Role of a Social Worker in Facilitating Change

The role of a social worker in facilitating change involves the gathering of individual groups for the purpose of achieving a common goal which may include community development and advocacy.

What is the role of a social worker in facilitating change

Durkheim (2002) asserts that the creation of occupational groups can help reduce oppressive administrative practices and unleash individual passions at the same time. Such social organisations can help give service users a sense of belonging and facilitate social interaction.

We can mirror the role of the Social Worker in facilitating social change with this viewpoint from Durkheim. This is because in facilitating social change, social workers may seek mutual support and collaboration in the society to help individuals who are disadvantaged to gain control over their own lives (Payne, 2014).

Using co-production can help produce a more democratic culture by giving individuals equivalent rights and enhancing their access to opportunities in the society.

Practices such as co-production can help social workers promote equality. However, when tapping into service user skills and expertise, relationships are formed and there should be respect within this (Duncan & Miller, 2000).

SCIE (2016) highlights that the assets service users may have are not financial but a set of skills or expertise.

Co-producing services ensures that service users do not become consumers of their own services and support, but co-producers. Staudt et al., (2001) refutes the claim that strengths based approaches are wholly effective.

In his view, there is no measure of the effectiveness of strengths based approaches. Nevertheless, Milner (2016) reached a different conclusion.

Milner highlights that the use of strengths based approaches such as Solution-Focused Therapy shows that goals when measured against solutions are easily recognised and individuals are keen on working towards a goal rather than focusing on problems.

Anomie Durkheim

division of labour according to durkheim

Durkheim (2002) also highlighted the concept of anomie. Durkheim established that industrialisation resulted in the division of labour in the society. This surge in growth resulted in the emergence of anomie (Shortell, 2016).

Durkheim asserts that societal changes and perception can cause a disruption and chaos. With rapid social change, people may then experience seclusion.

This results in individuals losing sight of their shared goals and becoming less influenced by the group norms and values (Lukes, 2013). However, with the lessening of the coercive influence of the social norms and values, there could be the emergence of excessive individualism which Durkheim refers to as egoism.

With the emergence of egoism, social cohesion is not possible where there is excessive individualism and self-centredness (Shortell, 2016).

On the other hand, Durkheim asserts that placing low value on people within social groups may lead to Altruism with may lead to detrimental effects such as suicide (Jones, et al., 2011). However, Durkheim asserts that moral individualism can cause a social order.

Types of social integration

social integration in social work

Durkheim (2002) highlighted that there are two main types of social integration, namely, mechanical and organic. Where there are shared beliefs and ideas, Durkheim refers to this as Mechanical. Where there is integration because of specialisation and interdependence, he refers to this as organic integration (Shortell, 2016).

Durkheim (2002) asserts that there are complexities in organic societies, however, this does not lead to disintegration, but it leads to social solidarity.

This is because parts in the society depend on each other, creating interdependence and solidarity.

The Care Act 2014 echoed similar views. It highlights the need for agencies to work together to promote the wellbeing of service users.

For instance, section 6 and 7 of the Care Act stipulates a general duty cooperation between the Local Authority and other relevant agencies with a role to play in the care and support of a service user (Brammer, 2010).

durkheim division of labour

When agencies work together, it helps safeguard the service user. However, failure in effective multi-agency working may cause fatality. For instance, a service user (Gemma Hayter) died following relevant agencies missing opportunities to safeguard her (Community Care, 2016). In addition, there was a serious case review as a result of failings in recognising abuse in the case of Winterbourne View.

Durkheim has clarified that when there is temporary disruption to the social equilibrium, moral and social breakdown can occur, however, this can be quickly corrected (Shortell, 2016).

Durkheim remarks that society is bonded by shared values and norms. When this breaks down, society should have adequate means of ensuring that anti-social conduct is dealt with and conformity is re-established (Lukes, 2013).

When there is a temporary breakdown in societal stability, it may cause individuals being predisposed to problems such as joblessness or poverty in the society (Heywood, 2012).

The problem-solving role of a Social Worker looks at ways of improving the lives of service users to help re-establish equilibrium and recover their stability. Social Workers may use task–centred practice to help service users achieve specific and achievable goals.

