.

It seems that the importance of preserving of environmental resources is not properly understood at the macro level of social policy and in the intermediate and micro arenas among organizations as well as people and this is generally due to the incorrect view of social policy makers and lack of culturalization and reasonable behavior with this phenomenon. Despite the slogans that may be given about the conservation of natural resources and the environment but we practically see  the destruction of a significant part of natural resources such as water, forest, soil ,agricultural lands, trees and green space in the country.

In spite of having professional methods for planning at different levels of society, the social workers have not yet taken action in planned and organized form and this part is largely neglected. Although some activists have written in the form of cultural and social attachments but there is still no comprehensive document in this area that should to be considered.

In addition to the environmental crisis, the social work is now engaged in numerous challenges and it seems that the pathology of this profession and performance critique can reduce its malfunction and challenges. However, some of the current challenges of the social work can be summarized as follows.

The challenges of the social work in the country can be divided into the challenges of intra-professional and extra-professional. Extra-professional challenges refer to those problems which are outside of the profession and caused by the effects of political, economic, cultural and social factors and imposed on the social work. Based on these challenges, the governments have a negative and suspicious look at the profession. Such this view today has remained in relations with charity centers and it has also been propounded about the other majors of humanities and social sciences. This caused that the role of the social workers to be neglected in the welfare and development plans and they have almost no role in the macro social policy; while social workers can be the focal point of development and take effective actions due to their constructive role in many areas and by use of comprehensive approaches such as poverty eradication and rural and social development.

Out of other external challenges of social work are social welfare programs which are less organized and systematic. Custodial organizations also confront fundamental problems in ​​policy making and planning. Limited capital resources and inter-sectoral problems are extended. The quality of service for low-income groups is low and we face major problems such as poverty, marginalization, class divisions, housing shortage, education and corruption. It seems due to the multi-dimensions of problems, the efforts are insufficient and inappropriate. Basically, the position of social workers is also defined in welfare programs because they are the part of the social system in order to increase the quality and service in different areas.

Many experts are involved with multi-dimension, complex and extensive problems which exist in the social work system. Social and family supportive resources are few which used by social workers to protect and help social injured people and those who are at risk, and inter-sectoral problems are also very serious so that many social harms become chronic, and it is very difficult to reduce the damage caused by them. Most of these problems, such as poverty, immigration, education, health, environmental problems, class divisions, unemployment are structural and the social workers are inefficient because of lack of backing. Apart from the problems mentioned, there are other challenges in cultural, political, economic and social dimensions that will be discussed in the subsequent notes. But in addition to external problems which social workers face, intra-professional challenges also exist which are briefly cited below.

One of the most important challenges of the social work in Iran is that the profession is being commercialized. A clear indication of the commercialization of the social work is social work clinics tend to be rentier in some cases, use of power resources to earn more money, reduce service quality, increase authority and participate in the economic interest due to the characteristics of being private and monetized. This has serious and negative results and will greatly reduce the quality of professional services and organizational corruption will be increased in these centers. It seems that the closeness and remoteness of each of these clinics to the capital sources, power and rents has a direct effect on their profitability and stability. By increase of economic problems in the country, these centers have been largely led into the bankruptcy. It seems due to the fundamental purpose of these centers for revenue, the service of the social work has been minimized and service of psychology and family and personal counseling which have more income and are in priority have been maximized. The other challenge of education is especially the status of training course of students. Students’ motivation for training course is mostly low and not taken seriously and there is a gap between the education offered at universities and the needs and problems of the community. It sounds that such a gap has a direct impact on the performance of the social workers and in relation to the target groups. This is why in many cases, the professional actions are not taken by graduated social workers and there is no significant difference in the type of actions and even their reporting methods with non-professional ones. Lack of motivation of students has had a negative impact on the performance of the social workers. It should be noted that some valuable actions are being taken concerning the status of training courses and the gap between the academic education and the status of the society in the form of academic efforts to organize the status of training courses and concluding contracts with organizations as well as reviewing curriculum. Another challenge in social workers’ activities is the lack of organizing and disorder and confusion in the actions and programs. Many conferences and programs are not effective. Although some actions are taken to hold meetings, campaigns and conferences but the scientific outputs and their impact on increasing the knowledge of social workers are weak and sometimes without result. The effects of social worker actions in various fields are rarely measured. Getting into the social work of non-professionals and the weakness of the supervising system have caused that many of these people to be substituted instead of real ones. Many social workers in welfare organizations have an inconspicuous role and the least power in making decisions. On the one hand, the social work is either powerless or being impoverished by relationships, power, demonstrations, and non-specialized activities, so the destruction of this profession is not so far away! Such a trend can also be arisen by overall process over many humanities majors.

