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The role of Social Work in India in assessing and protecting
people in need.
The extent to which Social Work changed over the last 40
years and factors that contributed to some of these changes.
© Bimal Antony Mobile: +91 9995006062
Introduction
Social work can tremendously help to improve the quality of life for their service users or those
in need. Social workers work within a legal framework and have to adhere to all the policies
within that discipline. The purpose of social work is to increase the life chances and
opportunities of people using services by building on their strengths, expertise and experience to
maximise their capacities (Brand et al, 2005:2-3).
Assessment is an essential element and the beginning of the social work process. It involves
gathering relevant information that will provide an overview that will assist with a successful
outcome. There are processes of the assessment that include; critical and relevant information
gathering, identifying, prioritising the needs of the service user and identifying the resources
available to the service user and their family (Thompson, 2011).
Social work profession has often presented the profession with challenges that must be addressed
if we are to maintain the trust and confidence of the public. However it is important to
understand there are no quick fixes as we are dealing with deep routed attitudes and difficulties
which will take time to shift. Social work has changed drastically in the last 40 years. Previously
social work was seen as a therapeutic role or a care worker. Today there is much more of
importance and responsibility placed on social workers, who now work together in conjunction
with other professionals such the police, medical and education services too.
Vulnerable Groups - The people in need
Certain groups in the society often encounter discriminatory treatment and need special attention
to avoid potential exploitation. This population constitutes what is referred to as Vulnerable
Groups.
The vulnerable groups that face discrimination and need protection include Women, Scheduled
Castes (SC), Scheduled Tribes (ST), Children, Aged, Disabled, Poor migrants, People living with
HIV/AIDS and Sexual Minorities. Sometimes each group faces multiple barriers due to their
multiple identities. For example, in a patriarchal society, disabled women face double
discrimination of being a women and being disabled.
Children
Children and the elderly population face different kind of vulnerability. In India, children’s
vulnerabilities and exposure to violations of their protection rights remain spread and multiple in
nature. The manifestations of these violations are various, ranging from child labour, child
trafficking, to commercial sexual exploitation and many other forms of violence and abuse. With
© Bimal Antony Mobile: +91 9995006062
an estimated 12.6 million children engaged in hazardous occupations (2001 Census), for
instance, India has the largest number of child labourers under the age of 14 in the world. Child
labour in the agriculture sector accounts for 80 per cent of child labour in India and 70 per cent
of working children globally (Jaswal, Patro, et al., 2006). In, Sivakasi, an estimated 1, 25,000
children make the child labour force, comprising 30 per cent of the entire labour force. Those
children working in the brick kilns, stone quarries, mines, carpet and zari industry suffer from
occupation related diseases. In India, however there is a huge gap in the industry-specific and
exposure-specific epidemiological evidence. Most of the studies are small-scale and community-
based studies.
Among children, there are some groups like street children and children of sex workers who face
additional forms of discrimination. A large number of children are reportedly trafficked to the
neighbouring countries. Trafficking of children also continues to be a serious problem in India.
The nature and scope of trafficking range from industrial and domestic labour, to forced early
marriages and commercial sexual exploitation. Moreover, for children who have been trafficked
and rescued, opportunities for rehabilitation remains scarce and reintegration process arduous.
Elderly
In India, the population of the elderly is growing rapidly and is emerging as a serious area of
concern for the government and the policy planners. According to data on the age of India’s
population, in Census 2001, there are a little over 76.6 million people above 60 years,
constituting 7.2 per cent of the population. The number of people over 60 years in 1991 was 6.8
per cent of the country’s population. The vulnerability among the elderly is not only due to an
increased incidence of illness and disability, but also due to their economic dependency upon
their spouses, children and other younger family members. According to the 2001 census, 33.1
per cent of the elderly in India live without their spouses. The widowers among older men form
14.9 per cent as against 50.1 per cent widows among elderly women. Among the elderly (80
years and above), 71.1 per cent of women were widows while widowers formed only 28.9 per
cent of men. Vulnerability among the elderly also depends on their living arrangement since the
elderly are less capable of taking care of themselves compared to younger persons and need the
care and support of others in several aspects. About 2.9 per cent of elderly in India live alone.
More elderly women (4.1 per cent) live alone compared to elderly men (1.8 per cent). The
significance of the living arrangement among the elderly becomes evident when seen in the
context of their level of economic dependence (Rajan, 2006). Lack of economic dependence has
an impact on their access to food, clothing and healthcare. Among the basic needs of the elderly,
medicine features as the highest unmet need.
