John Gal & Idit Weiss (Tel Aviv University)
"Exploring the Engagement of Social Workers in Social Policy"
Social workers are the professionals most associated with the modern welfare state and with its social policies. These professionals are generally regarded as primarily street-level bureaucrats who implement the social policies determined by decision-makers. However, a key ethos of the social work profession is that its members further social justice through, what has been termed, “policy practice”. In other words, social workers are formally committed to furthering the welfare of their client groups through more just social policies by playing a role in the policy process. But do social workers really engage in policy formulation as an integral part of their professional activity or do they focus solely on assisting individuals and families?
In our lecture, we will draw upon diverse cross-national and Israeli studies that we have undertaken over the last decade in order to examine if social workers (and social work academics) do indeed play a policy role and, if they do so, what form this takes and what are the factors associated with this. The findings of our studies indicate that “policy practice” is indeed an integral part of the social work discourse and is a component in social work training in different countries. While not the major focus of the professional activity of most social workers, our research indicates that social workers do engage in policy practice and that this takes different forms. We will offer a conceptual framework to identify the factors associated with the levels and the forms of social workers’ policy engagement.