Social Workers, Higher Education and Managerial Practices in Welfare Organizations: An Italian Case

Tuesday, 12 July 2016
Location: Hörsaal 17 (Juridicum)
Distributed Paper
Maria Pia CASTRO, University of Catania, Italy, Italy
In Italy the professionalization of social worker has been closely linked to the development of social work education. It has been a “professionalisation from above”, also favoured by state intervention. Laws on the establishment of welfare organizations (in the 1970s) had assigned important roles to social workers, contributing to their professionalization. In the 1980s the higher education programmes were unified and then education to social work became an academic training.

The university’s reform carried out in 1999 with the Bologna process set up bachelor and master courses also for the social work: the bachelor (a three-years course) corresponds to the traditional training and qualification level for social workers, while the master (a two-years course) concerns a new managerial and organizational training, with learning goals and contents still heterogeneous in the several universities and addressed to professional with various bachelor' degrees.

So the social workers’ community asks for a greater recognition through an unique five-years training course and laws that give managerial roles in welfare organizations only to their profession. But the current rescaling processes in public administrations are producing as results that managerial roles traditionally played by social workers are also carried out by other professionals, mainly due to the spending review. Furthermore, in no-profit organizations managerial roles are played by professionals with heterogeneous academic backgrounds and skills mainly learned by doing, during their working life.

The paper offers a comparison among the goals and the contents of Italian higher education in social work, the laws that set requirements for performing managerial practices in Italian welfare services and the results of a recent analysis carried out with qualitative methods about skills, managerial practices in Italian welfare organizations (both public and no-profit) and the ways of their learning.