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What is Social Work?


1.An Identification of key issues, for example discussions of the impact of political, economic, and social issues on current social work practice in this role or practical area.

2.An analysis based on critical theory drawing on radical, structural and post modern practice theories, as well as current policy and Practices.

3.An Evaluation of critical theory social work approaches in terms of their strengths and weaknesses.

4.Critical theory and Practice recommendations for you as a developing social work practitioner.

Social work refers to a profession that profession facilitates social change and development, social cohesion, and the empowerment and liberation of people (Australian Association of Social Workers, 2017). Social work also helps in developing, utilizing skills and understands social structures. Social workers have several areas of practice that may require individual social worker commitment or community participation. As a social worker, my area of practice is helping community deal with social problems. Critical social work is social work practice with main focus on the root cause of social problems such as social injustice and oppression without individual’s interest but rather community. Radical as a professional aspect of social work or seek to solve socialproblems (Mullaly, 2007). As social worker providing counseling to the community is a noble practice that requires much dedications and service to the community. Another aspect of critical approach involves the provision of education on a certain topic usually on social problems hence finding the solution to social problems. One critical approach is community center approach-beliefs, needs and strength, result based approach and solution based approach (Cooper, 2013).

There are many issues that currently affect critical social work practice. Some of these issues include political, economic and social issues and have a significant impact on the society or community that the social work practices. These issues are comprehensively discussed below.

Social issues affecting critical social work

Social issues are part of social work and have vivid influence on critical social work. Social issues that play key role in helping community understands social problems are personal beliefs personal strength, and weakness, psychological relationship, addiction, domestic conflict, and environment. Firstly, personal beliefs, strength, and weakness as an economic issue have an impact on counseling especially in Australia where counselor and client may have different beliefs and personal strength or weakness towards social problem (Fook, 2002). Secondly, the ability of a social worker to develop a good relationship with community assists the people to be open and express their problems to the social worker (Greene, 2008). Thirdly, other social issues such as social injustice also play a significant role in understanding social problems as many people do not easily know the causes. Political opinions or conflict is another social issue that currently has an impact on social work especially understanding social problems. Finally, the community relationship that can be found between social worker and the community also play a vital role in practice (Delshad, 2010).

Issues Affecting Critical Social Work Practice

Economic issues affecting critical social work

Economic factors are unemployment, discriminatory resource allocation and economic abuse. Firstly, unemployment is a major economic issue that affects social work in Australia. Though the government is currently working on ways to solve unemployment issues, unemployment remains serious challenge in many communities (Lundy, 2004). Secondly, poor resource allocation is another factor that has a direct impact on social work as most social workers has reveal the inappropriate resource allocation leading to financial challenges affecting social work. Moreover, some organizations that also works in hand with social workers in their bit to educate or counsel the community also political role in resource allocation to regions (Allan, 2003). Thirdly, the government of Australia identified economic domestic abuse as one of the financial issues that have impact on counseling. Resource distribution especially on economic, require educating the community on the on their rights that can help them get resource from the government.  This has made the government through Commonwealth Bank of Australia offer financial support to finance social workers (Agnew, 2004).

Political issues affecting critical social work

Political issues government policy, political diversity, firstly, the government policy that guide education or counseling to a substance abuse or domestic violence victims through financing counseling activities. Secondly, political diversity has an indirect impact on social work and to the understanding of social problems. Political diversity brings great differences between communities and social worker as various parties have different beliefs and weakness. This makes the social work practice get hindrance in some parts of the country especially in areas with social injustices (Delshad, 2010).

Theories and approaches to social work

Critical social work basically works to examine social problems and issues that include social injustice or oppression. An aspect of critical social work that also forms the theoretical framework of critical social work is radical social work theory and tends to bring understanding of contribution of social work to structural development that leads to understanding and solving social problems. Social work as a field of study has attracted much attention owing to the central role played in the society. Radical social work theory views social problems as the solemnly responsibility of political players. There are many approach and theories that have been advanced to explain social work practices. Collective working with the community is another aspect of critical social work that attempt to include all members of community to achieve common good. Collective social work is model that focuses on the aspect of critical social work such as making alliances (Zastrow, 2014; Ungar, 2011).

Theories of Social Work

Radical social work is a theory that is based on the development of structural aspects of the community as oppose to individualism. This implies that structures of institutions need to form in manner that does not promote social problems. In contrast to structural theory that aim at exploring causes of social problems, radical theory tries to push for structural change. In addition, radical with the aim of structural change identify managerial radical perspective for change in community. Managerial radical perspective assures social workers on assisting community understand the relationship between social problems and institution managerial structure (Zastrow, 2014).

