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Sunderland Repository records the research produced by the University of Sunderland including practice-based research and theses.

Social Policy Education in Social Work – Innovative Approaches

Lonbay, Sarah and Stambolieva, Marija (2021) Social Policy Education in Social Work – Innovative Approaches. In: European Conference on Social Work Education, 15 Jun - 18 Jun 2021, Tallinn University, Estonia. (Unpublished)

Item Type: Conference or Workshop Item (Other)


Social Policy is a broad field of research. In recent years, the literature has been especially interested in adjustments or reforms of the welfare state or of certain social policy areas because of the global economic crisis and other perceived challenges like migration, aging societies, changing world of work etc. Discourses range mainly from retrenchment to the social investment perspective. A growing body of literature has been addressing social innovation through entrepreneurship, organizational reform, forms of collaboration, technology etc. What we know little about is the relationship between social policy research and social policy education. We are aware that differences in social policy traditions, national systems as well as educational contexts may have an impact on the focus of social policy education.

Discussions in our symposium will focus on the educational context of social policy and its implications for social work professionals and community practice, while also considering the aspect of possible occupational change and lifelong learning. We particularly aim to explore the curricular content and educational practices that exist to integrate social policy into study programmes. Within this, we intend to examine the role of social policy within the context of social work education and its relationship to actual experiences of professional practice.

As such, we will explore the following questions: What are students’ actual learning outcomes at the end of a social policy course and at graduation? What possible impact do changes in social policies have on the social work profession and is that considered in current social policy education? How do we train social workers to influence social policy? How can education support a critical understanding of the role of social workers in policy-making in a sustainable way? Do evaluations of teaching experiences and student perceptions give us indications about the advantages and disadvantages of certain approaches? Do transnational collaborations and student exchanges bring added value and how does recognition of qualifications in social policy function? Additionally we wish to explore new approaches that have possibly emerged because of the COVID-19 related adjustments to online learning.

Presentations of the Symposium

Chairs: Dr. Sarah Lonbay and Dr. Marija Stambolieva: Introduction and overview of the symposium.

The re-awakening role of social workers in policy making following a global pandemic: lessons for education and practice

Panagiotis Pentaris
University of Greenwich

Social workers have largely contributed to policy analysis and planning since the rise of the discipline’s professional identity. It is through lobbying, policy advocacy and macro-practice that responses about human rights and social justice are crafted and integrated in international and transnational social work practice. Yet, these roles have for a while been supressed in an attempt to standardise and confine the profession in the limits of a given nation’s legal and social status. Public crises like the recent novel virus COVID-19, come to force us to rethink what has been the role of social workers before such crises. Are we well prepared to take on these roles again, when for a long while education and practice has shied away from them, leaving contemporary practitioners in a predicament situation? This paper will explore both challenges and opportunities in social policy, arising from COVID-19, and will argue the need for re-emphasising on the social workers’ role in social policy, with the intention to make recommendations for education and practice.

Social policy in social work curriculum in Estonia - a mission impossible?

Reeli Sirotkina, Kersti Kriisk
Tallinn University

Social work and social policy are quite often seen as separate study programmes/areas, having a clear curricula for both fields. In Estonian situation social work has a strong position in academia and applied sciences but social policy has been even more hidden into BA (and MA) curricula's and academic hierarchies than social work. If we look at the curricula's in both academic universities in Tallinn and Tartu we have noticed and experienced that social policy as a topic is not very popular among social work students. Reasons for this are several starting from misunderstanding of concepts like 'policy' and 'politics' and ending up with a narrative “research methods in social policy are always quantitative and social work use qualitative methodology and the last one is easier”. Our aim is to analyse the communication between and inside the datasets. We aim to understand and critically analyse “How social policy is represented and positioned in academic education in social work curriculum development process during 1991-2020?”. Quantitative analysis of student questionnaires and interpretative phenomenological analysis of curricula's gives us a scenery of how social work is seen nowadays by students and how social policy has been changed or remained the same in curricula's. Using (critical) discourse analysis of one to one interviews and student open ended questions with illustrate how the scenery enriches bringing out the contradictions in societal level as well as in science and educational policy.

Professionalization in low-threshold drug aid – between managerialism and practitioner knowledge

Joachim Thönnessen1, Christiane Westerveld2
1University of Applied Sciences, Osnabrueck, 2Caritas

At the end of the 80s the drug help practice experienced a significant phase of change. Open drug scenes, in which the consumption of illegal drugs took place under mostly catastrophic conditions, and the minimal scope of the previous offers of help called for reforms. In the course of this reorientation, alternative, acceptance-oriented approaches were developed which, among other things, contributed to the establishment of low-threshold drug help as an integral part of the help system. At about the same time, social-work and non-profit organizations (NPOs) have been increasingly applying business management concepts and instruments and employing professional managers. Today social work organizations and NPOs are faced with the question of whether and how they can benefit from management techniques, or what alternatives they have considering this emerging managerialism. Although considerable progress has been made in the development and application of management tools in social work, and although there are explanations for the reasons for the proliferation of management ideas, there are surprisingly few studies on how managerialism influences social work (seen both as an institution and as a concrete practice). We will discuss what effects and undesirable (side) effects managerialism can have on the everyday work of practitioners in social work. We will give examples from the everyday world of low threshold drug aid to exemplify a situation, which we describe as ´dilemma between managerialism and practitioner knowledge´.

Cooperation in Social Work and Policing: A Curriculum for Vocational Training

Günter Stummvoll
European Centre for Social Welfare Policy and Research

In this paper we report on the recent development of a vocational training programme that brings together social workers and police officers to discuss better cooperation in public order management. A curriculum for a 5-day course has been elaborated by researchers and practitioners in Austria, Portugal and Belgium with funding from the programme "ERASMUS+ Strategic Partnerships for Vocational Training". A draft curriculum has been tested in pilot trainings in all partner countries and can now be applied by police academies and schools of social work. Management of social order in public space has become a shared responsibility of authorities and welfare institutions. However, the collaboration of stakeholders is often marked by severe tensions, as organisations often differ in their strategies and approaches to public order. Vulnerable groups, such as drug users, homeless people and refugees are often confronted with divergent professional work-ethics. Participants in this training have worked out solutions together to increase health and safety for the benefit of marginalised persons in urban space. The answer to social problems in public space extends beyond immediate reactions and requires careful planning of preventive approaches that emerge from cooperation of police and social workers. Although there may be many other thematic overlaps between the professions of social work and policing, this training is dedicated to situations of disorder in public space. The themes selected for this training are 1) substance use among young people, and 2) the problem of homelessness. This training turns away from a conventional teacher-student relationship with its one-way education process. Instead, the training pursues a participatory approach as lecturers give a thematic impulse and then moderate discussions. This setting offers a democratic platform for communication and exchange between practitioners from both sides. This paper discusses the learning processes, challenges and outcomes of this vocational training that is now on offer to become a regular part of teaching and training schedules in both professions. It reflects upon the impact of the training on both professions and on social policies alike.

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More Information

Depositing User: Sarah Lonbay


Item ID: 13597

Users with ORCIDS

ORCID for Sarah Lonbay: ORCID iD

Catalogue record

Date Deposited: 17 Jun 2021 13:58
Last Modified: 18 May 2023 09:36


Author: Sarah Lonbay ORCID iD
Author: Marija Stambolieva

University Divisions

Faculty of Education and Society > School of Social Sciences > Centre for Applied Social Sciences


Social Sciences > Health and Social Care
Social Sciences > Sociology
Social Sciences

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