Individualism and reductionism of the social work activities are the other challenges. There are various approaches in this profession and in many cases; we need comprehensive and systematic plans for analysis and actions. But it seems today, the group and community point of views are less used in professional activities and the current views and actions are clinical, individualistic and in the form of reductionism and the paradigms have overcast on social work indicate the social harms and problems caused by person performance and the solution is not in structures reform but with training. Such an effect can be found in the analyses and strategies of some of the experts and social workers. Governments generally also support more individualistic approaches compared to critical and structural ones. Over the coming years, social workers may be more likely tend to individualistic views and individual behavior improvement rather than using community-based approaches. Such an approach will ultimately make it difficult for us to differentiate between the activities of psychologists/counselors and social workers, and thus their basic activities will face with serious challenges. Another challenge for social work in the country is to use less of knowledge available in other areas or even areas close to this profession. In social work a lot of the knowledge such as psychology, counseling, sociology, communication, demography, anthropology and etc are not much used and these sciences are less studied in curriculums. This causes that the social workers have difficulties in theoretical knowledge, so they use less these specialties in professional programs. . Even within the social work profession, we do not see intra-professional dialogue and the social workers and universities  have this major are alien in some cases while one of the characteristics of the social workers is to benefit from similar specialties to help target groups. It seems despite the age of 60 years of the social work in Iran, this profession is newly established compared to many countries. Newly translated texts do not exist in social work, and there are very few written sources in this profession. The most of the useful books are those translated but there are serious problems in the translation of these texts. It should be better that the compiled books and their content would be promoted qualitatively and the previous books are less used and copied and new ideas and categories are made. In spite of the fact that some well-educated social workers have recently made little effort to enter the compilation field but it seems that there is a long way in the written sources section and the documentation of professional actions as well as professional services to reach the desired status. Another challenge is the relationship between the profession and the religion which their boundaries are unclear. This problem has brought about major challenges, and caused misunderstanding of the profession of the social work and the similarity of the profession with religious teachings. Although social workers while respecting the religious beliefs of target groups in many cases may also use religious teachings to convey concepts and help target groups as well as to attract supportive sources but it can not be concluded that the social work is the result of the religion. The social working is a completely modern phenomenon, and has been arisen by economic developments and modern welfare states. Despite the problems mentioned, it will be impossible to reduce and eliminate them in the short term. The complexity of these problems is relevant to the diverse  tastes of some professors and social work administrators, and their reduction and resolution seems need major changes in the field of social and welfare policies as well as the effective social work system. It is noticeable that some actions of experts and social workers in relation with addicted women and child-labor can not be ignored and the purpose of writing such this note is to consider the challenges and fundamental problems that the authors find in the profession. Further consideration of each of these problems will require discussion and it will be mentioned subsequently. It sounds that reducing the intra-professional and extra-professional problems requires major actions both at the macro level and in the areas of social and welfare policies and the basic measures of the social work and the establishment of the professional system.

Writers: Salman Ghaderi – Dr Elham Mohammadi
Published on the specialized media of Iranians social work

  1. one of our religious ceremonies

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