This article examines the transformation of social work in South Africa in response to the transition to a developmental welfare approach. Always moulding and shaping itself in response to its social context, social work in South Africa, as elsewhere, is a reflection of the broader political landscape. In South Africa the social work profession has struggled to assert its independence and become self-regulating. It is unique in the Western world in that since 1978 it has been regulated by a legislatively constituted statutory council. While the profession has tried to transform itself in the new democracy, outside pressures have found it wanting and deeply divided. Thus, despite progress in other areas social workers have not yet been successful in forming a strong, united professional association and this severely limits its ability to lobby politicians
and advocate on behalf of clients. It seems, however, that the tide is turning and social workers are gaining recognition but, once again, the challenge remains deciding on the extent to which the profession cooperates with the government’s agenda for change. Social work educators took the lead in setting education standards in response to higher education policy and are also playing a part in devising practice standards through
their involvement in the social work board which falls under the umbrella of the Council for Social Service Professions.
However, education and practice are somewhat out of step and professional unity remains a pressing issue on social work’s transformation agenda.