Throughout the life cycle and in diverse social situations, a person is liable to suffer from disadvantage and distress. Individuals, families and communities are susceptible to poverty, to physical and mental health issues, and to dependencies that can lead to social exclusion, harmful behavior, delinquency and family violence.
The institutions, the services, and the cash benefits of the welfare state offer support in these situations. These provide members of society with social rights, with access to a safety net throughout the life cycle, and with psychosocial services that assist individuals and families in need.
The social mandate of the social work profession is to ensure the wellbeing of people by affecting social policies, forging partnerships with communities and service users, and responding directly to the psychosocial needs of individuals and families.
In order to fulfill its mission, social work draws upon a commitment to engage in practice that is grounded in social justice, knowledge and skills. These principles are linked to a fundamental approach that focuses upon dynamic interactions between a person and his or her environment. People are affected by the systems that comprise their environment – their families, communities, culture, as well as social policies and social welfare services. Improvement in the wellbeing of people requires a deep understanding of these systems and the intricate ways in which interactions between people and their environment are created, and of the means by which they can be improved.
As such, social work can be defined as a profession that furthers human wellbeing in society through the development and application of research-informed knowledge, by actions that seek to bring about social change and better social policies, and by general interventions with individuals and their families to create a relevant body of responses – intra-personal, inter-personal, material, occupational and rehabilitative.
Social work is undertaken in a wide range of service settings provided by the state, local authorities, and civil society that serve very diverse social groups. Social workers engage in various roles ranging from direct practice with individuals and families, through community work, administering social services, engaging in advocacy, and actively participating in social policy formulation.
Given the wide ranging expertise required from social workers, in Israel the profession is taught in academic institutions and its practice is regulated by the Social Workers’ Law. Social workers also play a role in developing theoretical, research, and practice-based knowledge in their academic studies and by joining the research and teaching staff at schools of social work.
Becoming a social worker is an exciting and challenging process of personal development and it offers an opportunity to engage in practice that not only helps others but reflects individual and social values.