There is a growing emphasis in modern social work practice on the need to remove the barriers between different professional groups, in order to provide a more coherent service for people. These barriers allow professions to protect their own territory and prevent them from working together with other professions. A series of public inquiries have highlighted professional misconduct as a significant factor in the resulting tragedies, with a failure of communication between agencies and different professionals at the heart of this misconduct (Laming, 2003). Social work practice is increasingly organized around or within other professional

disciplines. Whereas social workers in the last part of the twentieth century were more likely to be employed together in a social work team, at the beginning of the twenty-first century, we see them increasingly employed in multidisciplinary teams. These teams usually have a ‘client group’ focus (people with learning disabilities, people with mental health problems, young offenders), and the team is designed to bring together people with different skills in order to encourage collaborative working for the benefit of the people who are served by the team. In addition to these developments in professional practice, there have been

parallel moves to enable students of different professions to learn together. These opportunities can be in both classroom settings and agency settings, and they are formalized in the requirements for the social work degree in the UK:

The terminology to describe these developments varies considerably – multiprofessional, interdisciplinary, inter-agency, collaborative working, shared learning, and so on (Barr, 2002; Miller et al., 1999; Weinstein et al., 2003; Whittingon, 2003). In some respects, these terms reflect the continuum of possibilities: from a team in which there are two professions who do very little or no joint working, to a team in which there are many professions who are consistently working together directly

the level agency work, as noted by CCETSW, Northern Ireland:

Whilst recognizing these various intensities, we will use the word ‘interprofessional’ as a convenient single term to cover all aspects of learning and practice between two or more professional groups.