Functions of Social Work Profession

7 Core Functions of the Social Work Profession

Social Work is a professional and academic discipline that improves the quality of life and well-being of individuals, groups, and communities through direct practice, policy development, organizing communities and outreach, and crisis intervention. Social workers undergo demanding educational requirements. Formal and robust training and adherence to government regulatory requirements and licensing. All of this action aims to help people and society in general.

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Popple and Leighninger in Social Work, Social Welfare, American Society; Boston: Allyn & Bacon, 2011, list seven core functions that the social work profession draws from in human development and the reconciliation of the complexity of interactions between human beings and their environment. These seven core functions include:

1.          Engagement,

2.          Assessment,

3.          Planning,

4.          Implementation,

5.          Monitoring/Evaluation,

6.          Supportive Counseling, and

7.          Graduated Disengagement.

As always, the NASW supports its social worker members in many ways. NASW Assurance Services augments this support with practical solutions and insurance protection. Let’s look at the Popple and Leighninger framework in shifting risk to your insurance carrier.


7 Core Functions of the Social Work Profession


“The social worker must first engage the client in early meetings to promote a collaborative relationship”. This is where the social worker's risk exposure begins with malpractice liability exposure, cyber liability exposure, and general liability exposure. The social worker must buy insurance coverage to protect against risks. Examples of risk elements include proper practice techniques, documentation creation and protection, client records management and retention, and even accidents in the workplace.


“Data must be gathered to guide and direct a plan of action to help the client”. This is an essential core function from an insurance perspective. When information is documented, these records become client records subject to recent HIPAA legislation, which holds the social worker liable for breaches by third parties.


Also, these client records become subject to potential and eventual subpoenas and related social worker depositions. What the social worker says in writing and verbally can be used against the social worker in licensing board inquiries and court. Even how the client records are stored on-premises, with a third party, or even moved by a third party.


“Negotiate and formulate an action plan”.


“Promote resource acquisition and enhance role performance”.


“On-going documentation through short-term goal attainment of the extent to which client is following through”.

Supportive Counseling

“Affirming, challenging, encouraging, informing, and exploring options”.

Graduated Disengagement

“Seeking to replace the social worker with a naturally occurring resource.”

Four (4) Functions of the Social Work Profession

According to Prof. P.D. Mishra (2014), social work operates to assist individuals in adjusting to the institutional framework of the society and attempts to modify the institutional framework itself in appropriate areas. He classified the functions of social work into the following 4 major categories: -

1.     Curative Function;

2.     Correctional Function;

3.     Preventive Function; and

4.     Developmental Function.

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