Disabled
Disability poses greater challenges in obtaining the needed range of services. Persons with
disabilities face several forms of discrimination and have reduced access to education,
© Bimal Antony Mobile: +91 9995006062
employment and other socioeconomic opportunities. In India, there is an increase of proportion
of disabled population. The proportion of disabled population in India is about 21.9 million. The
percentage of disabled population to the total population is about 2.13 per cent. There are two
broad categories of disability, one is acquired which means disability acquired because of
accidents and medical reasons the other is disability since the onset of birth. According to the
National Sample Survey Organisation Report (58th Round), about one-third of the disabled
population have disability since their birth.
Migrant Labourers
Internal migration of poor labourers has also been on the rise in India. The poor migrants usually
end up as casual labourers within the informal sector. This population is at high risk for diseases
and faces reduced access to health services. In India, 14.4 million people migrated within the
country for work purposes either to cities or areas with higher expected economic gains during
the 2001 census period.
Large numbers of migrants are employed in cultivation and plantations, brick-kilns, quarries,
construction sites and fish processing (NCRL, 2001). Large numbers of migrants also work in
the urban informal manufacturing construction, services or transport sectors and are employed as
casual labourers, head loaders, rickshaw pullers and hawkers. The rapid change of residence due
to the casual nature of work excludes them from the preventive care and their working conditions
in the informal work arrangements in the city debars them from access to adequate curative care.
People living with HIV/AIDS, Sexual Minorities
There are certain attitudes and perceptions towards certain kinds of illnesses and sexual
orientation which results in discrimination against individuals/groups. The rights of People living
with HIV/AIDS are violated when they are denied access to health, education, and services.
They suffer when their close or extended families and friends fail to provide them the support
that they need. India’s National AIDS Control Organization (NACO) estimated in 2005 that
there were 5.206 million HIV infections in India, of which 38.4 per cent occurred in women and
57 per cent occurred in rural areas.
There are strong perceptions of the causes of AIDS, routes of transmission, and their level of
knowledge about the illness. These are compounded by the marginalization and stigmatization
on the basis of such attributes as gender, migrant status or behaviours that may be perceived as
risk factors for HIV infection. For example, women whose husbands have died of AIDS are
rejected by their own and their husband’s families and they are denied property inheritance of
their husbands.
Another group that faces stigma and discrimination are the sexual minorities. Those identified as
gay, lesbian, transgender, bisexual, kothi and hijra, experience various forms of discrimination
within the society and the health system. Due to the dominance of heteronomous sexual relations
© Bimal Antony Mobile: +91 9995006062
as the only form of normal acceptable relations within the society, individuals who are identified
as having same-sex sexual preferences are ridiculed and ostracized by their own family and are
left with very limited support structures and networks of community that provide them
conditions of care and support. Their needs and concerns are excluded from the various health
policies and programmes. Only the National AIDS Prevention and Control Policy recognize
sexual minority and homosexuals in the context of identifying ‘high risk behaviour’. But
pervasive discrimination from the health providers delays or deters their health seeking. Hence
they remain excluded from the process of government surveillance carried among the high risk
population in the context of HIV/AIDS. The surveillance amongst ‘MSM’ or men who have sex
with men, is usually carried out by NGOs and through ‘support groups’, i.e. amongst males who
are accessible to NGOs and who are willing to identify with categories, such as kothi, around
which support groups are structured (Khanna 2006). They also undergo considerable amount of
psychological stress.
Change in Social Work and the contributing factors towards those changes
Social Work is forever changing and being influenced by the change in new policies and
legalisations. A change in government policy usually means a change in the role of the social
worker. Social workers are now greatly contributing in economic purposes, social purposes and
even in political purposes. A change in theory, research, policy and legalisation has led to
changes in the role of social workers.
There are different ways of interpreting the growth and development of social work as an
organised activity. Following Seed (1973), three strands in its development are charted. The first
of these is the focus on individual casework, which originated in the work of the Charity
Organisation Society (COS) (Woodroofe, 1962; Lewis, 1995). The second is the role of social
work in social administration, particularly (although not exclusively) involving various forms of
relief from poverty. Although much of this originated from the Poor Law (Jordan, 1984), it was
also promoted in some of the work of the COS. The third is the focus on social action, which has
been particularly identified with the growth of the Settlement Movement, both in Britain and the
United States (Rose, 2001).
