The Role and Purpose of Social Work: A Workshop

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The health and well-being of older persons benefit largely from Social Support Services and this is well documented by studies such as those done by Nutbeam (1998); Seeman (2000); Musich, Ignaczak et.al. (2001); Giumarra, Black et.al (2004) etc. unfortunately, these studies do not adequately cover the benefits to older persons from Culturally and Linguistically Diverse (CALD) conditions. The National Ageing Research Institute however, conducted a study that confirms that this group derives a lot of benefits from Social Support Services.

It supplies occasion for socialisation, physical exertion and contact with support services (including carer support) which are some of the crucial purposes of these services and significant reasons why clients seek these services. Yet a lot of differences have come forth to do with the requirements of high maintenance persons as opposed to those with simple needs. The concerns raised by people of CALD backgrounds included:

  1. More information and usage of Home and Community Care services.

  2. Initiating unofficial sustenance networks for patrons and carers from CALD environments and:

  3. Development of understanding of the notion of the role of carer in CALD society.

To facilitate the attainment of these goals, a system where stakeholders are able to converse in the same language is of key significance to the CALD group, as well as having delivery of services in a culturally sensitive approach. It was also stressed that partnerships developed by CALD with more conventional agencies which share resources improve services to clientele through culturally apt service delivery.

There were bottlenecks identified that hamper the delivery of Social Support Services by agencies. These comprised inadequate staffing resources, equipment, transportation and field trips as well as attraction and retention of volunteers. In spite of this, there have been some advances reported in good practise within these parameters.

The discipline and profession of social work requires a single domain to distinguish it from other professions. In Europe, there currently exists a popular theory and practise based on Nikles Luhmann. Nikles Luhmann came up with a theory in which the social system is made up of communication and nothing else, including human beings, conscious mental states, roles or actions. The communications apparently beget communication (Luhmann, 1987 p. 113).

Workshops are effective in fostering training, progress, team-building, communication, incentive and preparation. The staff derives a sense of ownership and are empowered by being involved and participating and this assists them to develop. An effective vehicle for managing change, attaining development and creating initiative, working out plans, processes and actions is the workshop. They are also an effective means of breaking down barriers, enhancing communication inter- and intra-departmentally and incorporating staff after a merger or take-over.

Workshops are an effective tool for building relationships with clients. They are the foremost, most beneficial motivational team-building module emphasising the crucial priorities and personal areas of concern which should ideally blend with business and departmental goals.

The social worker is identified as the instrument of their profession who functions as the agent of change. They do this in an aiding relationship with the client that facilitates introduction of ideas related to self-awareness of the social worker. The term used by social workers to illustrate the ability of decisively and deliberately using motivation and capability to communicate and interrelate with others in ways that encourage change, is known as conscious use of self (Sheafor & Horejsi, 2003, p. 69).

Cultural diversity has been associated with the social work to do with race, and ethnicity; but it is taking on a wider meaning including social and cultural understanding of persons originating from different genders, social classes, ages, mental and physical capacity, religious beliefs and sexual orientation. A look at literature review in recent years highlights the areas of concern that need culturally sensitive and competent interventions.

Outline of Workshop

The National Ageing Research Institute survey revealed that the CALD group are featured largely in the Core Planned Activity Groups (PAG) i.e. Friendly Visiting and Telelink services. They were less featured in high PAGs. This could be explained by the composition of services; CALD agencies or organisations are the main service providers to the bulk of CALD clientele therefore are most likely to disseminate Core PAG services. On the other hand, perhaps it simply reflects the fact Core PAGs may encompass the needs of service users for now. There is an implication that the demand for culturally appropriate High PAGs may rise in the future as compared to other Social Services.

Currently, strengths based therapy is not considered a theory, but a viewpoint. While the strengths perspective has yet to be completely developed, according to William Sullivan, there has been a recognition that working from the personal and environmental strengths of the people has been important (Saleebey, 1992). The nuclear concepts of the strengths perspectives include empowerment, partisanship, renaissance and healing within, synergy, discourse and teamwork.

The major amenities provided by Social support are networking, physical exertion and sports as well as provision of meals. There were some organisational variations between CALD and the conventional agencies on the degree of provision of certain services. Education is offered by about half the Core PAGs affiliated with CALD agencies in contrast to about a fifth of conventional organisations and a tenth of High PAGs in conventional and CALD agencies.

