Thursday, January 29, 2009



The Bulgarian association hosted the seminar.

Bulgaria: 4 persons from national association
2 persons from the University
Serbia: 2 persons from national association
1 person from the University
Chair: Tatjana Katkić Stanić, Executive Committee (also representing Croatia)

The seminar started 18th of October at 9 a.m. and finished at 6 p.m.
The day before there was a discussion about special issues for Sofia seminar “Education, training, and professional development” at Sofia University.

Introduction of the participants; basic information about themselves and social work in their countries – presentation of country project questionnaires and information table

Bulgaria, Serbia, and Croatia are all part of “Eastern” Europe but there are also differences between them.
As the only socialist country ex Yugoslavia developed social services and educated social workers. Croatia has a 56 years old tradition in the area of professional social work, and Serbia also has a 54 years old tradition.
In 1972 (Croatia), and 1974 (Serbia) started a new university program; 4 years obligatory to became a social worker.
Education for social workers in Bulgaria started in 1991, before that “social care workers” were a part of medical academy and consisted in taking care of older people and people with various disabilities.
In accordance with Bologna process in Croatia, Serbia and also in Bulgaria a new study program was accepted which consists of the four-year under-graduated program, and one year graduated program in social work.
In all countries social work profession is regulated by the state, in Croatia and Serbia social work may be carried out only by professional social workers, but Bulgaria still has a problem with non-professionals, especially in NGOs.
Croatia is in a process of finishing a law regarding the profession and it should be prepared by the beginning of a year 2009 for a government to vote on it. This law will set up the professional standards and will govern the licensing of social workers.
In Croatia and Serbia all rights and services from social care domain regulated by the law on social welfare are put into practice by the state network of Centers of social welfare (general social work, custody, legal protection of families, protection of physically or mentally challenged, protection and care for children and youth with behavioral disorders, first instance court help).
Bulgaria took on the “American model” of social services with agencies for specific fields of social work.
Being the countries in “transition”, Bulgaria, Serbia and Croatia are still in the process of decentralization, deinstitutionalization, and civil society development.
It was really difficult for all participants to define standards of social work practice, because standards for social services and standards for social work practice are not the same, and sometimes even opposite.

Similarly, Standards for social work are monitored by the state inspection. These inspections are mostly interested in the application of state laws and are not concerned with the quality of the social work standards, even less with the social work processes.
Caseload per social worker is extremely high in all countries, so that there is a high amount of stress and “professional burnout” among social workers.
In Bulgaria and Croatia the quality of social worker’s work is evaluated by the employers who also set the evaluation standards.
Formal social work supervision and education is not planned for and it depends on the employer.
Continuous education, training and supervision is organized and encouraged only by professional associations, but due to the lack of resources there are not too many opportunities for such activities.
Lots of administrative work, high caseload and bad work conditions do not provide adequately for high standards of social work practice.

As professionals, what should we do when we find out that the user’s perspective opposes the law?
What when the assessment of client’s well-being is in opposition to the laws prescribed by the state?
How to protect client’s rights and be part of governmental system?

From that we have concluded that the first aim of the project should be to define standards for social work profession on European level and have common European law.

Standards must take into account:
Key competencies
Education and training (lifelong learning)
Good practice
Condition of work
Code of ethics
User involvement
Protection of basic human, social and economical rights
Empowerment of clients

That should be the base for social work action in situations where social workers have to protect clients’ rights or their own rights when they oppose to standards and code of ethics.


We believe that social work should be done only by a professional with academic education. Level of education and qualification differs from country to country. In Serbia and Croatia there is only one university for social workers’ study but in Bulgaria social work is taught at eight different universities and practitioners are unable to evaluate the difference in education quality and to decide where one can get the best education for a social worker profession?
We realized that all Universities where social work is taught must have standardized programs, it is therefore necessary that professional associations, in cooperation with the universities, develop international standards for education.
It is our opinion that the base for good education consists of the following:
- basic knowledge about different fields of social work, social anthropology, sociology, psychology, social medicine, social policy etc.; in other words, a complex education in different areas
- social workers must possess multicultural knowledge about customs, different cultures, legacies
- social workers must acquire the knowledge about the essence and structure of relations between different groups and individuals and has to be able to predict the effect of these relations
- must know how to mediate and protect client’s rights when they oppose the law prescribed by state
- has to develop basic communication skills
- lots of supervised practice
- researches, projects
- study visits
- supervision as professional help
- exchange of good social work practice

We also believe that social workers must continuously develop their skills and knowledge through a “life-long” learning and learn some special skills relative to social work field (for example: counseling, child protection). Every social worker should have a license and possess basic competences to be able to do the work professionally and properly.

In Bulgaria initiative for education became dependant on the employers (usually state) and the same happened in Croatia and Serbia. This does not suffice and many social workers do not have the opportunity to attend seminars, workshops, symposiums, national and international conferences or trainings.
On account of that we propose that a legal initiative for educational standards on European level be taken and the obligation for employers to adhere to those standards be imposed.
Another issue is a stronger connection between social work theory and social work practice which together develop the standard and adapt it to user’s needs and perspective. We believe that professional associations and their examples of good or bad practice are underused by both university and employers as indicators of need for education.

Conclusions of the seminar:
- all participants are very interested to have a frame of common standards for both practice and education and to have the European law that will help members to impose standards on social workers, government and employers
- all participants would like to have opportunity to exchange good social work practice
- organizing workshops, seminars, symposiums, round table discussions, on regional level and European level
- organizing projects together
- stronger connection between social work theory and social work practice which develop the standard together
- involve professional associations in the development of educational and training programs for social workers

Tatjana Katkić Stanić
IFSW Europe Executive

1 comment:

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