The Medical Model
Mary Richmond, an early social caseworker, wrote the first formal social work practice text,
Social Diagnosis, in 1917. Although Richmond’s work relied heavily on sociological research
that emphasized the effects of the environment on personality development (Cooper & Lesser,
2005), this strong connection between sociology and social casework weakened considerably
after World War I and during the Great Depression, when societal problems often seemed too
overwhelming for sociological fixes. Searching for a scientific base for practice, person-oriented
© Bimal Antony Mobile: +91 9995006062
social caseworkers were increasingly drawn to the nascent discipline of developmental
psychology and the medical model of psychoanalytic theory as conceived by Sigmund Freud.
This growing interest in psychological processes shifted the focus of social work practice away
from environmental concerns toward a view of human problems as primarily intrapsychic in
nature. Soon, the person’s internal psychological problems were seen as the root cause of all
forms of human difficulties, poverty included.
The Diagnostic School and the Family Therapy Movement
Further challenges to the professional dominance of the medical model and its narrow focus on
the client’s internal conflicts came in the 1940s, when the diagnostic school of social work
theory and practice began to exert its influence. This school of thought held that all human
problems had both psychological and social aspects (Cooper & Lesser, 2005) and proponents of
this approach originated the term psychosocial to reflect their more balanced, dual-focused view
of the human condition. During World War II and the years that followed, disciples of the
diagnostic, psychosocial school drew on concepts from ego psychology to develop their
theoretical base for practice.
During the 1950s, the gap between psychological and sociological perspectives was further
bridged, as social workers became increasingly interested in the developing family therapy
movement, with its emphasis on how families change and develop over time, how the behavior
of one family member influences another, and how to help families to function more effectively.
The Social Systems Model
It was also during the 1960s that general systems theory began to gain stature in the scientific
community through the work of a biologist, L. Bertalanffy (1962). General systems theory is a
set of rules for analyzing how systems operate and relate to one another, a concept that can be
applied to many fields of study. It was embraced by the social work community and applied to
social systems. A social system is a person or group of persons who function interdependently to
accomplish common goals over an extended period of time.
Social workers felt this conceptual framework provided a way to bridge the profession’s
historical interest in both the person and the environment. In other words, the systems model, as
it applied to social systems, seemed to provide the social work practitioner with a means to view
human behaviour through a wide lens that allowed for assessment of the client across a broad
spectrum of human conditions—as a person, as a member of a family, and as a participant in the
community and the wider society (DeHoyos & Jensen, 1985). The person-in-environment system
becomes the unit of analysis (for example, the child in the context of family, school, or peers).
© Bimal Antony Mobile: +91 9995006062
The Ecological Perspective
The social systems model, as it related to social work, evolved as the profession struggled to
integrate its often abstract and complex terminology and concepts into its theory base. By the
1970s and 80s it had expanded to include the ecological perspective (Germain, 1979a, 1979b,
1979c, 1981, 1987, 1991). Although rooted in systems theory and using systems concepts to
integrate information, the ecological perspective provides a broader base from which to integrate
theories from several disciplines and to more fully explore the nature of the relationship between
the individual and the environment. For example, this perspective incorporates concepts from
role theory (among many others) to explain how behaviour and relationships are affected by
socio-cultural factors. From an ecological perspective, social roles determine not only how a
person in a particular position behaves, but also how others behave toward that person. “In short,
roles serve as a bridge between internal processes and social participation” (Greene, 1991, p.
276). In addition to social roles, patterns of communication, individual coping behaviours,
interpersonal networks, and characteristics of the physical and social environment that either
support, or impede, human development are examined in the context of the complex, reciprocal
interactions between the person and environment. Here, the concept of the environment includes
the physical (natural and constructed), the interpersonal (all levels of social relationships), and
the socio-cultural (social norms and rules and other cultural contexts; Harkness & Super, 1990).
As is the case in the social systems model, the individual is understood in the context of his or
her environment—the person and environment are viewed as parts of the same system operating
in continuous transaction—mutually influencing, shaping, and changing one another.
Empowerment and Strengths-Based Perspectives
Empowerment Perspectives - One’s social position has a profound effect on one’s access to
resources, opportunities, and the ability to make proactive choices that affect one’s life, family,
and cultural group, and because certain vulnerable groups occupy social positions that block such
access, disempowerment in the form of discrimination, racism, and oppression is a major
contributing factor to emotional distress in minority populations (Germain, 1991; Schriver, 2005;
Sue, 2001). Empowerment practice focuses on changing the distribution of power; it seeks to
increase the ability of vulnerable individuals/groups to be self-directing, make choices, and act
effectively to advance their own interests (Germain, 1991).