Field trips however, are commoner in mainstream rather than CALD High and Core PAGs. A cost to benefit analysis shows that most agencies were going beyond the mandatory Department of Human Services (DHS) goals, in some cases, quite significantly. The services provided by CALD organisations rely primarily on volunteers with only a minority providing High PAGs which necessitate having staff who have specific skill sets.

Service providers and users raised common themes on the advantages of Social Support Services. Some of these were:

  1. Reduction of isolation or socialisation is the major responsibility for Social Services.

  2. Provision of support, relief and information for care providers as well as assisting in the maintenance of independence and living skills for clientele.

  3. There was consensus that attendance of the Planned Activity Group was of a benefit in terms of information obtained on health and safety as well as other aspects.

  4. There was an improvement in the quality of life of care users through increased physical activity, recreational opportunities and other social activities identified as features of Social Support services.

These and other factors are taken into consideration when planning for a workshop to empower employees of the organisation to be better able to carry out their duties toward their clientele. Since the participants are not social workers, it would be necessary to first equip them with the theory that informs interaction with clients. Thus when coming up with an outline, these are some of the considerations to be encompassed.

The outline to the workshop thus is illustrated below:

  1. Before the session, it is necessary to identify and come to a consensus on the goals or opportunities to be addressed. In this case, the social support of the predominantly Sudanese, Pacific Islander and Aboriginal elderly families residing within a locale in Australia. It is important to identify their major issues when it comes to interaction with the organisation. These include:

  • A higher level of discussion with clientele while planning programmes.

  • Flexible care centred on clients’ needs and which acknowledges the differences between carers’ definitions of their function, service requirements and hopes.

  • More information on what services are available and what exactly they are entitled to.

  • More programs should be incorporated that promote healthy aging habits such as physical exertion in core PAGs.

  • Provision of core and high PAG so that individual needs can be met.

  1. The next step is to make a decision on what the workshop objectives are taking into account the calibre of the participants. A model of reference to determine this could be Tuckman ‘forming, storming, norming, performing model or the Tannenbaum & Schmidt model to set boundaries on the leeway levels and accountability allocated to the team during the workshops and what follow-up activities will occur.

  2. An appropriate date and location is then set for the meeting and an agenda set.

  3. At commencement of the workshop, there is an introduction and outline of the aims and timetable. A consensus on expected outcomes is reached and queries are answered. This should take about 5 minutes.

  4. Ideas and opportunities are brainstormed with the group using a flip chart or other device. The process should take 10-20mins.

  5. The group is divided into pairs or threes which then come up with an agenda which will assist in achieving the goals of training. 20-30mins.

  6. Group presentation; each group is given a maximum of 5 minutes to air their ideas and receive praise or critique for it.

  7. Once the agenda has been set and tasks agreed upon, then participants refine the outline and identify clear and SMARTER objectives; which can then be implemented during the workshop.

  8. This is followed up by training, heartening, supporting and inviting ideas for further training and development.

The strength-based view presents an affirmative structure for accepting the personal communal and systemic strengths in force in any condition (Brandell, 1997). The affirmative feedback gives practitioners the chance to augment motivation to alter and bring hope to the future according to Hepworth and Larsen (1997).

There is an alternate systems theory developed by Mario Bunge (1996, 1998). In 1996, Bunge described systems as a complicated object whose components and parts are linked with other parts of the same in a synergistic way that brings out emergent properties of the parts. In sociology, the system is a tangible scheme made by social animals who;

  1. Share a universal milieu.

  2. Relate with other system members in a cooperative system. A human social system is one that is made up of human beings and their relics (Bunge 1996 p. 271).

Rationale of Presentation

Child and family services standards were revised in 2004 to provide for a strengths based model; i.e. those that promote services that recognise and encourage existing strengths and hardiness rather than simply concentrating on threats and deficits (June, 2004 p. 27). This principle behoves workers in the field to record pertinent data about familial strengths, requirements and susceptibilities.

The Children and Youth Review in British Columbia according to Hughes (2006) advocates that the Ministry service conversion is propped up by training of workers, cash injections in services and enough preparation and assessment. The workers echo these sentiments stating that while it is presumed that they know about nurturing a relationship and its significance, being educated on incorporation of Ministry standards to do with child safety and other issues is a process. The influence of the guidelines of practise cannot be overestimated. Workers tend to go into the field with an emphasis on the shortcomings of clients which may account for examinations that emphasise what is dysfunctional about the client. Fostering best practise involves philosophically steadfast and caring training and documents despite legal structures leaning toward more evidence based practise at the expense of support for the family (Connolly, 2005).

