World Social Work Day is on the 18th March 2014 and I’m sure there will be a lot of discussion, debate and celebration of the occasion.

The Executive Committee of the International Federation of Social Workers (IFSW) has put forward a new proposed global definition of the social work profession – but due to the real difficulty and stress that social workers in the UK have to deal with, how much relevance or attention will be paid to it by your average social worker in offices up and down the country?

“Social work is a practice-based profession and an academic discipline that promotes social change and development, social cohesion, and the empowerment and liberation of people. Principles of social justice, human rights, collective responsibility and respect for diversities are central to social work.  Underpinned by theories of social work, social sciences, humanities and indigenous knowledge, social work engages people and structures to address life challenges and enhance wellbeing.” is the proposed new definition.

When you’re sitting in a draughty court waiting room for 5 or 6 hours at a time, or trying to placate an extremely agitated person with severe mental health troubles from hurting themselves or others, or watching a child covered in bruises being examined by a paediatrician – or indeed any of the many many traumatic and desperate situations social workers have to deal with, it’s almost impossible to find time or effort to consider the world or the variation in social work that takes place in the 90 countries affiliated to the IFSW.

Of course the UK is no different in having its share of social problems. In many other countries it’s more acute, immediate and heart rendering— the thousands of children dying of AIDS in Africa or the horrors of poverty and starvation in so many parts of the world, or even the violence perpatrated to the most vulnerable.

It’s just so difficult to find overarching descriptions and universal explanations. Social work in many countries is a voluntary arrangement and there are countries where social workers have a military rank. We know that in most western industrialised countries the status of social workers is higher than in the UK.

So the celebrations will be different all over the world. I would recommend that people look into IFSW as one of the positive outcomes is the feeling of solidarity with over half a million colleagues world wide.

I just wish we had more time to think about our colleagues and their work – as I wish we had more resources in the UK to be able to do our jobs properly and fulfil the expectations we had when we trained.

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