Social work is an activity to help individuals, groups or communities enhance or restore their capacity for social functioning and creating societal conditions favourable to this goal. It deals with issues of social change clubbed with social justice and human rights. As an academic subject, it’s a two-year professional programme (at the PG level), which equips students to work on issues related to inequality and injustice.
Welfare is a noble way of helping people fulfil their unmet needs. Welfare workers develop the capacities and potential of the needy and deprived so that they can help themselves. Social work, however, is very different from the way people perceive it. It is not charity work. Therefore, when working with those who need help, you facilitate processes for them so they are able to identify and link the opportunities and options available to them to better their lives
What do they do?
Saloni Dahra, 25, took up sociology in college because of her interest in social sciences. It became easy then to look at the society and the ground realities around her with an expert’s eye. Soon, the desire to help others became a mission as she enrolled for a Masters in social work.
Today Dahra is a project coordinator in Modicare Foundation, the K K Modi group of industries’ corporate social responsibility arm, also registered as an NGO. Her first month’s salary, when she joined Modicare Foundation as a project officer on adolescent health issues two years back, was Rs 15,000. Today she is drawing Rs 25,000.
Prof Sanjai Bhatt, Head, Department of Social Work, Delhi University, gives a different twist to welfare work when he says: “We have too many philanthropists and there is no denying the fact that charity is important… but that is not sufficient. We should know how to help people without affecting their dignity and individuality. We work with the oppressed and marginalised people, primarily. At the same time, we work with anyone who is in need of help at different levels, be it physical, emotional, administrative, individual, group or community. So a social worker can work with various cross sections of the society at micro and macro levels.”
Vinita Nathani, Executive Director, Prerana, an NGO that works for integrated community development, says that in spite of the fact that new institutions offering social welfare as study programmes are coming up, there is something terribly wrong with the way people perceive social work. “They think anybody with free time can become a social worker. They do not understand the necessity of a trained social worker and the difference s/he can make. This lack of awareness is a reason behind the inadequate number of trained personnel,” she says.
There is also no state recognition, says Prof Bhatt. “The state does not recognise social work as a profession. We do not have any council on social work as there is in countries like the US, the UK, Australia or even Ireland. Five per cent of our students move out to these countries every year, enhancing the demand-supply gap,” he points out.
Source: HT Horizons
. Basic knowledge of human behaviour, society and its systems
. One needs individualised efficiency to perform a task, so relationship skills — dealing with people, communication, responding to others’ needs, etc, are important
. Compassion for fellow human beings
. You should be emotionally mature, rational and sensitive to people and their problems
. You should have good listening, observation and counselling skills
. Social work needs action with involvement and commitment, it’s your zeal that matters
How do I get there?
Since social work is an interdisciplinary social science and profession, there are many practising professionals and students who have a background in economics, political science, sociology, history, psychology and philosophy at the Bachelors level.
However, a Master’s in social work is the standard and the ideal qualification for this line. A doctorate is an added advantage. In many countries, you need a licence to practise social work
Typical day in the life of a Social Worker
There is no hour to hours schedule for social workers. Full-time social workers usually work a standard 40-hour week; however, some occasionally work evenings and weekends to meet with clients, attend community meetings, and handle emergencies. Some, particularly in voluntary nonprofit agencies, work part time.
Social workers usually spend most of their time in an office or residential facility, but also may travel locally to visit clients, meet with service providers, or attend meetings. Some may use a rented office within a local area to meet with clients.
Pros & Cons about this career
Emotional Satisfaction Versatility Wide range of options
Mentally and physically taxing, Stressful Working under pressure