Structural social work theory gives a better understanding of social problems as it seeks to understand differential resources as the cause of social problems (Mullaly, 2007). Moreover, the theory explains the type of morally society free of social problems that can be created and the way to create such societies. Structural theory is basically founded on the societal structure with respect to social problems such as disparities in resource distribution and unemployment. It is good to note that structural theory shows the structure of institutions as the basis of discrimination which is the recipe for social problems such as racism (Lundy, 2004).

Post-modern perspective of social work is highly influences every aspect of social work. Post-modernism influences our understanding of social problems since it has broader perspective that influences technological application in analyzing various issues in the society. As a practice post-modern indicates that the worldview on social problem currently focus on post-modern culture and other social structure.  This gives social workers new interpretation on culture and languages which are two main social structures (Healy, 2000).

Social work in Australia is under influence of policies and regulations that affect practices. Australian department of social services has policies and regulation that provide a framework for social work practice. The department also provides legislations that indicate the ethical framework that a social worker needs to operate. The government also has funding sources that are used to finance the institutions that conduct social work (Allan,2003). Moreover, currently, social work services faced with financial challenges threatening social work services in most places. Dealing with social problems on the other hand, as social work practice is guided by a much ethical code of standards. Practice also forms part of community health service and therefore is a critical part of community social work (Reamer,2006). Post-modern theories are based on a different view on the way we see and think about our society or social work. Moreover, post-modern mindset allows research on social work especially on human behaviour and their social environment. 

Approaches to Social Work Practice

Main approaches to social works have both strength and weakness. Some of these approaches are systems theory, task centred approach, solution-focussed approach and person centred approach, and psychosocial model.

Firstly, the critical approaches have strengths and weaknesses that can be discussed based on counselling as a way of practice. This approach can be used to assist people with recurring understanding social problems; it is a way of understanding the cause of the disturbing social problems and concentrate on radical theory, structural theory and post-modern understanding of social structures especially culture and language (Mullaly,2007). Weaknesses of critical approach to social with a focus on identification of social problems with minimal power to remove oppression, focus on causes and effects of the problem, is not culturally acceptable and easily manipulative (Sowers& Catherine et al., 2008). Secondly, the community-centred approach also has both strength and weaknesses. Strengths include utilizes different experience on community, respect the dignity of humans, and can get a solution from all people. Weakness include does not consider time, not easy for those not motivated, concentrate on a single community and not society in general. Weaknesses include require high training, is based on problems that the community has, and consider limited socio-economic factors (Sherraden,Laux& Kaufman,2007).

Based on the theories of social work there are three theories that are best and can be used as a social worker. These theories can be joined to come up with an approach called integrative approach. Critical approaches require the use of many models that can be related as means to get the best result (Freya, 2015). Firstly, historical based approach as applied in community involves allowing understand their problem from history with the bid to get a solution to their problem. This also gives the expert time to understand the problem better hence find the solution. Secondly, the task-centered approach that is evidence based practice and uses the community to come up with the objective to be achieved at the end of practice (Davies, 2002). In addition, the approach assists the community to identify the problem and possible solution to those problems. The two approaches or theories of social work are all useful in critical approaches and can be integrated into another approach called integrative or holistic approach (Butler& Gwenda, 2004).

The best critical approach that can be used in the identification of the problem and guide the community into finding a solution is an approach that has most of the characteristic of most of the best approaches to social work (Allan, 2003). As social worker the best practice of assisting people deal with social problems has the characteristics that is evident based, allowing the people to understand their problem, and uses culture perspective to get a solution. In order to apply this theory or approach the expert need to engage the community where the community uses historical evidence and weaknesses to identify problem and solution to those problems. In the field of social problems, integrative has been used to obtain a good result as this approach also uses other approaches or theories to solve the problem. This means that where one theory cannot be used another theory can work best (Ungar, 2011). 


In conclusion, social work is a practice that helps assist individuals, families, and community, in general, to identify and use resources. There are many areas of practice within the social works and one of these areas is dealing with social injustices. Dealing with social injustices utilizes various social work approaches such as community-centered, solution-centered, task-based approach and psychological approach. Of these approaches, the best approach that is should be used in social work is an integrative approach that is based on a combination of approaches since it can be used to identify problem and solution using different kinds of perspective.


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Sherraden, M.; Laux, S. & Kaufman, C. (2007), Financial education for social workers. Journal of Community Practice, 15 (3): 9–36.

Sowers, K.M. & Catherine N. Dulmus; et al. (2008), Comprehensive Handbook of Social Work and Social Welfare. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons.

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Webb, S. (2017), Professional Identity and Social Work. London, UK: Routledge.

Zastrow, C. (2014), Introduction to Social Work and Social Welfare: Empowering People. Belmount: Cengage Learning

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