My first blog post is about the differences between the job descriptions of a social worker and social counsellor especially in the field of child protective services in Finland. In this particular case I look at a social counsellor as someone who has completed the Bachelor’s degree in Social Services in a University of Applied Sciences.
First, I will shortly discuss the differences of the education and wages of these two professions. After that, I will go into the main topic more deeply: In the field of child protection how can these two professions exert influence? Who is able to decide, and on what things?
In Finland, the qualification requirement for the post of a social worker is a higher university degree including, or in addition to which the person has completed major subject studies or university studies in social work corresponding to the major subject. Whereas the right to practice work as a social welfare professional is to complete University of Applied Sciences level studies in Bachelor of Social Services.
On one of the Talentia’s (Union of Professional Social workers) article it has been noted that the salaries of social workers have risen faster than the overall wage development since the beginning of 2000. Improving the salary of early childhood education teachers and social counsellors in the field of child protection and social welfare for people with disabilities is much slower. Talentia states that in the future there is a lot of pressure on wage settlements, which aim to improve wage levels of social counsellor and early childhood education teachers.
According to the Finland’s Statistical office full-time social workers wage in 2019 was 3558€ per month on average. Full-time social advisors average wage in 2019 was 2832€ per month. There is a huge difference between the monthly pay, and even more on annual level.
I think that it is a huge issue that the wage development is so slow and the salaries are low. This should be noted on a bigger scale and this problem should be tackled.
Social worker and social counsellor are both central actors in the field of child protective services. There are certain duties and actions in the Child Welfare Act that are required to be performed by social welfare professionals, some of which by a social worker. For example, social worker is the one who is responsible for making the assessment of service needs for children who need special support. Also, every child must have a social worker who is in charge of the child’s affairs.
Social works aims to support change and to ease difficult life situations together with individuals, families and communities. Also, the goal is to reinforce individuals and families’ own resources and inclusion.
Some of the social workers duties are: making sure of the client’s legal protection, making the assessment of service needs and decisions for children who need special support, enforcing change in the professional field, combining different benefits and services, controlling the whole process and the functioning of it and being responsible for the effectiveness and development of these processes.
The aim of social guidance is to promote the well-being and inclusion of an individual and families by reinforcing life management skills and the ability to perform. The duties of a social counsellor are making the assessment of service needs in cooperation with the social worker, family work and executing support work in non institutional social care and after care to reach the goals agreed in the client plan.
In the best possible scenario the social worker and the social counsellor can form a great team and combine both educational backgrounds and competences and exert influence. This would be an ideal situation. However, how does this happen in practice? When I had conversations with some students in the field, I got the picture that social counsellors were exerting influence in children’s everyday lives e.g. in child welfare institutions at grass-roots level, whereas social workers saw the children rarely and were mostly responsible for making decisions concerning the children and exerting influence in that way. When I researched this topic, there was a lack of clarity. Do the laws apply in practice and who actually influences and on what?