A Strengths-Based Perspective - The concepts described earlier also underlie what has been
termed the strengths-based perspective—in the words of Gibelman and Furman (2008, p. 199),
“the strengths perspective looks to the power of people to overcome and surmount adversity
(Rapp, 1998; Saleebey, 1999).” Once again, because traditional theories of human behaviour and
development were grounded in a White, European worldview, racial/ethnic differences were
often interpreted as deficits, or abnormalities (Guthrie, 1997; Lee, 1993; White & Parham, 1990).
A strengths-based perspective is one that seeks to identify the factors that support the resilience
of people and groups across the life span and to build on these personal and social assets to
© Bimal Antony Mobile: +91 9995006062
promote growth and change (Hill, 1998). Intervention from a strengths-based perspective “is
about more than managing symptoms and coping; it is about liberation, hope, resilience and
transformation” (Lightburn & Sessions, 2006, p. 10)
Changing Roles of Social Worker
With the benefit of hindsight, the 1950s represented the period where individual casework was
most highly prized within social work. However, as we have seen, one key problem with this
formulation was that it did not equate to much of the actual practice of people employed as social
workers, particularly those working within statutory settings. For such people, there remained an
emphasis on the efficient administration of relief; this will be the focus of the next section. In
addition, it moved the occupation a long way from its origins as a social movement (Seed, 1973);
the idea that social work can be seen as a movement interested in securing social change is the
focus of the section after that. In terms of work with older people it had relatively little impact;
the role of social worker has always had more of an element of administrative requirements.
In the 1950s it was accepted that the social worker needed to have a good understanding of the
range and scope of resources that could be made available to an individual or family
(Younghusband, 1955). Indeed, the conception that the social work role was, at least in part,
concerned with humanising the administration of social services (Rodgers and Stevenson, 1973)
was well accepted. This general perception lasted through reorganisation in the early 1970s,
which coincided with a rapid increase in the numbers of qualified social workers. In reality,
irrespective of the rhetoric of individual casework (or, indeed, the rhetoric of the later radical
social work) much of the practice of social workers was concerned with responding to the
minutiae of people’s lives in a practical and pragmatic fashion.
In the 1980s there were challenges to social work from groups – women, Black people, service
user groups (including people with disabilities and people with mental health difficulties), the
advocacy movement, etc. – who had been subject to the services of social workers. These
challenges have been usefully summarised by Taylor (1993), who argued that the groups share
common purposes, despite their obvious differences, in their focus on issues such as diversity,
universalism, power and rights. The tests that these movements have posed for social work
served to expose fundamental elements of the occupation’s self-image.
Working on the assumption that disputes about the nature of social work are really disputes
about the nature and causes of, and solutions to, social problems (Jordan, 1984), the different
perspectives on social work therefore represent alternative views on the role that the occupation
plays within society. In this respect Mullaly (1997) has differentiated between broadly
‘conventional’ and ‘progressive’ perspectives on the role and functions of social work. In the
‘conventional’ view – which he suggests is, and always has been, held by the majority of the
profession – the structure of society is believed to be fundamentally sound. The broad role of
social work is therefore either to help people adjust to existing social structures, or to amend
© Bimal Antony Mobile: +91 9995006062
those structures in a limited way. In the minority ‘progressive’ view the purpose of social work is
different, being primarily to contribute to a fundamental social transformation, on the basis that
the problems of individuals are caused by inequitable social structures rather than individual
inadequacy or weakness.
References
1. Brian Kerr, Jean Gordon, Charlotte MacDonald and Kirsten Stalker(2005). EFFECTIVE
SOCIAL WORK WITH OLDER PEOPLE. Edinburgh: Scottish Executive Social
Research
2. Chandrima Chatterjee & Gunjan Sheoran (2007). VULNERABLE GROUPS IN INDIA.
Mumbai: The Centre for Enquiry into Health and Allied Themes (CEHAT)
3. An Integrating Framework for Human Behavior Theory and Social Work Practice
obtained from
http://www.pearsonhighered.com/assets/hip/us/hip_us_pearsonhighered/samplechapter/0
20579274X.pdf
4. James Blewett, Janet Lewis and Jane Tunstill (2007). THE CHANGING ROLES AND
TASKS OF SOCIAL WORK.
