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Article

Social Work and Social Policy in Namibia  

Priscilla A. Gibson, Janet Ananias, Rachel Freeman, and Namoonga Chilwalo

Social work and social policy are intertwined in the Republic of Namibia and heavily influenced by its complex colonial sociopolitical history, struggle for human rights, and progress toward social development. These factors inform how the social and human needs of Namibians are being met. A human rights lens was adopted in 1990 by a democratic government that guided the delivery of social services to a diverse ethnic population. Namibia has successfully integrated social work into its society, supported by (a) a social justice mandate, (b) a capacity-building framework, and (c) Vision 2030. Social and human service needs are provided naturally by indigenous families and communities, and formal services are provided by governmental and nongovernmental agencies. This article consists of an overview of the socio-historical and political contexts of social work and social policies in this emerging democracy, along with special attention to four challenging and interrelated areas of social work practice including poverty, language and national identity, intergenerational caregiving and the Coronavirus pandemic.

Article

Social Policy and European Union Politics  

Mary Daly

Social policy has a particular character and set of associated politics in the European Union (EU) context. There is a double contestation involved: the extent of the EU’s agency in the field and the type of social policy model pursued. The former is contested because social policy is typically and traditionally a matter of national competence and the latter because the social policy model is crucial to economic and market development. Hence, social policy has both functional and political significance, and EU engagement risks member states’ capacity to control the social fate of their citizens and the associated resources, authority, and power that come with this capacity. The political contestations are at their core territorially and/or social class based; the former crystalizes how wide and extensive the EU authority should be in social policy and the latter a left/right continuum in regard to how redistributive and socially interventionist EU social policy should be. Both are the subject of a complicated politics at EU level. First, there is a diverse set of agents involved, not just member states and the “political” EU institutions (Parliament and Council) but the Commission is also an important “interested” actor. This renders institutional politics and jockeying for power typical features of social policymaking in the EU. Second, one has to break down the monolith of the EU institutions and recognize that within and among them are actors or units that favor a more left or right position on social policy. Third, actors’ positions do not necessarily align on the two types of contestation (apart perhaps from the social nongovernmental organizations and to a lesser extent employers and business interests). Some actors who favor an extensive role for social policy in general are skeptical about the role of the EU in this regard (e.g., trade unions, some social democratic parties) while others (some sectors of the Commission) wish for a more expansive EU remit in social policy but also support a version of social policy pinned tightly to market and economic functions. In this kind of context, the strongest and most consistent political thrust is toward a type of EU social policy that is most clearly oriented to enabling the Union’s economic and market-related objectives. Given this and the institutional set-up, the default position in EU social policy is for a market-making social policy orientation on the one hand and a circumscribed role for the EU in social policy on the other.

Article

Courts and Social Policy  

Jeb Barnes

How do courts affect social policy? Answering this question is deceptively complex. Part of the challenge stems from the sheer scope of contemporary judicial policymaking, particularly in the United States, where litigation reaches into nearly every nook and cranny of the American welfare state and casts a shadow on policy issues ranging from marriage equality to healthcare reform. Another obstacle is that scholars remain deeply divided on fundamental questions about the nature of judicial decisions and how their policy effects should be studied. These disagreements, in turn, have engendered three very different approaches to studying the role of courts in social policy that often talk past each other. The dominant approach views judicial decisions as prescriptive rules—legal commands from the bench—and asks: To what extent do judicial decisions change policy? This view implies that judicial decisions are “treatments” whose efficacy should be tested by measuring shifts in policy outcomes from the pre- to post-treatment period or across treatment and control groups. An alternative tradition envisages judicial decisions as a potential resource, which can be used by activists as leverage in building movements and pursuing agendas in multiple forums. Here, the core question is not whether court decisions produce abrupt policy shifts, but how activists use these decisions to challenge the status quo, mobilize interests, and generate pressure for policy change. A third approach sees legal precedent as a constitutive framework that shapes and constrains policymaking and its politics over time. The test for whether law matters under this approach centers on the degree to which judicial decisions influence the developmental trajectories of policy and politics, which includes consideration of paths not taken in the policymaking process. That is not to say that the literature is wholly discordant. Despite their significant conceptual differences, these approaches tend to converge on the general idea that judicial policymaking shares many attributes with other policymaking processes: the implementation of judicial decisions, like statues and regulations, is contested and subject to capture by sophisticated interests; litigation, like lobbying, is a form of mobilization that seeks to translate policy grievances into effective political demands; judicial precedents, like other policies, generate policy feedback. Identifying similarities between judicial policymaking and its counterparts is a signature achievement in the study of courts and social policy, which has largely dispelled the “myth of rights” and simplistic notions that the law is somehow removed from politics. Yet it arguably has had an unintended effect. Normalizing judicial policymaking—making it seem like other types of policymaking—threatens to render it less interesting as a distinct topic for research. This article suggests the time has come for all of the various research traditions in the field to return to foundational questions about what makes judicial policymaking distinctive, and systematically study how these particular tilts and tendencies influence the continuing colloquy that drives the policymaking process.