Division of labour in society

role of social worker in facilitating change

Durkheim’s assertions on anomie, division of labour and functionalism may support social workers to consider the impact of conditions that may have an influence on the rights, inclusion and social justice of individuals in the society.

This is because social workers are able to empower service users, they act as progressive mediators of change and help improve levels of social inclusion (Payne, 2006).

This can be done by encouraging and enabling people who are excluded to take part in activities that may improve their overall wellbeing. In addition, Social Workers may help service users engage or re-engage with the labour market. Social workers assist individuals in the society to adjust to changes by providing education, and supporting them to fit into conventional society more efficiently (Cunningham & Cunningham, 2010).

Social workers can also help improve levels of inequalities among individuals in the society by supporting them through the complexities of the benefit system, counselling them of their rights and ensuring that individuals are provided with support they are entitled to (Jordan, 2010).

While Durkheim’s work focused on views that may help lessen economic injustices and inequality, critiques such as Cristi (2012), highlights that although Durkheim mentions the “individual” in broad terms, his approach to universal rights and order in the society is fundamentally articulated round the male individual.

According to Cristi (2012), Durkheim excluded women from his vision of a just society.

Before you go

To conclude, this article has addressed the role of social workers in facilitating change in society.

Social workers may use social theories to help facilitate change in society. However, this cannot be used in isolation and it is important that social workers make use of supervision, reflexivity, practice wisdom and social imagination besides social theories to help promote social justice, equality and inclusion.

Reference list

Cristi, M. (2012). Durkheim on Moral Individualism, Social Justice and Rights: A Gendered Construction of Rights. Retrieved from

Cunningham, J., & Cunningham, S. (2014). Sociology and Social Work (Transforming Social Work Practice Series). London: Learning Matters.

Davies, M. (2012). Social work with children and families.
Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.

Duncan, B. L. and Miller, S. D. (2000). The Heroic Client: Doing Client-Directed Outcome-Informed Therapy,
San Francisco: Jossey-Bass

Durkheim, E. (2002). Suicide: A Study in Sociology. (2nd ed.). Abingdon: Routledge.

Ferrante, J. (2008). Sociology: A Global Perspective. (7th ed.). London: Thomson Learning Inc.

Gordon, A. (2004). Ghostly Matters: Haunting and the Sociological Imagination. London: University Press.

Heywood, A. (2012). Political Ideologies: An Introduction. 5th edition. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.

Higham, P. (2009). Post-Qualifying Social Work Practice. London: SAGE Publications.

International Federation of Social Workers (IFSW), (2016). Global Definition of Social Work | International Federation of Social Workers.   Retrieved from

Jasanoff, S. (2006). States of Knowledge: The Co-production of Science and the Social Order. London: Routledge.

Jones, P., Bradbury, L., & LeBoutillier, S. (2011). Introducing social theory. 2nd ed. Cambridge: Policy Press.

Jordan, B. (2010). Welfare and wellbeing: Social value in public policy, Bristol: Policy Press.

Jordan, B. & Drakeford, M. (2013). Reshaping Social Work. London: Palgrave Macmillan.

Laird, E. (2010). Practical Social Work Law: Analysing court cases and inquiries.  London: Pearson Education Limited.

Lukes, S. (2013). Durkheim: The Division of Labour in Society. (2nd ed.). London: Palgrave Macmillan.

Mills, C. W. (2000). The Sociological Imagination 4th ed. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Milner, J. (2016). Working with Violence and Confrontation Using Solution Focused Approaches. London: Jessica Kingsley Publishers.

Moschonas, G. (2002). In the Name of Social Democracy. London: Verso Publishers.

Payne, M. (2006). What is professional social work? Bristol: The Policy Press.

Payne, M. (2014). Modern Social Work Theory. (4th ed.). Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Ritzer, G., & Smart, B. (2016). Handbook of Social Theory. London: SAGE Publications.

Shortell, T. (2016). Durkheim’s Theory of Social Class.   Retrieved from

Simmons, C., & Lehmann, P. (2012). Tools for Strengths-Based Assessment and Evaluation. New York: Springer Publishing.

Slay, J. & Stephens, L. (2013). Co-production in mental health: A literature review. London: new economics foundation.

Social Care Institute for Excellent (SCIE), (2016). Social Care and Health Inequalities. Retrieved from



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