I think a better question to ask might be how our society can help social workers be more effective at helping those who need help. For example, how many times must we here stories about children who die at the hands of family or care takers when social workers were informed prior to the death that there were problems in the family. Our community recently lost a child whose family had been hotlined to county family services on more than one occassion, and on each of these occasions nothing was done-intervention was attempted.
Social Workers are able to help families that need access to the various organizations that offer assistance. Whether it is public assistance or putting a family in touch with a local church that can provide money for a meal or two.
No society is ever perfect, and to some degree there will always be those who are hungry, abused, mentally ill, homeless, etc. Social workers are a safety net for the most vulnerable in society and without them, life would be hopeless and dark for a lot of people.
With increasingly abusive relationships in our society, intervention is often needed by professionals. Social workers advocate for abused wives, abused children, and abused elderly people in institutions and in homes.
Social workers are specially able to help people deal problems that have multi-faceted impact on their lives. I think is especially true in a school setting. For example, the social worker is helping a girl who is homeless to make sure that she has the proper documentation to receive a free school lunch, but she is also working with that girl's emotional issues that come from being homeless and how that impacts the girls social life, her ability to complete school work, and the relationships she has with her peer group.
Another example is a social worker will work with the mildly autistic child to cope with his or her issues, but will also talk with him or her to give them strategies to have better interactions with peers and more academic success in the mainstream classroom.
The social workers at our school are the first line of help for the emotional fragile children, the pregnant teens, the friendless, the chronically truant, and just about everything else! The teaching staff would be lost without them!
Basically, this is because there are many people who have problems that need professionals to be able to help them.
For example, my nephew goes to an elementary school in which there are kids from a huge variety of ethnic backgrounds -- Bosnian refugees, African refugees, lots of Muslims, etc. Many of these people are very new to the US. Their kids need help in dealing with the transition to their new life in the US.
This kind of thing is why we need social workers.