The workshop is designed to assist participants to appreciate the cultural diversity of their clients and to empower them to give them the best possible assistance. The word culture entails the incorporated weave of human behavior which comprises thoughts, actions, beliefs, customs, communications, values, and racial, ethnic, religious, and social groupings (NASW, 2000b. p. 61). Culture is often defined as the entirety of traditions that are conveyed from generation to generation. It encompasses people with disabilities, gays, lesbians, or transgender, and people of religious backgrounds.

Social workers are held up to a certain standard of conduct. The surfeit of circumstances that they handle means that a certain quantity of prudence and judgement is necessary in relation to the ethics attendant upon the situation. There is however, a baseline assessment to which social workers are held, and the responsibilities outlined lie in the following categories.

  1. Common Moral Responsibilities; these are steered by certain values including deference for personal dignity, obligation to collective justice, competent provision of service, and professional uprightness.

  2. Responsibility to clients; this includes prioritising clients’ welfare, minimising conflict of interest, allowing for client self-determination, ensuring the client gives informed consent, recognising the limits of clients’ self-determination, awareness of prevailing cultural norms, confidentiality of information, and precise and unbiased record-keeping.

  3. Accountability to colleagues.

  4. Responsibilities in the administrative centre; this includes providing services and management of social workers.

  5. Responsibilities in certain environments; for instance educational, instruction, direction and assessment. As well as research and private practice.

  6. Last but not least, responsibility to the profession.

Please find attached, PowerPoint presentation on content of the workshop.

Theory of Workshop Presentation

Times are changing rapidly in an unprecedented way. Workshops and training are a useful tool to help prepare for it. There has been an exhortation to change focus from the status quo to more efficient management practises for the future (Vakola, Soderquist & Prastacos, 2007). This is achieved via an outline of the right combination of abilities and behaviour that assist in delivery of objectives. In order to overcome less than expected outcomes from staff, workshops are used as a tool to develop necessary skills. If this coaching is essential to the organisation then it must be incorporated within organisation schedules (Howe, 2008).

Social systems theory offers an approach to appreciate the systems and people’s relations with them. The objective is to resolve challenges in social functioning by altering interface with systems. Systems theory inspires both generalist and eco-systems practice. With the generalist approach the social worker and the client appraise the circumstances and settle on which system is the most imperative component of attention or centre for exertion, in the transformation effort. The component of attention is a system according to system theory and may include:

  • A miniature grouping

  • An outfit or organisation

  • A society or

  • A collective body such as a school, church or agency

Based on assessment of the various systems the worker and client solve the problems of the social functioning within the systems (Hick, 2000). In this case, the social worker and other volunteer workers at the organisation will dialogue with the group of special clients they have i.e. CALD elderly group from Sudan, Pacific and Aboriginals, to find out from them, what areas need to be addressed as outlined later in this essay.

The strengths-based, solutions-focused movement inside human services realises that progress occurs when there is recognition by a person of their existing strengths and resources which enables them to envisage improved expectations and build on their strengths to set a path to realise their aspirations. Personalised service strategy co-developed in a collaboration process by the social worker or other volunteers and culturally and linguistically diverse elderly group give a reflective focus to the process of helping (Crane, 2007)

The workshop goal therefore should be defined in this case as the better understanding of populations and how best to help the culturally diverse clientele that are the backbone of the organisation. As well as educating staff on the cultures of the clientele so that they can better understand their references.

The strength perspective creates the opportunity for professional knowing. It highlights two important things:

  • The power to heal oneself and make things right within one’s surroundings, and

  • The need for connection with the expectation that things can improve (Saleeby, 1996).

For social workers and volunteers adopting this approach, it is necessary to engage the individual as a contemporary, give affirmation and view the following factors as strengths:

  1. The self-awareness that people have developed about themselves and their environment.

  2. Individuality, personality, and merits that are inherent to people.

  3. The knowledge that people have of their environment.

  4. Inherent talent.

  5. Cultural and individual narrative and tradition.

  6. The society (Saleeby, 1997)

Lastly, it is important that the social worker not look at the client as a problem or pathology but as the potential solution to their challenges through harnessing their inner strength. Weick et.al (1989) states that discovery of these strengths and harnessing them to be useful and accessible is the nucleus of social work. Saleeby (1997) adds that the point is the process, not the goal. It is up to the client to determine what direction to take and to recognize their own strengths that will enable them to achieve their goals.

