Tuesday, November 25, 2008


Standards in Social Work Practice Meeting (Human) Social and Economic Rights

The third Seminar on the IFSW Europe Project took place in Vienna at the OBDS (Austrian Association of Social Workers) A-1060 Wien, Mariahilfer-strasse 81-1-14, Vienna 21st, 22nd November 2008, with the following participants of these countries:

Romania: Valentin Tavnakop, Haidu Oyidin and Lucian Polexe
Lithuania: Dalija Snieskiene
Israel: Itzik Perry and Brian Auslander
Austria: Georg Dimitz and Dr. Christian Stark

Barbara Molderings, Germany, was Chairing as Executive Committee Member of IFSW Europe.

The Austrian Association hosted the seminar.

The seminar started Friday 21.11.08 2:00pm and ended Saturday 22.11.08 1:00pm.

Introduction of the participants and information about where they are working and how is the situation of social work in their countries

The development of social work in the present countries is very different. There were countries with a short history like Romania and Lithuania and others with a long history like Austria, Israel and Germany.

Israel was the first country where social work was regulated in the Social Act in 1996. The colleagues had to fight for it for over 30 years. All Social workers in Israel should be registered. The problem is that social workers employed by NGOs, are often not registered. But in all, over 90% are registered. The purpose of the law is to regulate the practice of social work profession in order to promote the welfare of the individual and society in Israel while maintaining human dignity and the principle of equality and to maintain an appropriate professional standard of behaviour among those who practice the profession of social work *
* Social Workers Act, 5756-1996
Even if there is a law in Israel, non social workers try to make social work as a profession, like in health services due to the freedom of employment.
Romania has since 2004 also a law. Social workers have to be registered, too. But only 2000 are registered and 3000 not.

Lithuania is fighting for a law, because a lot of social work is done by non professional social workers. The education of social workers started in Lithuania in 1992. There is no trade union especially for social workers

Austria and Germany have only regulations for the education of social workers and in some laws specific work is defined as only to be done by social workers.

For all the participants it was not so easy to answer the questionnaire. One reason was, to define standards in general is very difficult because there are different standards for different fields. The awareness of human rights in the daily work is mostly more subconscious.

The Aim of the Project

There was an agreement that the aim of the project should be to define clear standards for the social work profession. These standards should be the basic on which we can build a European house which rooms can be filled by the national association and their special needs of standards respecting their social work history and development, their culture, their laws. There was an agreement that we need European standards to support our members in demanding these standards from the social workers, the governments and the employers.

Standards and working conditions
Standards and working condition demand each other. First of all is the work load. If a social worker is due to many clients and problems is not able to reflect his work and has not enough time for a client, there cannot be good standards.

Another very important issue is money. Money has to be guarantied for the salary and for the work. Project money is only for a certain project and brings no certainty and continuity for the client and the social worker. For example if the money for a project has not arrived or will be paid late in Lithuania, social workers will get no salary over 3 month. In Romania a lot of project cannot be continued because there are no more funds, especially from the USA.

Another issue is the office of social workers. Does the place guarantee confidentiality? Is the computer safe? Are the files in a safe board?

Another issue is Supervision/Coaching. Does the employer give time for supervision and is it been paid? In Israel it is obligatory for social workers to take part in supervision. In Romania and Lithuania supervision is too expensive for social workers if it is not paid by the employer. In Austria for those working for the government or the municipalities supervision is obligatory but not for those working at the NGOs. In Germany it depends on the employer if you will get time for supervision and get it paid.

Standards and Practice
They all agreed that the basic of the social work profession is an academic education. The standards of the academic education are differing from country to country. There should be international standards for the education with the qualification of a University. Within in the study should be supervised practice. The basic of good standards in the social work profession is a good education with enough supervised practice.

Not everybody is able to do social work due to his/her personality. Therefore the entrance to social work should be licensed.

Another issue is the further education. That means a life-long learning to develop one’s skills. Am employer should be interested in developing the skills of his employees so he has to pay it if it links to the work.

There was a longer debate about Specialist-Generalist. Is it better to specialize in a field or is it better you can do all? It was agreed that in some fields you need a specialized social worker like in probation or Debts Counselling. A Generalist has to know his/her limits, when he or she has to ask someone else. Sometimes it is good to work in a multi professional team.

Standards and Human Rights
As said in the beginning of the daily work the participants are not aware of human rights. It is obvious for them that all respect human rights. They will become aware of them when there are problems as loyalty problems. What happens, when the employers want a work that is against human rights? For example the social worker is not allowed to support a refugee even if he or she is in need.
The participants agreed that each of our member organisation should have the ethical code and that the code should be given to the employers, but to have the code and have no mechanism when a social worker acts against human right it is more or less paper and has no power.
Due to human rights, social workers have to name injustice that means that bravery is one of the standards of social workers.

Which tasks can only be performed by social workers?

The classical tasks are: case management, group management and community management. The Romanian colleagues said that only social enquiry, social assessment and case management can be done by the social work profession. Israel thinks that it might be dangerous to make a precise list of tasks. Lithuania said that social work is based on community work.

User Involvement and Standards
User involvement is an important standard of the social work profession. That means:
Decisions which are made should be transparent and if possible in agreement with the client. The social worker has to speak with a client on an eye to eye level. Negations and contracts have to be signed by the social worker and the client. If there is an emergency case and a social worker has to act immediately, he has to try afterwards to work with the client.

Empowerment of clients is one of the standards in social work. That means to strengthen clients in knowing their rights, in developing in their way, in respecting their culture and environment.


Romania is very much interested to get a frame of common standards. They want to have a project especially for Romania and need the support of IFSW Europe. They will send a draft of the project.

Israel made a lot of progress in the last 50 years. It is important for them to find a common basic for the standards. They will discuss it with their colleagues, and bring the results back to IFSW Europe.

Lithuania will bring forward the development of the social work profession and is it important for them to have the social work standards to discuss with the government and the universities, the social workers and the students. Sometimes the connection between human rights and social work standards is not so clear.

All agreed that the economic and financial crisis will influence the social work profession.

Barbara Molderings 23.11.08

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