Social workers make the world safer, healthier and more inclusive by helping vulnerable individuals, but they also engage with supporting entire communities. They might step in when a town lacks access to health services or schools, or if there is a problem with homelessness that has started to escalate.
Both generalist and clinical social workers search for solutions in partnership with the people they serve. The impact of their work is far-reaching. It can reshape entire neighborhoods and influence government policy, ensuring that new legislation effectively supports stronger communities.
People who want a career that will allow them to make their home town a better place should consider pursuing a master’s in social work online at Cleveland State University. This course is open for degree graduates in any field. It blends practical placement work with expert tuition to prepare students for their first role in this rewarding profession.
How do social workers advocate for communities?
Advocating for communities encompasses many social work specialisms. Some practitioners promote social justice, while others are concerned with economic or environmental issues.
Supporting positive change
To solve problems and improve lives, generalist social workers use their professional skills and knowledge of local resources, as well as collective action. They support families and individuals, but they might also organize meetings to involve more local people. The end goal of their advocacy is to develop better services and support a higher standard of living.
Bringing people together
To unite local people, social workers can train community leaders, design programs and help raise funds to reach a specific end goal. Common concerns are issues such as building community facilities, reducing levels of industrial waste in the environment, or preventing criminal activity. With their training and connections, social workers can often provide access to resources that were previously not available. This could be in the form of assistance from other agencies, such as the police force, or additional funds from a non-profit group with the same aims. Social workers engage with churches, local organizations and other social services agencies to help communities organize and develop useful resources.
Speaking out on matters of local importance
Sometimes, a community cannot articulate exactly what needs to be done, and social workers can help by advising community groups or leaders and assisting with projects that have already started to take root. They can help a community to draft requests for grants that could make a difference to local schools, community spaces or parks.
Researching the most effective programs
Social workers are key to designing the type of programs that can go on to make a huge impact in their community. However, before they can apply for funds, they gather information and conduct research to ensure that the plans are going to be effective. Part of this process involves looking at the work carried out in previous years to see whether programs were successful or not. Next, they meet with the community and lawmakers to lobby for changes that will hopefully improve people’s lives. These might include access to cleaner water, more healthcare spending or better roads. Social workers’ advocacy can also influence politics, as they push for new strategies that further the goals of their profession and support social and economic justice.
How does a clinical social worker nurture better communities?
Clinical social workers focus on mental health. They assess, diagnose and prevent instances of mental illness, general behavioral issues and also substance abuse. They work with individuals to get them the treatment and help they need to manage their condition effectively. However, they also work with larger family groups to deliver the same kind of services.
Collaborating with other community professionals
To assist people who are living with addiction or have mental health struggles, social workers provide group psychotherapy and individual sessions. They can also play a part in crisis interventions, which help people get back on their feet after a period of severe distress. To support their client’s recovery, they can provide referrals, which make it easier to access medical care and other key services. Depending on the client’s needs, a social worker could put them in touch with a physician, nurse or another service, which will keep their treatment on track.
Controlling drug abuse in a community
As well as empowering the individual who receives professional help with their recovery, this advocacy can improve life for other members of a community. Neighborhoods in which drug addiction is rife can be frightening places to live. Indeed, research has shown that drug abuse can have a “devastating social impact” on communities. Social workers tackle this by arranging counseling and finding rehabilitation centers for recovering addicts. Here, people can learn the skills they need to build a productive life before returning to the community.
Managing the problem of homelessness
When people are affected by mental health struggles, the impact on their community can also be severe. Without treatment, sufferers often have poor relationships with their friends and family, as well as the people with whom they work. Over time, this can leave people feeling isolated, having trouble communicating and, eventually, becoming homeless.
As well as being devastating for the individual, homelessness impacts a community through the stark social barriers it creates. Social workers can advocate for individuals in this situation and improve life in the community by offering practical solutions. They might seek out housing in shelters, or direct people to a community clinic where they can receive treatment in a caring environment.
A career in advocacy
Social work can be an inspiring career choice for people who are passionate about building better communities. It’s a role where practitioners have the knowledge and ability to tackle injustice and stand up for the vulnerable. There are challenges, but social workers regularly get to see how their efforts have positively impacted individuals and their communities.