5. Steven Walker and Chris Beckett (2011). Social Work Assessment and Intervention (2nd
Ed.). Dorset: Russell House Publishing Ltd.

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The role of Social Work in India in assessing and protecting people in need. The extent to which Social Work changed over the last 40 years and factors that contributed to some of these changes.

  • 1. The role of Social Work in India in assessing and protecting people in need. The extent to which Social Work changed over the last 40 years and factors that contributed to some of these changes.
  • 2. © Bimal Antony Mobile: +91 9995006062 Introduction Social work can tremendously help to improve the quality of life for their service users or those in need. Social workers work within a legal framework and have to adhere to all the policies within that discipline. The purpose of social work is to increase the life chances and opportunities of people using services by building on their strengths, expertise and experience to maximise their capacities (Brand et al, 2005:2-3). Assessment is an essential element and the beginning of the social work process. It involves gathering relevant information that will provide an overview that will assist with a successful outcome. There are processes of the assessment that include; critical and relevant information gathering, identifying, prioritising the needs of the service user and identifying the resources available to the service user and their family (Thompson, 2011). Social work profession has often presented the profession with challenges that must be addressed if we are to maintain the trust and confidence of the public. However it is important to understand there are no quick fixes as we are dealing with deep routed attitudes and difficulties which will take time to shift. Social work has changed drastically in the last 40 years. Previously social work was seen as a therapeutic role or a care worker. Today there is much more of importance and responsibility placed on social workers, who now work together in conjunction with other professionals such the police, medical and education services too. Vulnerable Groups - The people in need Certain groups in the society often encounter discriminatory treatment and need special attention to avoid potential exploitation. This population constitutes what is referred to as Vulnerable Groups. The vulnerable groups that face discrimination and need protection include Women, Scheduled Castes (SC), Scheduled Tribes (ST), Children, Aged, Disabled, Poor migrants, People living with HIV/AIDS and Sexual Minorities. Sometimes each group faces multiple barriers due to their multiple identities. For example, in a patriarchal society, disabled women face double discrimination of being a women and being disabled. Children Children and the elderly population face different kind of vulnerability. In India, children’s vulnerabilities and exposure to violations of their protection rights remain spread and multiple in nature. The manifestations of these violations are various, ranging from child labour, child trafficking, to commercial sexual exploitation and many other forms of violence and abuse. With
  • 3. © Bimal Antony Mobile: +91 9995006062 an estimated 12.6 million children engaged in hazardous occupations (2001 Census), for instance, India has the largest number of child labourers under the age of 14 in the world. Child labour in the agriculture sector accounts for 80 per cent of child labour in India and 70 per cent of working children globally (Jaswal, Patro, et al., 2006). In, Sivakasi, an estimated 1, 25,000 children make the child labour force, comprising 30 per cent of the entire labour force. Those children working in the brick kilns, stone quarries, mines, carpet and zari industry suffer from occupation related diseases. In India, however there is a huge gap in the industry-specific and exposure-specific epidemiological evidence. Most of the studies are small-scale and community- based studies. Among children, there are some groups like street children and children of sex workers who face additional forms of discrimination. A large number of children are reportedly trafficked to the neighbouring countries. Trafficking of children also continues to be a serious problem in India. The nature and scope of trafficking range from industrial and domestic labour, to forced early marriages and commercial sexual exploitation. Moreover, for children who have been trafficked and rescued, opportunities for rehabilitation remains scarce and reintegration process arduous. Elderly In India, the population of the elderly is growing rapidly and is emerging as a serious area of concern for the government and the policy planners. According to data on the age of India’s population, in Census 2001, there are a little over 76.6 million people above 60 years, constituting 7.2 per cent of the population. The number of people over 60 years in 1991 was 6.8 per cent of the country’s population. The vulnerability among the elderly is not only due to an increased incidence of illness and disability, but also due to their economic dependency upon their spouses, children and other younger family members. According to the 2001 census, 33.1 per cent of the elderly in India live without their spouses. The widowers among older men form 14.9 per cent as against 50.1 per cent widows among elderly women. Among the elderly (80 years and above), 71.1 per cent of women were widows while widowers formed only 28.9 per cent of men. Vulnerability among the elderly also depends on their living arrangement since the elderly are less capable of taking care of themselves compared to younger persons and need the care and support of others in several aspects. About 2.9 per cent of elderly in India live alone. More elderly women (4.1 per cent) live alone compared to elderly men (1.8 per cent). The significance of the living arrangement among the elderly becomes evident when seen in the context of their level of economic dependence (Rajan, 2006). Lack of economic dependence has an impact on their access to food, clothing and healthcare. Among the basic needs of the elderly, medicine features as the highest unmet need. Disabled Disability poses greater challenges in obtaining the needed range of services. Persons with disabilities face several forms of discrimination and have reduced access to education,
