How does the national context impact on social work professional identity?

Wiles, Fran (2017). How does the national context impact on social work professional identity? In: European Association of Schools of Social Work Conference, 26-29 Jun 2017, Paris Descartes University, France.


Building on the global definition of social work (IFSW, 2014), developing professional identity would appear to be important for all social work students regardless of national variations in practice. But does professional identity mean the same thing for social workers everywhere?

My previous doctoral research suggested that in developing their professional identities, social work students draw on a wide range of discourses transmitted through the curriculum, workplace learning, regulatory and public expectations. Furthermore, when making comparisons within Europe, we need to explore the effects of national and cultural contexts on the discourses of social work identity which are made available to social workers. This presentation draws on themes emerging from a comparison of social work in England and Scotland, which has become more divergent since UK devolution but retains many shared features. I share work-in-progress, beginning with a brief overview of some key similarities and differences between social work education in England and Scotland. I then discuss some ways in which professionalism and professional identity are conceptualised in both nations, drawing on an analysis of regulatory and professional documents. I also share some initial data from a survey conducted with social work practitioners.

Although using England and Scotland as an illustration, this topic is relevant for all social work educators because of social work’s growing awareness of understanding connections between local and national contexts. Exploring what professional identity means for social workers in different nations, considerations include the political context as well as the impact of different practice roles and settings. What role do professional bodies play, and does professional regulation – where it exists – strengthen professional identity? What kind of social workers are valued (and made possible) by the state?

Viewing alternatives

Download history

Item Actions