Is social work a profession or a duty? Is there any need for standards for the social work training in Bulgaria? How do these standards work in other European countries? How do standards in training and practice protect both social workers and their clients?
The answer to these and other topical issues was sought during the two-day conference under the title of "Social work - a duty or a profession? (On the Role and Requirements for Academic Training in Social Work)" organized by the Know How Center for Alternative Care for Children and the Department of Health and Social Work at the New Bulgarian University with the support of the Ministry of Labor and Social Policy. The conference was organized within the framework of the project "Improving the protection and welfare of children through European exchange of curricula in the field of child protection", funded by the European Commission - Brussels, Erasmus+ program.
The project brought together an international team of social work trainers who united their efforts around the issue:
How can the academic education of social workers prepare them with the skills, knowledge and attitudes needed to respond to the global challenges to people's development: migration, poverty, marginalization of people and communities, violence?
The project is implemented in response to a survey on deficits in university education regarding social work in Bulgaria and other countries in Southeast Europe. The team of university lecturers, experienced practitioners and social work educators have developed training modules on social work in universities that incorporate the latest knowledge, meeting both the standards of education in the field and the challenges of reality.
The conference was attended by Professor Duncan Helm, University of Stirling, Scotland, UK; Mrs Rositsa Dimitrova, Deputy Minister, Ministry of Labor and Social Policy; Mrs. Denitsa Sacheva, Deputy Minister of Education and Science; Prof. Mihail Okoliyski, Public Health Expert at the World Health Organization - Bulgaria Branch, as well as over 50 representatives of ministries, NGOs, social services, municipalities, schools, universities and training institutions.
Prof. Helm introduced the current standards for training social workers in Scotland and stressed the need to professionalize social work. The standards protect both the professionals in this profession and ensure that customers receive a quality service tailored to their needs and rights. Mrs. Dimitrova and Mrs. Sacheva stressed the necessity of a training according to international standards on social work and continuing qualification of the professionals working in the field of helping professions.
To meet these urgent needs, a team from New Bulgarian University presented a new program for specialists working with children and families. The Psychosocial Intervention Program with Children and Families, based on the Department of Health and Social Work, started at the NBU in the autumn semester of the academic year 2018/2019 and includes practitioners and teachers with years of experience in the field.
The questions posed as a slogan to the conference initiated a discussion on the professional identity of social workers and other similar professionals.
The second part of the event was held at the New Bulgarian University. The training program developed under the project "Improving the protection and welfare of children through European exchange of curricula in the field of child protection" and the innovative approaches to education based on children's rights. The discussion brought questions about the perception of professionals in the helping professions on the one hand and their clients on the other, about what their general purpose of work is and what their ideas about the good life, towards which their joint efforts would lead, are.