Functions of Social Work Professsion

Functions of Social Work Professsion

Social Work is a profession and academic discipline that improves the quality of life and well-being of individuals, groups, and communities by direct practice, policy development, organizing communities and outreach, and crisis intervention. Social workers undergo demanding educational requirements. Formal and robust training, and adhere to governmental regulatory requirements and licensing. The purpose of all of this action is to help people and society in general.

Popple and Leighninger in Social Work, Social Welfare, American Society; Boston: Allyn & Bacon, 2011, list seven core functions that the social worker 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 take a look at the Popple and Leighninger  framework in the context of shifting risk to your insurance carrier.




Engagement: “The social worker must first engage the client in early meetings to promote a collaborative relationship”. This is where malpractice liability exposure, cyber liability exposure, and general liability exposure begin the social worker’s risk 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.

Assessment: “Data must be gathered that will guide and direct a plan of action to help the client”. This is a particularly important 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 breach 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 in court. Even how the client records are stored on-premises, or with a third party, or even moved by a third party is relevant.
Planning: “Negotiate and formulate an action plan”.
Implementation: “Promote resource acquisition and enhance role performance”.
Monitor/Evaluation: “On-going documentation through short-term goal attainment of 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”


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