Abstract: (WITHDRAWN) Social Workers' Involvement in Policy Practice at Local Social Services (Society for Social Work and Research 25th Annual Conference - Social Work Science for Social Change)

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(WITHDRAWN) Social Workers' Involvement in Policy Practice at Local Social Services

Friday, January 22, 2021
* noted as presenting author
Sivan Levy, MSW, Community social worker, Pnima, Israel
Ayelet Makaros, PhD, Lecturer and Head of field work unit, Bar Ilan University, Ramat Gan, Israel
Nehami Baum, PhD, Head of School of Social Work, Bar Ilan University, Ramat Gan, Israel

Background and purpose

In recent decades, social and economic processes in the world have led to an increased demand among social workers to influence processes of policy change and legislation. Despite this demand, social workers deal very little with policy practice.

The purpose of the current study is to enhance knowledge about the involvement of social workers in policy practice in local social service departments in Israel from the perspective of the department directors, and to identify the driving and restraining forces for involvement in policy practice.


The study was based on semi-structured, in-depth interviews with 13 directors of local social services, in cities and towns of different sizes. Nine of the respondents were women and four were men. All had a master's degree. Their professional experience in social work was 29.5 years, with a mean of 7 years in managerial positions. The interview lasted between an hour and an hour and a half. Data analysis was performed in three stages. In the first stage, the researchers read the interviews several times to become acquainted with the interviewees’ narratives. In the second stage, ‘units of meaning’ were identified. In the third stage, similar utterances were grouped into themes. These themes constitute the conceptual skeleton of the research findings. The study was carried out in compliance with the rules of ethics.


The findings show differences in the extent of social workers’ engagement in policy practice. While many of the directors indicated that policy practice is a major part of the job of social workers, there were also some who believed that policy practice is not part of the profession at all. Some of those who believed that social workers should engage in policy practice argued that policy should be the domain of the senior staff alone.

The findings also reveal a gap between the managers’ statement that it is important for social workers to deal with policy practice and their practical position that explains why they should not and cannot deal with it. They provided four explanations for this gap: 1. Policy practice harms their relations with the mayor. 2. Tense relationship with the welfare ministry prevents them to deal with policy practice. 3. Social workers in the departments are under great strain and therefore are not free to deal with policy practice. 4. Social workers lack professional knowledge and skills in this field

Conclusions and Practical Recommendations

Promoting policy practice in the local social services is not simple and there are many obstacles to expanding the involvement of social workers in this area. The expectation from the directors to encourage social workers to engage in policy practice is rather unrealistic. The findings indicate the main difficulties and indicate possible directions for promoting policy practice.