chapter
Introduction
ByTerry Philpot, Christopher Hanvey
Pages 7

Social work is what social workers do. The old humorous definition contains more than an element of truth. It might be reworked to explain that social work is often what others-nurses, doctors, the police, and so on-don’t do. Just as social work often picks up the casualties where society-in its housing, employment, anti-poverty policies-has failed, so often it assumes the tasks arising where other agencies-medical and nursing services, the police-do not tread. But social work may be defined in other ways. Social work is casework, declared Robert Pinker in his dissenting note to the Barclay report (Pinker 1982). Or social work may be defined by its legislative responsibilities. This latter, though, is less a definition of what social workers do, other than in a very functional sense, than drawing the boundaries at their legal obligations. The burden of legislation does, indeed, lie heavily on social work, and increasingly so, yet there are numerous tasks which social workers undertake for which there is no specific legislative remit.