Work in Progress: Social Work, the State and Europe

Karen Lyons

Abstract

Social work has had varying relationships with the nation state both over time and between different countries. From its early stages the occupation had both state sanctioned and voluntary streams. Its international dimension has been enhanced in the European context through policy and funding measures over the past few decades.

During this period we have also seen the rise of globalising trends leading to questions about the ongoing powers of nation states. This paper examines some aspects of the relationship between social work and the state, taking into account the emergence of European and also international policies and frameworks.

The paper focuses initially on migration as an example of a common trend; an area of policy with both national and European dimensions; and a field in which social professionals are engaged to varying degrees. Secondly, it considers the progress of the ‘professional project’ in Europe, using developments in five countries to illustrate some of the issues associated with ‘professionalization’. European and international frameworks may lead to some convergence in national understandings of the key roles of social workers and an enhanced sense of professional identity across nation states, despite very different starting points and current forms of organisation.


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