Understanding The Key Characteristics Of A Profession Social Work Essay


A profession means a group of people that are specialised in a particular occupation. For example, an individual that is a doctor can be specialised in children, therefore their occupation would be called paediatricians. Profession consists of professionals that have the same interest, skills based on theoretical knowledge. Therefore it is important that professionals should have extensive period of education to influence the competency of their profession. Hodson and Sullivan (2005, p. 258) implies that profession is a ‘high status and knowledge-based occupation that is characterised by the ‘Hallmarks of a profession’. The hallmarks of profession suggest profession is split into 4 main components that are based on abstract, specialized knowledge, autonomy, Authority over subordinate occupational groups and a certain degree of altruism.

Specialized knowledge consists of theoretical, practical and techniques. The theoretical knowledge would focus on theoretical guidelines as to what is expected by professionals. In relations to social work, theoretical knowledge is a crucial element to their profession as putting theory into practice; it helps socials workers develop to think critically and analytically. Oke (2008) suggest that one way of linking theory into practice is known as issue-based approach to learning (IBL). IBL encourages meaningful learning as for example, processing information from a source can help encourages a reflexive process of thinking as it explore further on about ideas and speculate in ways you can put the theories into practice. By means of social workers applying the IBL effectively, it would enhance social workers to work proactively as they would be capable of empowering strategies support the needs and wishes of the service users. The competence of knowledge is a key to profession as Payne (2005 p. 185) suggests professionalism, associated with increasing organisation alongside increasing knowledge and power. Therefore, this may link to entry of qualification, the higher the qualification the more competent on their understanding of putting theories into practice. Learning new information constantly develops the self-knowledge and enables to go in-depth of understanding.

Harris (2003 pp.133-4) argued that social work training helps social workers become a ‘competent and accountable professionals’. This may be a combination of educational institution and social work agencies. The Central Council for Education and Training in Social work (CCETSW) supported the training scheme financially through the central government. Before the mid-1980’s when the CCETSW introduced the certificate in Social Services (CSS), the tendency was students that obtained the CSS were more likely to become social workers. Higham (2006, p. 16) argued that this meant people that worked within social care didn’t fit in with the framework with social workers in the 1970’s. This is because obtaining the qualification became demanding between social work and social care, therefore the CCETSW was worried if there was suitable amount of training resources available for social care staff that was desired to become a qualified social worker. Corresponding to Horner (2009 p.94 -5), he signified that since the emergence of the Diploma in Social Work (DipSW) in 1989 there has been an increase of social workers. This could relate to the discontinued of the CSS qualification in 1992 ended and the start of training courses including worked-based vocational qualification emerged such as National Vocational Qualification (NVQs). In 1992 the National Standards for Training and Development introduced the Worked-based vocational qualification which was made with a difference as there was no set curriculum, specified programmes or examination- it was assessment based. Before there were social care workers that were already employed but did not achieve a formal qualification as it was not regarded at that time. Higham (2006) argued that statistics shows in the year 2000 around 80% of the workforce didn’t not obtain a qualification or had qualification that was not related to their occupation. This shows there was lack of competency within social care professions which may have compelled issues associated with inadequacy of reporting and recording procedures, maintaining confidentiality, accuracy of information and taking into account of the current policies and procedures. The DipSW does not exist any longer; people that are training to become social workers would now need The Social Work degree course to become a qualified social worker. Primarily, the formalisation of training based on social work emerged from social care. Traditionally, society viewed social work and social care as a synonymous profession. Steadily social work had developed recognition in relation to their profession which had gained them distinctive characteristics than the social care profession. However, both professions overlap each other and form a relationship together to facilitate people with their quality of life.

Autonomy is another part of a ‘profession’ according to the four hallmarks. It is common that professionals have a tendency to control their own affairs based on their professional skills and knowledge. Social work values autonomy in terms of decision making. For example, social workers may demand autonomy in terms of building a relationship with the service users more than the heavy caseloads they may encounter as the inequitable caseloads can prevent social workers from tackling effectively the issues that may lead to risk upon service users. Roe (2006, p.15) report emphasises with social workers because he argues that they are ‘… constrained by line management arrangements that require escalation of decision making up a chain of command in order to manage budgets or risk’. This argues that social workers are refrained from professional autonomy as the result of pressure of their line management; this suggest that line managements’ main priority in terms of decision making is to insure appropriate decision making takes place (taking into consideration manageable budgets and the prevention against risk towards service user). Others may argue that there is lack of professional autonomy within social work because of the restriction from the public and within the service demands. Social workers are perceived as authorised professionals that are entitled to autonomous decision making in order to meet the needs of service users; Harkness and Kadushin (2002, p 468) suggest that professional autonomy is about having responsibilities to themselves and the services they offer. Therefore, if there was a deficiency of autonomy within the social workers, this would strongly broad services and social workers would consequently feel greater pressure from the public and other agencies of delivering their full potential due to the boundaries of what they may encounter. An issue that may arise for a social worker is it acceptable to follow their instinct to protect and meet the needs of the service user, even though it may be unacceptable within the rules and regulations of the profession. Sustaining autonomy in a social work profession is imperative as it promotes social workers to actively engage with other multi- agency professionals which would boost their self-confidence and helped them reach their full potential.