  • 4. © Bimal Antony Mobile: +91 9995006062 employment and other socioeconomic opportunities. In India, there is an increase of proportion of disabled population. The proportion of disabled population in India is about 21.9 million. The percentage of disabled population to the total population is about 2.13 per cent. There are two broad categories of disability, one is acquired which means disability acquired because of accidents and medical reasons the other is disability since the onset of birth. According to the National Sample Survey Organisation Report (58th Round), about one-third of the disabled population have disability since their birth. Migrant Labourers Internal migration of poor labourers has also been on the rise in India. The poor migrants usually end up as casual labourers within the informal sector. This population is at high risk for diseases and faces reduced access to health services. In India, 14.4 million people migrated within the country for work purposes either to cities or areas with higher expected economic gains during the 2001 census period. Large numbers of migrants are employed in cultivation and plantations, brick-kilns, quarries, construction sites and fish processing (NCRL, 2001). Large numbers of migrants also work in the urban informal manufacturing construction, services or transport sectors and are employed as casual labourers, head loaders, rickshaw pullers and hawkers. The rapid change of residence due to the casual nature of work excludes them from the preventive care and their working conditions in the informal work arrangements in the city debars them from access to adequate curative care. People living with HIV/AIDS, Sexual Minorities There are certain attitudes and perceptions towards certain kinds of illnesses and sexual orientation which results in discrimination against individuals/groups. The rights of People living with HIV/AIDS are violated when they are denied access to health, education, and services. They suffer when their close or extended families and friends fail to provide them the support that they need. India’s National AIDS Control Organization (NACO) estimated in 2005 that there were 5.206 million HIV infections in India, of which 38.4 per cent occurred in women and 57 per cent occurred in rural areas. There are strong perceptions of the causes of AIDS, routes of transmission, and their level of knowledge about the illness. These are compounded by the marginalization and stigmatization on the basis of such attributes as gender, migrant status or behaviours that may be perceived as risk factors for HIV infection. For example, women whose husbands have died of AIDS are rejected by their own and their husband’s families and they are denied property inheritance of their husbands. Another group that faces stigma and discrimination are the sexual minorities. Those identified as gay, lesbian, transgender, bisexual, kothi and hijra, experience various forms of discrimination within the society and the health system. Due to the dominance of heteronomous sexual relations
  • 5. © Bimal Antony Mobile: +91 9995006062 as the only form of normal acceptable relations within the society, individuals who are identified as having same-sex sexual preferences are ridiculed and ostracized by their own family and are left with very limited support structures and networks of community that provide them conditions of care and support. Their needs and concerns are excluded from the various health policies and programmes. Only the National AIDS Prevention and Control Policy recognize sexual minority and homosexuals in the context of identifying ‘high risk behaviour’. But pervasive discrimination from the health providers delays or deters their health seeking. Hence they remain excluded from the process of government surveillance carried among the high risk population in the context of HIV/AIDS. The surveillance amongst ‘MSM’ or men who have sex with men, is usually carried out by NGOs and through ‘support groups’, i.e. amongst males who are accessible to NGOs and who are willing to identify with categories, such as kothi, around which support groups are structured (Khanna 2006). They also undergo considerable amount of psychological stress. Change in Social Work and the contributing factors towards those changes Social Work is forever changing and being influenced by the change in new policies and legalisations. A change in government policy usually means a change in the role of the social worker. Social workers are now greatly contributing in economic purposes, social purposes and even in political purposes. A change in theory, research, policy and legalisation has led to changes in the role of social workers. There are different ways of interpreting the growth and development of social work as an organised activity. Following Seed (1973), three strands in its development are charted. The first of these is the focus on individual casework, which originated in the work of the Charity Organisation Society (COS) (Woodroofe, 1962; Lewis, 1995). The second is the role of social work in social administration, particularly (although not exclusively) involving various forms of relief from poverty. Although much of this originated from the Poor Law (Jordan, 1984), it was also promoted in some of the work of the COS. The third is the focus on social action, which has been particularly identified with the growth of the Settlement Movement, both in Britain and the United States (Rose, 2001). The Medical Model Mary Richmond, an early social caseworker, wrote the first formal social work practice text, Social Diagnosis, in 1917. Although Richmond’s work relied heavily on sociological research that emphasized the effects of the environment on personality development (Cooper & Lesser, 2005), this strong connection between sociology and social casework weakened considerably after World War I and during the Great Depression, when societal problems often seemed too overwhelming for sociological fixes. Searching for a scientific base for practice, person-oriented
