Understanding of social work in the Indian context varies from person to person. For instance a needy person understands it as charity and the rich person some times understands it as a channel that eases guilt. Politicians, doctors, engineers, teachers think that they too are doing social work in discharging their duties. Therefore, the identity of a social worker seems to be misunderstood. As a result common people see social worker to be a charity worker, a volunteer, a service provider; very few see the values, knowledge and skills related to social work and find it very difficult to understand who really is a social worker.
We, the students of MSW need to clarify the distinction between professional social worker and the misconception or what people generally understand by the term ‘social worker’. Yes, no doubt professional social worker began with charity, volunteerism, rendering help etc. But it has grown through various stages of transformation as per the growing needs of the time and situation.
The confusion about social work is also generated by the fact of people doing “social work” with a degree and without a degree. Professional social work requires certain competence stemming from a pool of knowledge, skills and practice methods; it is backed by a set of principles, values and ethics. To learn and acquire these, a diligently designed and executed course curriculum is needed. It is all the more imperative in the fast changing and complex social, economic, political and cultural scenarios of today.
Social work is what a social worker does. But it is a very narrow view on social work and social worker. A professional social worker is one who promotes positive social change, solves problems in human relationship, empowers and liberates people to enhance their well being; one who utilizes the theories of human behaviour and social system; one who intervenes at the point where the people interact with their environment and when human rights and justice are at stake. A social worker practices a profession that consciously and systematically promotes human dignity especially of those pushed to the fringes of soceity.