Identifying skills for professionalism

Wiles, Fran. (2019) Identifying skills for professionalism. In: Boahen, Godfred and Wiles, Fran, Professionalism and Self-management. Social Work Skills in Practice. Open University Press, UK.


This chapter explores the hallmarks of professionalism that routinely feature across all aspects of social work practice. This will enable you to answer the question ‘what makes this area of practice ‘professional’?’ Professionalism entails being able to increasingly integrate and develop all the areas of competence that you demonstrated as a successful social work student.

Social workers in the UK have become familiar with frameworks of professional standards which state what social workers should be able to do in relation to a particular role or set of tasks: for example, assessing people’s needs, care planning, working with families or presenting a court report. Some standards (for example, England’s Knowledge and Skills Statements for working with children or adults) are sub-divided to reflect what is expected at different levels of career development. Standards thus provide a way of measuring how well a practitioner’s competence matches up to an externally set expectation. This chapter's approach to skills is more akin to the concept of ‘capabilities’. Capabilities refer to a holistic integration of personal qualities, values, knowledge and understanding, as well as practice skills. The concept is also developmental, in the sense that a person’s capabilities continuously adapt to new and changing contexts; thus there is a built-in expectation of reflective practice and continuous learning.

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