  • 6. © Bimal Antony Mobile: +91 9995006062 social caseworkers were increasingly drawn to the nascent discipline of developmental psychology and the medical model of psychoanalytic theory as conceived by Sigmund Freud. This growing interest in psychological processes shifted the focus of social work practice away from environmental concerns toward a view of human problems as primarily intrapsychic in nature. Soon, the person’s internal psychological problems were seen as the root cause of all forms of human difficulties, poverty included. The Diagnostic School and the Family Therapy Movement Further challenges to the professional dominance of the medical model and its narrow focus on the client’s internal conflicts came in the 1940s, when the diagnostic school of social work theory and practice began to exert its influence. This school of thought held that all human problems had both psychological and social aspects (Cooper & Lesser, 2005) and proponents of this approach originated the term psychosocial to reflect their more balanced, dual-focused view of the human condition. During World War II and the years that followed, disciples of the diagnostic, psychosocial school drew on concepts from ego psychology to develop their theoretical base for practice. During the 1950s, the gap between psychological and sociological perspectives was further bridged, as social workers became increasingly interested in the developing family therapy movement, with its emphasis on how families change and develop over time, how the behavior of one family member influences another, and how to help families to function more effectively. The Social Systems Model It was also during the 1960s that general systems theory began to gain stature in the scientific community through the work of a biologist, L. Bertalanffy (1962). General systems theory is a set of rules for analyzing how systems operate and relate to one another, a concept that can be applied to many fields of study. It was embraced by the social work community and applied to social systems. A social system is a person or group of persons who function interdependently to accomplish common goals over an extended period of time. Social workers felt this conceptual framework provided a way to bridge the profession’s historical interest in both the person and the environment. In other words, the systems model, as it applied to social systems, seemed to provide the social work practitioner with a means to view human behaviour through a wide lens that allowed for assessment of the client across a broad spectrum of human conditions—as a person, as a member of a family, and as a participant in the community and the wider society (DeHoyos & Jensen, 1985). The person-in-environment system becomes the unit of analysis (for example, the child in the context of family, school, or peers).
  • 7. © Bimal Antony Mobile: +91 9995006062 The Ecological Perspective The social systems model, as it related to social work, evolved as the profession struggled to integrate its often abstract and complex terminology and concepts into its theory base. By the 1970s and 80s it had expanded to include the ecological perspective (Germain, 1979a, 1979b, 1979c, 1981, 1987, 1991). Although rooted in systems theory and using systems concepts to integrate information, the ecological perspective provides a broader base from which to integrate theories from several disciplines and to more fully explore the nature of the relationship between the individual and the environment. For example, this perspective incorporates concepts from role theory (among many others) to explain how behaviour and relationships are affected by socio-cultural factors. From an ecological perspective, social roles determine not only how a person in a particular position behaves, but also how others behave toward that person. “In short, roles serve as a bridge between internal processes and social participation” (Greene, 1991, p. 276). In addition to social roles, patterns of communication, individual coping behaviours, interpersonal networks, and characteristics of the physical and social environment that either support, or impede, human development are examined in the context of the complex, reciprocal interactions between the person and environment. Here, the concept of the environment includes the physical (natural and constructed), the interpersonal (all levels of social relationships), and the socio-cultural (social norms and rules and other cultural contexts; Harkness & Super, 1990). As is the case in the social systems model, the individual is understood in the context of his or her environment—the person and environment are viewed as parts of the same system operating in continuous transaction—mutually influencing, shaping, and changing one another. Empowerment and Strengths-Based Perspectives Empowerment Perspectives - One’s social position has a profound effect on one’s access to resources, opportunities, and