Journal Article

Professional Ideologies and Preferences in Social Work: A British Study in Global Perspective

Johanna Woodcock and John Dixon

in The British Journal of Social Work

Published on behalf of British Association of Social Workers

Volume 35, issue 6, pages 953-973
Published in print September 2005 | ISSN: 0045-3102
Published online September 2005 | e-ISSN: 1468-263X | DOI:
Professional Ideologies and Preferences in Social Work: A British Study in Global Perspective

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This paper comes at a time when the social work profession in the UK is redefining its professional ideology and working practices in the face of key government initiatives for social work education and the regulation of practice. It seeks to contextualize and, thereby, inform these deliberations by providing a cross-national perspective. Indeed, the search for international perspectives that might advise or validate national perspectives on social work has become increasingly important (Midgley, 2001). The paper uses data from a global study (Weiss et al., forthcoming) that identifies and compares the attitudes of graduating social workers at the point of qualification in ten countries representing a diverse range of social, economic and cultural contexts (n = 781). Through a comparison of commonalities and differences of professional ideologies and practice preferences across samples, the paper distinguishes particular characteristics of the social work profession in the UK. Whilst a claim cannot be made to be representative, the findings present a set of empirically based contentions that provide information about what social workers are being trained for and what they prefer to do. Findings reveal a mix of psycho-social orientation, whereby a welfare agenda was preferred—one that co-existed with the espousal of elements of a statutory social work role in terms of ideology, level of practice, choice of technologies, age and population groupings and practice strategies. Whilst such a mix appeared contradictory in conceptual terms, the students appeared to reconcile the dilemma through the espousal of a particular value position. A key finding for policy makers and educators, however, concerns the fact that while the UK students felt willing to work through social problems in individual situations, they were unhappy about the extent to which they were able to utilize their therapeutic skills in statutory social work settings. Their preference would be to work in the independent sector.

Keywords: social work; ideologies; British; international; preferences

Journal Article.  9140 words. 

Subjects: Social Work

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