Functions of Social Work

Major three functions/Core seven functions of Social Wokr

The function of social work refers to the natural activity of social work or the statements of how social work operates.

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Four Functions of Social Work

According to Prof. P. D. Mishra 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:

Read: What is Social Work?

Read: NASW Code of Ethics for Social Workers

Read: Significance of studying Social Work

Read: Why you should study Social Work?


Curative Function

The services provided under curative functions are–medical and health services, services relating to psychiatry, child guidance, child welfare services, and services for the handicapped or disabled in the form of protection and rehabilitation. These kinds of services aim to cure the physical, social, material, and psychological sickness of individuals in society.


Correctional Function

The correctional function of social work has three broad areas, such as:

a) Individual reform service which includes prison reform, probation, parole and other related services.

b) Services for improving social relationship which includes family welfare services, school social work, industrial social work etc.

c) Services for social reform that includes employment services, prevention of commercial sex work, beggary prohibition services and removal of untouchability etc.


Preventive Function

It includes life insurance services, public assistance, social legislation, adult education and prevention of diseases etc. This type of function basically deals with the services relating to the prevention of problems like insecurity, unlawfulness, ignorance, sickness etc. It is directed towards the elimination of those factors in the social environment or those deficiencies in the development of personality that prevents the individual from achieving a minimum desirable standard of socio-economic life.


Developmental Function

The developmental function includes the tasks of socio-economic development activities such as education, recreational services, urban and rural development programmes and programmes of integration etc which are primarily concerned with the development of individuals, families, groups and communities.


Major three functions of Social Work

The basic functions of social work can be divided into three (3) broad interdependent and interrelated categories, viz;

Restoration of Social Functioning

The restoration of impaired social functioning is the oldest and most commonly known function of the social work profession. This function is subdivided into curative and rehabilitative aspects. The curative aspects are to eliminate environmental factors that have caused a breakdown of the social functioning of individuals, groups or communities and the role of the rehabilitative aspects is to recognize and rebuild interaction patterns in society. As mentioned earlier, social work tries to intervene at the point where the individual interacts with his environment. The environmental factors hindering the functioning of a person may be social, economic, political or cultural. This function emphasizes problem-solving through modification in the psycho-social environment of individuals and groups and through bringing about changes in the attitude of recipients of the services. Therefore, if a person becomes dysfunctional due to any of the above mentioned environmental factors, the first task at hand will be to restore the person’s normal functioning. The second task will be to assess the damage caused by the dysfunction and strategies are devised to rehabilitate the person socially and bring him back to the normal mainstream.


Provision of Resources

The provision of Resources is further subdivided into developmental and educational. The developmental aspects are designed to extend the effectiveness of existing social, human and material resources or to bring about full utilization of personal capacity for more social interaction. The educational functions are designed to make the public aware of specific conditions and needs for new and changing resources and approaches.


Prevention of Social Dysfunction

The prevention of social dysfunction involves early detection, control and elimination of conditions and situations that could obstruct effective social functioning. The main two divisions are prevention of problems in the area of human interaction (individuals and groups) and secondly, prevention of social ills. Although it is a very important function of social work, it is neglected in most situations. Social work has generally concentrated on the curative and rehabilitative functions and has worked on the problem-solving model. However, keeping in the mind the rapidly changing social scenario, it has become imperative to adopt the preventive approach to social work. The profession should ensure that problems are neither created nor eliminated at the very beginning. For this function, the social workers play a crucial role in conscientization, capacity building and organizing people so that they themselves can prevent social dysfunctions. In the present day context, social work has to emphasize the aspects of change. It is increasingly being realized that the main cause of dysfunction lies not with the people but with the systems within which they operate. Either the people do not get and environment or resources required for proper social functioning or they do not have access to the resources to fulfil their needs. Therefore, there is a need to challenge and change the system so that people get a favourable environment to function. In a nutshell, it can be said that the function of social work should shift from a status quo service-oriented approach to a change-oriented development approach.


Seven Core Functions of the Social Work Profession

Leighninger and Popple (2008) and Cummins et al. (2011) showed a list of 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 — the social worker must first engage the client in early meetings to promote a collaborative relationship

2. Assessment — data must be gathered that will guide and direct a plan of action to help the client

3.  Planning — negotiate and formulate an action plan

4. Implementation — promote resource acquisition and enhance role performance

5. Monitoring/Evaluation — ongoing documentation through short term goal attainment of the extent to which the client is following through

6. Supportive Counseling — affirming, challenging, encouraging, informing, and exploring options

7. Graduated Disengagement — seeking to replace the social worker with a naturally occurring resource


  1. Good resource. It helped me to understand well about function of social work. Thank you!

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