Is it true that social work is distinct from other proffessions in that it has the both the responsibility and mandate to provide social services?

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ophelious eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I don't think this is true, per say, because in order for the statement to be true it would have to meet all three of the assertions:

  1. Social workers have a responsibility to provide social services,
  2. Social workers have a mandate to provide social services,
  3. Social workers are distinct from other professions because other professions do not afford their workers both of these.

The problem with this statement is largely in its choice of terms.

  1. Social workers are any workers whose primary goal is to improve the quality of life of others.
  2. The profession known as "social work" includes a wide variety of workers, with different levels of training, licensing, and legal authority. It is not possible to say that all social workers meet the three criteria listed.  For example, those involved in social work from a policy standpoint do not necessarily have a mandate to provide those social services.
  3. The word responsibility is a tricky one.  Every job, technically, has a list of responsibilities, but the word here is used more to imply a moral responsibility.  Ethics are always debatable.  Does a homeless shelter have a responsibility to provide services to those who won't follow the shelter rules?  A responsibility implies that they do.
  4. A mandate is a command or authorization.  Depending on how you look at it, the statement either says that social workers have been ordered to provide social services, or that they have been authorized to do so.  The problem with this part of the statement is that many other agencies, such as the prison system, have been ordered to to provide social services.

I guess what I'm getting at is that the statement, while sounding true on the surface, is not.  Other agencies have a responsibility to provide social services and authorization to do such.  It is not distinct in this way.