Social workers have, for more than a century, been a significant and increasingly substantial occupational group in the UK and other parts of the world. From their beginnings within the framework of voluntary societies, they have moved steadily, as public employees, towards the hard centre of our democratic welfare economy. They grow accustomed to the fact that members of society who have no need of their services may view them and their profession with some ambivalence. Thirty years ago, in The Essential Social Worker, I argued that they play a crucial part in the maintenance of our complex community in a state of approximate equilibrium. This remains true.
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