Article

Lobbying  

Sunny Harris Rome and Sabrina Gillan Kiser

Lobbying is the process of influencing public policy. It involves developing and implementing strategies to persuade those in power. Consistent with the National Association of Social Workers (NASW) Code of Ethics and the Global Social Statement of Ethical Principles, many social workers participate in lobbying campaigns to advance the well-being of their clients and to promote social justice. Some social workers become professional lobbyists, focusing their careers on government relations work. Successful lobbying involves forming and nurturing relationships with decision-makers and generating and sharing information. Key elements of a lobbying campaign include agenda setting, meeting with policymakers, coalition building, field organizing, testifying, and the strategic use of media. Social work education provides opportunities to gain the knowledge and skills necessary for engaging in lobbying efforts. Lobbying activity is regulated by government entities; although social workers and their employers should understand and comply with these rules, social workers are encouraged to remain as active as possible within these parameters. Future challenges include the demand for evidence to support policy recommendations and the inadequate numbers of social workers pursuing lobbying careers. While social workers can apply these concepts to international practice, this entry predominantly focuses on lobbying within the United States.

Article

Vigilante, Joseph  

Michael Reisch

Joseph Vigilante (1925–2005) made contributions to the fields of international social work and neighborhood-based social services and promoted the rights of people with developmental and learning disabilities. He became Dean of Adelphi's School of Social Work in 1962.

Article

Social Policy in Canada  

Micheal L. Shier and John R. Graham

The focus and aim of social policy in Canada have in part been determined by the unique sociohistorical and cultural context of the country. This entry provides a brief overview of the leading factors that have contributed to the development of social policy in Canada. Emphasis is placed on the economic, social, and cultural context of the development of the country, along with the system of governance and the ideological framework among the general populace. Following this contextualization, four dominant periods of social policy are described. These include the residual period, the emerging institutional period, the institutional period, and the postinstitutional period. In each era the forces leading to specific social policy outcomes are described. These include aspects of the changing economic system and emerging cultural and social needs among the population. Key social policies in each era are introduced and described. Fundamental to each period of social policy development are the efforts of the voluntary sector. In conclusion, future trends in social policy and social welfare in Canada are discussed.

Article

Privatization  

Andrew Dobelstein

Privatizing social services has taken a new turn as America enters the 21st century. Although it was once possible to separate private and public social services, the growing trend toward public–private partnerships has made such earlier distinctions meaningless since more and more private social services are supported with public money. There are advantages and disadvantages inherent in the mixing of public and private social services, but perhaps the greatest problem may be the support of a growing trend for all levels of government to dissociate themselves from their longstanding public social service responsibilities.

Article

Political Process and Youth Empowerment  

Jason Anthony Plummer

The political process refers to how individuals and groups make their concerns known to political actors. The animating force of the political process is social power. To that end, social workers should acquire political knowledge (e.g., factual understanding of voting rights) and critical analysis skills (e.g., an awareness of how social inequalities affect political outcomes) in order to support their clients’ and communities’ engagement in the political process.

Article

Sieder, Violet M.  

David G. Gil

Violet Sieder (1909–1988) was a social welfare educator and leader. She taught social planning, community organization, and rehabilitation at the Florence Heller Graduate School, Brandeis University. She organized the Massachusetts Human Services Coalition, serving as its first president (1975–1981).

Article

Congressional Social Work Caucus  

Charles E. Lewis Jr.

The Congressional Social Work Caucus is a bicameral authorized Congressional Member Organization (CMO) founded by former Congressman Edolphus “Ed” Towns in November 2010 during the 110th Congress. The mission of the caucus is to provide a platform in Congress that will allow social workers and allies to engage the federal government. The Social Work Caucus consists of members of the House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate who are professional social workers or who generally support the ideals, principles, and policies germane to the social work profession. Because of House Ethics rules, CMOs are prohibited from possessing resources of their own and must depend on the office budgets of their members. Consequently, the Social Work Caucus has participated in a number of congressional briefings and seminars in conjunction with other social work organizations such as the National Association of Social Workers, the Council on Social Work Education, and the Society for Social Work and Research. These public events covered a wide range of topics such as social workers’ roles in the Affordable Care Act, military social work, funding for mental health research, and trauma-based practice in child welfare.

