Skip to main content
main-content
Top

About this book

Adopting a global frame of reference, this text provides a clear and comprehensive comparative analysis of international social work, using case studies to illustrate practice issues in different geographical locations. This book is essential reading for all students of social work taking modules on international practice.

Table of Contents

1. Introduction — The Global Growth of Social Work

Abstract
As a formal profession, social work can be dated from the late 1800s (Payne, 2005). These early beginnings can be seen in the combination of activity to create formal education and training for the various practices that were called ‘social work’ at that time. The objectives of early social work were focused almost entirely on assistance for those people who were seen to be experiencing problems of daily life that were grounded in poverty. Whether we consider the work of the Charity Organization Societies, hospital almoners and ‘police court missionaries’ (focused on assistance to individuals and families) or the work of the Settlement Movement (focused on communities) the common factor was the impact of industrialization, urbanization and modernization on those people who were regarded as lacking resources to deal effectively with the problems that they encountered.
Richard Hugman

2. Different Visions of ‘International’ in Social Work

Abstract
When we think about international social work we are effectively combining a number of different elements into one concept. In the previous chapter we briefly considered an important difference between ‘global’ and ‘international’ in relation to social work. In this chapter we bring to the discussion of various approaches to the meaning of ‘international’ and how these relate to our understanding of social work as a professional activity. So, to understand the concept fully we need to disentangle the separate strands.
Richard Hugman

3. Social Work with International Issues

Abstract
In the previous chapter we saw how international social work has five major dimensions, which can be understood in terms of whether it is a social worker, a service user or a social problem that can be seen to have crossed national borders. Yet we have also noted that although this distinction has some explanatory value, at the same time it may tend to oversimplify what is happening in the practice of international social work. So this chapter will look in greater detail at particular examples of substantive international issues and the way in which our understanding of these helps to construct an analysis of social work ‘between countries’. There is an extensive range of topics that could be addressed, so to some extent any discussion necessarily has to be selective. In this chapter we will focus particularly on those areas of social work that are concerned with some sort of movement between countries and across national borders. As far as possible, this discussion will avoid simply looking at a comparative analysis of the situation in specific countries, although such a focus can inform the study of international social work so, where appropriate, some international comparisons will be considered.
Richard Hugman

4. Social Work and the UN Millennium Development Goals

Abstract
Underlying the issues that have been discussed in the previous chapter is the sense that the development of human society, in all of its aspects, can be described as ‘distorted’ (Midgley, 1997). At the same time as human ingenuity has produced ever more complex technology, for example extending dramatically the way in which food can be produced, the development of human society continues to see disparities between different parts of the world and between people on grounds of socio-economic class, sex, age, ethnicity and ‘race’, sexuality and (dis)ability. Debates about the causes of and solutions to poverty and other factors limiting social development have, of course, proceeded over many decades. In the 1990s, at an international level, and increasingly in many individual countries, these debates were dominated by economic concerns couched in the terms of the theoretical and ideological position which is usually referred to as ‘neo-liberalism’ (Deacon, 2007; Correll, 2008). That is, social development (including human advances in health, education, cultural activity, community and family life and so on) was seen among the most powerful institutions and decision makers to be entirely dependent on, and in some cases simply a derivative of, economic growth.
Richard Hugman

5. Different Forms of Social Work: A Pluralistic and Inclusive View

Abstract
In the previous chapters a very broad understanding of social work has been presented, ranging from the micro- to the macro-level of theory and practice1. So far, however, we have not addressed the debate that has existed within social work concerning the identity of the profession and whether it should most appropriately be focused on intra- and inter-personal issues or on questions of social systems and structures. To what extent can it be argued that post-trauma counselling and therapy with refugees settled in a country of the global North, poverty alleviation among slum dwellers in cities of the global South and environmental management programmes in Asia and Africa all appropriate sites for socials work practice? In order to understand the way in which a consideration of international social work can assist the analysis of social work as a whole, the discussion now turns to a question with which social work has struggled since its early development in the nineteenth century. That is, should social work focus on social issues and human needs at the micro- or the macro-level as defining its core nature?
Richard Hugman