the ability to make proactive choices that affect one’s life, family, and cultural group, and because certain vulnerable groups occupy social positions that block such access, disempowerment in the form of discrimination, racism, and oppression is a major contributing factor to emotional distress in minority populations (Germain, 1991; Schriver, 2005; Sue, 2001). Empowerment practice focuses on changing the distribution of power; it seeks to increase the ability of vulnerable individuals/groups to be self-directing, make choices, and act effectively to advance their own interests (Germain, 1991). A Strengths-Based Perspective - The concepts described earlier also underlie what has been termed the strengths-based perspective—in the words of Gibelman and Furman (2008, p. 199), “the strengths perspective looks to the power of people to overcome and surmount adversity (Rapp, 1998; Saleebey, 1999).” Once again, because traditional theories of human behaviour and development were grounded in a White, European worldview, racial/ethnic differences were often interpreted as deficits, or abnormalities (Guthrie, 1997; Lee, 1993; White & Parham, 1990). A strengths-based perspective is one that seeks to identify the factors that support the resilience of people and groups across the life span and to build on these personal and social assets to
  • 8. © Bimal Antony Mobile: +91 9995006062 promote growth and change (Hill, 1998). Intervention from a strengths-based perspective “is about more than managing symptoms and coping; it is about liberation, hope, resilience and transformation” (Lightburn & Sessions, 2006, p. 10) Changing Roles of Social Worker With the benefit of hindsight, the 1950s represented the period where individual casework was most highly prized within social work. However, as we have seen, one key problem with this formulation was that it did not equate to much of the actual practice of people employed as social workers, particularly those working within statutory settings. For such people, there remained an emphasis on the efficient administration of relief; this will be the focus of the next section. In addition, it moved the occupation a long way from its origins as a social movement (Seed, 1973); the idea that social work can be seen as a movement interested in securing social change is the focus of the section after that. In terms of work with older people it had relatively little impact; the role of social worker has always had more of an element of administrative requirements. In the 1950s it was accepted that the social worker needed to have a good understanding of the range and scope of resources that could be made available to an individual or family (Younghusband, 1955). Indeed, the conception that the social work role was, at least in part, concerned with humanising the administration of social services (Rodgers and Stevenson, 1973) was well accepted. This general perception lasted through reorganisation in the early 1970s, which coincided with a rapid increase in the numbers of qualified social workers. In reality, irrespective of the rhetoric of individual casework (or, indeed, the rhetoric of the later radical social work) much of the practice of social workers was concerned with responding to the minutiae of people’s lives in a practical and pragmatic fashion. In the 1980s there were challenges to social work from groups – women, Black people, service user groups (including people with disabilities and people with mental health difficulties), the advocacy movement, etc. – who had been subject to the services of social workers. These challenges have been usefully summarised by Taylor (1993), who argued that the groups share common purposes, despite their obvious differences, in their focus on issues such as diversity, universalism, power and rights. The tests that these movements have posed for social work served to expose fundamental elements of the occupation’s self-image. Working on the assumption that disputes about the nature of social work are really disputes about the nature and causes of, and solutions to, social problems (Jordan, 1984), the different perspectives on social work therefore represent alternative views on the role that the occupation plays within society. In this respect Mullaly (1997) has differentiated between broadly ‘conventional’ and ‘progressive’ perspectives on the role and functions of social work. In the ‘conventional’ view – which he suggests is, and always has been, held by the majority of the profession – the structure of society is believed to be fundamentally sound. The broad role of social work is therefore either to help people adjust to existing social structures, or to amend
  • 9. © Bimal Antony Mobile: +91 9995006062 those structures in a limited way. In the minority ‘progressive’ view the purpose of social work is different, being primarily to contribute to a fundamental social transformation, on the basis that the problems of individuals are caused by inequitable social structures rather than individual inadequacy or weakness. References 1. Brian Kerr, Jean Gordon, Charlotte MacDonald and Kirsten Stalker(2005). EFFECTIVE SOCIAL WORK WITH OLDER PEOPLE. Edinburgh: Scottish Executive Social Research 2. Chandrima Chatterjee & Gunjan Sheoran (2007). VULNERABLE GROUPS IN INDIA. Mumbai: The Centre for Enquiry into Health and Allied Themes (CEHAT) 3. An Integrating Framework for Human Behavior Theory and Social Work Practice obtained from http://www.pearsonhighered.com/assets/hip/us/hip_us_pearsonhighered/samplechapter/0 20579274X.pdf 4. James Blewett, Janet Lewis and Jane Tunstill (2007). THE CHANGING ROLES AND TASKS OF SOCIAL WORK. 5. Steven Walker and Chris Beckett (2011). Social Work Assessment and Intervention (2nd Ed.). Dorset: Russell House Publishing Ltd.