Article

Social Work and the United Nations  

Robin S. Mama

The profession of social work has a long and rich history of participating in and influencing the work of the United Nations and its affiliate agencies, almost since the inception of the institution. This history includes not only the work of social work or social welfare organizations as accredited nongovernmental organizations, but also of individual social workers who were trailblazers in the field of international work. The founding conference of the United Nations in San Francisco in 1945 played a key role in establishing what has come to be a formal relationship between civil society and the United Nations. Article 71 of the United Nations Charter cemented this relationship by allowing the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) to make consultative arrangements with nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) (United Nations, 2003). The number of NGOs at the founding conference numbered 1,200; at present there are 3,900 NGOs that have consultative status with ECOSOC (Department of Economic and Social Affairs, 2014). Three of the leading social work organizations that have consultative status with the United Nations are: International Association of Schools of Social Work (received consultative status in 1947), International Federation of Social Workers—(received consultative status in 1959), and International Council on Social Welfare (received consultative status in 1972).

Article

International Social Welfare: Overview  

James Midgley, Elise Verdooner, and Murali Nair

The term international social welfare is used to refer both to social welfare policies and programs around the world and to the academic study of international social welfare activities. The entry focuses on the latter meaning and provides an overview of the evolution of scholarly inquiry into international social welfare, the key topics that have been identified and discussed by international social welfare scholars, opportunities for diverse global social welfare opportunities, the likely future development of the field and annotated web-based information about organizations active in this area.

Article

Education Policy  

Melissa Jonson-Reid and Sheretta Butler-Barnes

Educational policy in the United States has evolved over the last hundred years to address a vast range of issues, including creating a universal system of primary and secondary education, trying to ensure equity and access for students, preparing youth for the workforce, preparing youth for postsecondary education, improving academic outcomes, and school safety. The following summarizes key historical trends, judicial rulings, and legislative milestones that have helped form educational policy in the United States. The current role and potential for social work engagement in macro level advocacy for educational policy is also discussed. Special attention is given to current challenges.

Article

Burch, Hobart A.  

Sadye L. M. Logan

Hobart A. Burch (1932–2012) was a productive scholar whose career was distinguished by his commitment to creating a just and equal world. His career spanned several interrelated areas with the emphasis on policy and program development.

Article

State Fiscal Policy  

Alexis P. Tsoukalas

America’s individualistic national identity and regressive tax systems that favor corporations and the wealthy over everyday people have increasingly exacerbated inequality. Meanwhile, social welfare needs continue to outpace the resources governments employ to address them. While fiscal issues can be complex and opaque, holding governments accountable is imperative to counter long-standing oppression of those identifying as Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC), women, immigrants, and others. How state governments, in particular, raise and expend revenue has a dramatic effect on the public, especially as the federal government continues to decentralize social welfare to the states. Social workers are uniquely equipped to influence this arena, given their person-in-environment view and having borne witness to the numerous ways misguided priorities have severely harmed those they are called to serve.

Article

Social Work Education: Social Welfare Policy  

Ira C. Colby

The educational imperative to study social welfare policy has remained a constant throughout the history of social work education. Although specific policies and social issues may change over time, the need to advocate for and create humane, justice-based social policy remains paramount. The study of welfare policy contributes to the effectiveness of practitioners who are knowledgeable and skilled in analysis, advocacy, and the crafting of justice-based social welfare policies. In addition to traditional policy content areas, students should develop knowledge and skills in critical thinking, understand a range of justice theories, and recognize the direct interaction between globalization and national and local policy matters.

Article

Chamberlain, Edna  

Carolyn Noble

Edna Chamberlain (1921–2005) was appointed the first Professor of Social Work in Australia and was an inspirational figure promoting a more progressive social work and social work education throughout the country. As a role model for women, she rose to educational management and senior policy advocate in a profession dominated by men. Her contribution to academic life and services to the community and as prominent advocate for women’s advancement was honored by receiving a Member of the Order of Australia in 1988 and Doctor of Philosophy honoris causa in 1995.

Article

Beveridge, Lord William  

James Midgley

Lord William Beveridge (1879–1963) was one of the founders of the British welfare state. His report of 1942 formed the basis for the Labour Government's social policies between 1945 and 1950 and fostered the creation of Britain's national health services.

Article

Grand Challenges for Social Work  

Marilyn Louise Flynn, Richard P. Barth, Edwina Uehara, and Michael Sherraden

The Grand Challenges for Social Work (GCSW) derived from a commitment to strengthening society through science and has identified 13 grand challenges through an iterative process. The GCSW has, in turn, developed 13 grand challenge networks that bring together researchers and practitioners and focus their capacities around achieving innovative solutions to these challenges. These networks develop and disseminate interventions at all levels (including university-based interdisciplinary grand challenge entities), giving productive focus to the work of social work and our allies. The Grand Challenges for Social Work are helping to galvanize policy developments that draw on expertise from across the profession and exemplify social work’s scientific and pragmatic traditions and its capacity for broader societal impact.

Article

Titmuss, Richard Morris  

Maryann Syers

Richard Morris Titmuss (1907–1973) was a scholar, administrator, and educator who developed the subject area of social policy and administration as an intellectually respectable field of inquiry. He was chair of Social Administration at the London School of Economics.