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In the era of global market economy and individualism – social work is needed more than ever

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In Finland social work is one of the main pillars of the welfare state. But when money and financial growth dictates the decision making, will social work loose it`s value? 

At this very moment Finland`s social and health care system is undergoing a big change. As we are moving on to a more multi-dimensional and multi-professional ways of working with families and children, we should stop and think, what is the role of social work in the future. What are the core values that promote wellbeing of the people and do we have enough understanding of the possibilities that social work provides to take action?  

It is a well-known fact that welfare is all about balanced combination of economic, social and ecological dimensions. Yet social work has been pushed towards a more processefficiency-oriented concept.  No doubt it is important to be able to understand what’s working and what’s not, but does it leave any space for humanity and imperfection in one’s life? In the field of social work, situations are usually complex and multidimensional, therefore here is no onesolutionmiracle that can be applied to all the cases. In order to be able to work accordingly to the ethical values of social work, there should be time to sit down and listen to our clients and space to think and analyze before making a decision.  

In order to grasp the situation, we need to remind ourselves about the core values of social work, what are the tools that are applied and what is the outcome   

The values 

Social work is a profession that unites many scientific approaches and theories and is as vivid as life itself. Promoting and enforcing human rights and children’s rights is the core of social work value palette. Many of us sometimes think that these rights are something very “general level” and not concrete but what we need to remember is that these values will not happen without basic grassroot work. We also need to start with understanding that the work with one particular client is as significant as making a change on the global level, in fact they go hand in hand.  In the end, social work is an everyday human rights work. Every day social workers decide whether the rights are enforced or not. As professor of social work Kirsi Juhila writes that from the ethics of social work, it is just as important to face a person in distress ‘here and now’ as it is to influence the social and global causes of their distressi. 

Indeed, the goal is to make a change in a person’s life, but the change will not necessarily happen by providing a family with one short-time service, neither will it happen by introducing one statement or a program. The change takes time and persistence. It is even possible that the work with a client will remain unfinished but maybe interaction and understanding is what the client benefits most from. 

Maybe instead of aiming for efficiency we should aim for a society that could provide place for participation, human rights and sustainability in decision making.  If we want to talk about measurable results, we should start by following the long-term impact of the social work valuebase and its impact on generations to come. 

The tools 

According to Professor Aila-Leena Matthies who recently held her presentation at a seminar organized by Talentiaii, participation is one of the main tools of the welfare state and social work carries a significant responsibility for enhancing participation. Moreover, as Mirja Satka, Timo Harrikari, Susanna Hoikkala and Elina Pekkarinen (2007) state in their blogiii, that close interaction with children as clients means that social work has a unique opportunity and ethical obligation to work towards realization of children`s rights in practice.  Today, we must take important steps towards systematically taking in the experience from those who have been a part of the social care system and learn from their knowledge. 

The changes in our environment and the global systems always causes a chain reaction that hits hardest the ones that are mostly in need. Today we are facing the outbreak of COVID-19, which will have a significant impact on wellbeing of the people and weaken the situation of those in need. For many decades, the social workers have been working with so called silent groups and developing theoretical knowledge and innovative tools of empowerment.  This knowledge combined with digital solutions will open new possibilities for social workers to use their expertise. 

The outcome 

We are convinced that the value-based work, interpersonal interaction and empowerment of the clients, are the key factors that make social work – work. In the end it is crucial to understand that the values that social work stands for do have an impact on all the societal levels. Therefore, we should always keep in mind that all social work is structural social work.  With ongoing pressure on economic growth and efficient outcomes social work should function as a counterweight, restoring the respect for humanity, promoting the importance of continuity of human relations and embracing participation and inclusion. Social work as a human rights work is valuable at all levels making it possible to listen, to act and to make a change.  

Today, when we are facing catastrophic consequences of COVID-19, our job is to raise the values of humanity and stand together with the clients. 

Annukka Paasivirta


Annukka työskentelee erityisasiantuntijana lastensuojeluun, sosiaalityöhön sekä lasten ja nuorten osallisuuden edistämiseen liittyvien kysymysten parissa. Annukasta tärkeintä on tarttua hetkeen ja tuoda jokaiseen päivään iloa. Omalla vapaa-ajallaan hän nauttii erityisesti lastensa arjen viisauksista.

Julia Kuokkanen


Julia toimii keskusliitossa erityisasiantuntijana. Hän on ammatiltaan sosiaalityöntekijä ja hänen erityisosaamisensa on Venäjän lastensuojelu. Vapaa-ajalla Julia harrastaa lenkkeilyä ja viettää aikaa perheensä ja ystäviensä kanssa.

Anna Tiili erityisasiantuntija

Anna Tiili


Anna toimii Keskusliitossa sijaishuollon erityisasiantuntijana.Työnkuvana on lastensuojeluun liittyvä vaikuttamistyö ja yhteistyö erilaisten kotimaisten ja eurooppalaisten verkostojen parissa. Anna on koulutukseltaan erikoistuva sosiaalityöntekijä. Vapaa-aika kuluu läheisten kanssa sekä ulkoilun ja yhdistystoiminnan merkeissä.


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