In relation to a degree of altruism, there are codes of ethics for professionals within any occupation that are put in place for professionals to seek guidance through competency, practice and acknowledging the complexity of situations. In other words, it is recognised as a systematic framework as to what is ethically acceptable. On the other hand, code of ethics within professionals offers guidance for every believable situation, which means it can be perceived as generic and not the use of specific rules. Despite the codes of ethics being generic, it plays a role for the social work provision. The British Association of Social Workers (BASW) introduced the codes of ethics for social work, values and principles that established the five main key principles such as human dignity and worth, social justice, service to humanity, integrity and competence; they were put in place to ensure that in relations to conflicts and disclosure is honest, fair and accurate. Also to make sure professionals are compliant with the legislations and regulations. Despite, codes of ethics can be misinterpreted or ignored by professionals; not only may the risk of disciplinary action, but this as a result put the service users at risk. However, it is important within the social work profession for social workers to make mature decision as well as understanding and taking into account the value of issues that social workers may face. It is crucial for professionals to adopt the knowledge and skills gained through experience and qualifications in order transfer the skills achieved to help promote new roles and approaches to meeting the needs of the service users.

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Within a profession there are codes of practice which is expected by employees to follow and put into practice; it usually consists of the outlines of behaviour. The significance of the codes of practice would ensure high standards of their job roles are being met. This would not only benefit the profession as a whole but also the employees, employers and the wider society. Comparison to the social work profession, they have a similar concept as a range of organisations had been put in place to ensure that it promotes high standards within the profession. To maintain the assurance, regulation within the service (including education and training) and matters of misconduct was a high priority according to the UK government. These organisations included The Social Care Institute for Excellence, 2000 (SCIE), The Commission for Social Care Inspection, 2004 (CSCI), The General Social Care Council, 2003 (GSCC) and Skills for Care – this was known as ‘the big four’ Horner (2009, p 118). Each of regulation has their own purpose to ensure high standards of care were priority. The SCIE main responsibility is to ensure that social care professionals are able to identify and widen knowledge about good practice such as guidance and developing professional standards. The CSCI main duty is ensure that inspection and monitoring services within the health and social care services were affirmative quality of protecting service users or patients from potential risk of the service users or patients needs. Moreover, The GSCC regulates social workers including social care professionals by situating them onto a register. The register ensures only professionals with the required qualification and adhered the occupational standards are genuine to working with service users especially the vulnerable. Furthermore, the Skills for Care regulate the training processes within the social sector. This may include developing qualifications and assessing the social sector training needs to ensure competency within knowledge is constant throughout the training that is supplied to the social care and social work professionals. Overall, the regulatory frameworks may have different missions but they all form a relationship that supports and promotes quality standards to the staffs, services and training within the social care provision. Regulations are important within a profession to ensure professionals are fulfilling the roles satisfactory and sensitively according to the public interest. It is important that the Social work profession should be able to identify when the standards are to some extent failing, it should take instant action as it is their responsibility as a profession to take the leading role in professional governance. This will prevent drastic dilemmas which can damage the profession status.

To conclude, to an extent social work can be said to be a professional as compare to a profession with a social work profession there are similarities. In relation to knowledge, the social work professionals would have some degree of theoretical knowledge. For example, according to Payne the power of professionalism involves the competence through knowledge. This may argue that social workers who obtained a social work degree would have higher qualification alongside increasing knowledge and authority as they more understanding of putting theoretical claims into practice. In relation to training profession require training to keep up to date with current skills, legislations and knowledge so that they can provide a better service to their clients. Social work profession has a history of different approaches to training and development to a point of needed a degree instead of a diploma to become a social worker. Professional autonomy within profession is about professionals dealing with their own affairs. Corresponding, social work is between decision-making and taking into consideration ethical views as to what is acceptable. To a degree of altruism professionals would seek guidance through competency, experiences and understanding complexity of dilemmas. This concept is the same factor for a social work profession as social workers would need to follow their code of practice coherently. To ensure that the profession is meeting the codes of practice, regulation is maintained through organisations including the SCIE, CSCI, GSCC and Skills for care. In general, social work can be recognised as a profession. Furthermore, throughout the years Social work profession reputation has been damage to extent as qualified social workers leaving the profession as they feel it is demanding profession.




Approximately 250 words