Professional and service-related educators want their students to be able to not only learn theory and comprehend its significance, but also the application of theoretical frameworks practically. To avoid the scenario where there is difficulty by students to translate theory into practice, it pays to integrate these two aspects of knowledge into any training schedule. This is important; that the students of professional courses can put practical application to theoretical knowledge. Hutchings (1990) stated that the priority is to be able to perform, to apply theoretical knowledge practicality (p.1). To assist scholars gain capability and competence as practitioners, it is necessary that they train in knowledge acquisition, self-awareness and skill building (Kramer, 1998). Practitioners are required to have skills in four areas; building relationships, investigating and inquiring, and sanctioning and exigency (Shebib, 2003). An important supplementary ability is to acquire and use knowledge from practice (Dorfman, 1996).

Cournoyer (2000), Ivey & Ivey (1999), Sheafor & Horejsi (2003) and Shulman (1999) all illustrate the strategized change process in social work. There are particular social work abilities that are characteristically utilised all through this process. However such skills are intentionally utilised in context of a helping relationship, whatever level they are practised at, be it micro-, mezzo- or macro-level. This concept is portrayed by Shulman (1999 p. 22) in his depiction of the Interactional Theory of Social Work Practise illustrated below.

You are a social work student on your first social work field placement in a small non-government agency which provides a range of services to the local region.  The region has a high percentage of elderly people, people from culturally and linguistically

This theory proposes that the social worker’s skill is essential in fostering a constructive working relationship, which is the means by which the social worker controls the result of practise. Neuman and Friedman (1997) emphasise the significance of self-esteem and cognisant use of self via mastery of one’s feelings and motivations as well as an understanding of how the client perceives them.

The encouragement of students to contrast conscious with unconscious use of self brings the concept out clearly. Navigating by instinct is not the right way for a professional social worker to conduct themselves. The motive cited by most students for entering the field is to help others, but this does not prevent unintentional harm from occurring due to insufficient self-awareness. Cournoyer (2000) states that due to the fact that social work entails the cognizant and purposeful employment of self as the conduit for knowledge, attitude and skills, the possession of the highest most unselfish motives can still be undermined by lack of self-awareness that leads to emotional or behavioural patterns detrimental to the client.

The personal principles, outlook, bigotry, and values of social workers impact on the way that they interact with the client. Either overtly or inadvertently, they reveal these attitudes within their work environment. This is why it is important to be self-aware and this will assist in keeping their helping relationship professional. A demonstration of unacknowledged prejudices may become a hindrance on varying levels of the client relationship.

Consequently, working on one’s self-awareness also includes developing cultural competence. It is the ethical responsibility of social workers both at micro and macro levels to be culturally competent according to the National Association of Social Workers’ (NASW) Code of Ethics (1996) Sections 1.05 and 6.04. There were ten standards of cultural competence adopted in 2001 by the NASW board based on the Code of Ethics and policy statement. This defined cultural competence as a set of harmonious mannerisms, approaches and guiding principles that merge in an entity and facilitate its efficient working in cross-cultural circumstances. While it submits that this phenomenon does not occur naturally, the policy proposes that social workers must acquire cultural competence via transforming cognitive learning into affective insight. That requires progression from cultural awareness to sensitivity before attaining competence.

Self awareness is addressed in the second standard which states that social workers should attempt to advance their understanding of their own cultural principles and attitudes in order to better appreciate the same in others. The eighth standard addresses professional training and stresses the requirement for training programs that facilitate the advancement of cultural competence in the profession.


Social support provided for elderly people from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds are delivered within an organisation. Most activities and volunteer coordination is centre-based with the priority being maintenance of the client’s ability to live at their home or within their community by facilitating a programme of events aimed at augmenting capacities for living full and active lives.

The type of activities which the organisation coordinates includes;

  • Recruitment, training, support and supervision of volunteers.

  • Facilitation of friendly visits between culturally competent volunteers and elderly persons.

  • Telelink which is a regularly scheduled conference call.

  • The running of carer support programs by volunteers.

  • Benefits to the elderly include socialisation and activities, provision of information and education and a rest for carers.

  • There are benefits to ethno-specific and multicultural groups which are the sharing of stories and cultural experiences as well as common language.


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