6. The Organizational Contexts of International Social Work

Abstract
Social work is overwhelmingly an agency-based profession. This is as much the case in the international field as it is in domestic practice. Consequently, to understand international social work it is necessary to examine the agencies and organizations within which social work is practised or which represent the profession of social work at the international level. In this chapter, therefore, we will examine three different types of organizations that are particularly significant for the field.
Richard Hugman

7. International Perspectives on Social Work Education and Training

Abstract
In 2004 the IASSW and the IFSW together approved a document to establish global standards for education and training in the profession (Sewpaul & Jones, 2004). The process of producing the global standards (as the document quickly came to be known) was through a joint committee of the two organizations, with representation from each of the regional groupings within both. This document was intended to identify common features in social work education around the world, and to make these available as guidelines that will facilitate the further development of appropriate national standards (Sewpaul & Jones, 2004, p. 503). Sewpaul and Jones note that the possibility of identifying any universal position on this aspect of the profession was contested. As we will see, the eventual document itself and the process have continued to be criticized from several different standpoints.
Richard Hugman

8. The Possibility of an International Social Work Ethics

Abstract
Since its earliest days social work has been defined not only in terms of the knowledge and skills that it brings to social issues and problems but also in relation to the values that are regarded as core to its identity. Indeed, for some social workers it is the values of the profession that are its defining feature (e.g., Reamer, 1999). However, such a position runs the risk of overstating the place of values in understanding social work, in that without being able to identify the knowledge and skills that social workers bring to their role(s) we are unable to say what it is that we do. Furthermore, all professions make claims to particular values. This can be seen both in the codes of ethics that are espoused by professions in health, education, law, science and so on, as well as in the wider notion that professions ‘pursue values’ (Koehn, 1994). By this, Koehn is referring to the idea each profession is formed around a goal that can understood as a ‘nonmoral value’ (that which is valued, but is good in itself and not as a moral issue). For example, in the case of medicine, nursing and the allied health professions it is the value of ‘health’ that is sought, or for teachers the value sought is that of ‘education’. In this sense we may say that the value pursued by social workers is that of ‘social well-being’, and indeed this notion is contained explicitly in the international definition of social work (IFSW/IASSW, 2000/2001). The ‘values’ of social work that are stated in the IFSW/IASSW definition to include ‘human rights’ and ‘social justice’ can therefore be seen as ideas that help us to understand what might constitute ‘social well-being’. Indeed, many social work scholars identify these, especially human rights, as the foundational, if not absolute, values of social work (Ife, 2001; Reichert, 2003; Mapp, 2008).
Richard Hugman

9. Professional Imperialism: A Concept Revisited

Abstract
Throughout this book a central theme has been that of the question about whether the nature of social work, and therefore of international social work, continues to be defined by its origins in the global North. An early statement of this as an issue that has to be addressed is Midgley’s (1981) critique of the way in which social work was internationalized through the transmission of theories and practices from global North to the South, for which he coined the term ‘professional imperialism’. Drawing on the wider historical analysis of imperialism and colonialism, Midgley argues that social work is not simply a technical matter that is independent of its social context. Rather, because relationships between countries of the South and the North were defined by colonialism the spread of social work inevitably has been bound up in these relationships. Thus, international social work can only be understood through an analysis that addresses the implicit ‘imperialism’ in claims to universality. Following from the discussion of cultural relativity and universalism in the previous two chapters we can see that the question of whether professional imperialism has been transcended is one that we still need to consider. Examining this question will also direct us back to the problem of whether it makes sense to think of social work as an international profession.
Richard Hugman

10. International Social Work: Issues for the Future

Abstract
Conclusions reached by recent studies of international social work differ in many ways in their implications for future developments. For Healy (2008a) the continued growth of internationalism provides the basis for an open, inquiring dialogue between forms of social work in different parts of the world. The risk for social work in any country, she argues, is that it gets caught up in a tendency to isolationism that follows from too great an emphasis on national and cultural differences and the threats to security that follow from increasing global tensions. Healy is especially concerned that matters of cultural difference and security must not be used as reasons to undermine human rights (p. 360). (It is important to recognize that Healy is writing in the USA and reflecting on the years following 11 September 2001.)
Richard Hugman
Additional information