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Influencing and shaping the global profession

What we stand for 2021: 6.International social work

Reflections by David N Jones, BASW International Committee Chair (2017-2021) 

Social work is a confident and growing international profession, making a crucial contribution to global development, improvement in human rights and the response to the pandemic in difficult times. 

Despite the hugely diverse and international character of UK social work and of the communities where we work, our links with the global profession are frequently forgotten in the understandable pressures of daily work - especially in England and in government reviews.  This narrow perception of social work was challenged in the BASW AGM this week.

The AGM week signalled the election of the new Chair of the International Committee, Rukhsana Farooqi, and the end of my four-year term.  That is not the end of my involvement with BASW and global social work, but it is a significant change of role and I am grateful to be invited to share a moment of reflection.

BASW has made a significant contribution to the global social work profession since our formation in 1970 and that is of central importance to the BASW strategic plan and our vision for the future. 

This is perhaps seen most clearly in our celebration of World Social Work Day which has now grown into World Social Work Month! 

This event was preceded by European Social Work Action Day in 1997.  The first World Social Work Day was celebrated worldwide in 2007 under the theme “Social Work - Making a World of Difference” and it has grown steadily ever since now involving thousands of social workers, students and service users worldwide. 

The 2021 global poster was spontaneously translated into 100 languages.  The global profession has made this day its own with a vast range of activities meeting local needs and priorities but united by a global theme.


The Association’s commitment to international activity is also seen in the International Development Fund (IDF).  With an income of over £40,000 a year, the fund is for BASW members wishing to develop their international engagement.  During the pandemic this was repurposed, providing over £60,000 to eight projects.  A report on achievements will be published later in the year.  We plan to open the IDF to member applications as soon as the pandemic situation is clearer.

The reality of the international character of UK social work was acknowledged in the 2021 BASW AGM resolution celebrating diaspora social workers who qualified elsewhere and came here to work or who qualified here and identify with overseas communities.  The new BASW Diaspora Special Interest Group provides a platform within BASW to explore these themes and to campaign on issues such as guidance to employers on recruitment and induction of overseas social workers.

Our international activity is closely linked with the International Federation of Social Workers (IFSW) and the Commonwealth Organisation for Social Work (COSW) and their range of European, regional and global activities and contacts; BASW members play key roles in both. 

In 2022 the world conference is an Eco-Social People’s Summit facilitated for the first time by a partnership between IFSW and the United Nations Research Institute for Social Development (UNRISD); BASW will play a visible role.  BASW activity also links with partners in the UK including the universities.

Mainly through IFSW and COSW, BASW is contributing to i) development and promotion of global ethical principles, ii) the first global study of the working environment of social workers, iii) guidance on employment of newly qualified social workers, iv) mutual support for social workers challenged by nationalist and populist governments, v) migration and asylum issues and vi) a major study of the history of social work across the Commonwealth in partnership with the Institute of Commonwealth Studies (ICwS).

BASW also responds to a stream of requests and invitations from domestic and overseas colleagues about international issues.

It has been an immense privilege to be involved in international social work since my time as Chief Executive in the 1990s, including my time as Global President (2006-2010).  I have seen the growing strength and confidence of the profession worldwide, which reflects the social pressures of global development and the climate crisis but also reflects our conscious strategy, seen in the impact of the Global Agenda for Social Work and strengthened links with the United Nations, Council of Europe and other structures. 

BASW has played a key role in all these developments and is a strategic global influence within the profession.  I have no doubt that this will continue under the leadership of Rukhsana Farooqi as the new Chair of the International Committee.  My thanks to BASW for giving me these opportunities and to the many members who have contributed to international activity.  I remain a committed and active member of a vibrant, secure and confident BASW, even in these tough times.

David N Jones, BASW International Committee Chair (2017-2021)