“Social work is a practice-based profession and an academic discipline that promotes social change and development, social cohesion, and the empowerment and liberation of people. Principles of social justice, human rights, collective responsibility and respect for diversities are central to social work. Underpinned by theories of social work, social sciences, humanities, and indigenous knowledge, social work engages people and structures to address life challenges and enhance well-being.”
Social Workers in their role of an Advocate
Advocate by definition is a person who publicly supports or recommends a particular cause or policy. A person who pleads for another’s cause in the verbal or written form. This person then assumes the role of advocacy which in all forms seeks to ensure everyone is able to have their voice heard on issues important to them. These individuals are usually vulnerable members of society who need to have someone defend their rights. To ensure these rights are safeguarded. These individuals seek to have their views, needs, and thoughts seriously considered when others are making decisions about their lives or issues that will significantly impact their lives.
Advocacy at its root must be equal and diverse to be able to meet the needs of all local populations. This includes, but not limited to the following protected characteristics: age, race, disability, gender (reassignment), marriage, civil partnership, pregnancy, maternity, religion, culture, sex, and sexual orientation. Advocacy is the process of supporting and empowering individuals to achieve the following goals:
- Express their views and concerns
- Access information and services
- Defend and promote their rights and responsibilities
- Explore choices and options
At the heart of advocacy is the role of a social worker. The social worker is an individual who has completed several years of education to commit their professional lives to helping others who are struggling with some aspect of their life. Social workers have helping people as their primary goal. Advocacy is a critical area of practice where a social worker fulfills this responsibility within their professional role as a social worker.
The social worker can provide a client with direct advocacy services by helping them speak up for their rights to return to their “home” within a skilled nursing center. Many times a skilled nursing center will deny a client readmission to the facility when the patient has been discharged to the hospital. This is often a situation based on the patient’s probable Medicaid status combined with another patient’s more desirable Medicare funding.
A social worker can provide advocacy services to a group of vulnerable, disenfranchised clients who are being denied access to community resources based on their homelessness. Some basic need resources will deny assistance to those without a permanent address, residency or identification. Individuals without these items still get hungry, sick and in need of clothing.
Social workers can also take on a larger cause by taking their advocating of others to a higher level such as the legislative branch of their state or federal governments. Impacting policy change is the better way to reach many more individuals in need than the ones right around the corner. People need to be heard, recognized and considered relevant. This need is not confined to one area of the world. Nor is a social worker’s commitment to helping.