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Social Care in Ireland

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In this assignment, I will define social care and its origin from different sources and authorities. I will talk about social care as a profession, its regulatory body, the skills and roles of its members. Finally, I will analyze the merits and demerits of the professionalization of social care in Ireland.


Social care is a profession committed to the planning and delivery of quality care and other support services for individuals and groups with identified needs (Share, 2013).

Social care has been formally defined by (Affairs, 2002) as the professional provision of care, protection, support, welfare and advocacy for vulnerable or dependent clients, individually or in groups. This is achieved through the planning and evaluation of individualized and group programmes of care, which are based on needs, identified where possible in consultation with the clients and delivered through day-to -day shared life experience.

These definitions are not exhaustive. However, it captures a number of key terms that covers the professional territory of social care practice. Social care services are not rendered ordinarily. It is different from the care that is unofficially carried out in Irish society by family and community members. The professionalism here means that this is an occupation with some status that requires access to a specific body of skills and knowledge.

Planning and delivery in social care is not all about delivering services, it involves formulating and developing them. This process requires various abilities and understandings to know what the people’s needs are, and an ability to plan accordingly, drawing from an available evidence and policy guidance, and being able to communicate directly with the people in an authentic way. Social care includes other support services, e.g. advocating on behalf of another, answering court sermons or knowing where to refer a person who has a specific need. Social care can be provided on one to one basis. It also involves working with a small or large group or community. It requires a good communication between people and a good knowledge of group mechanism. Social care practitioners in Ireland initially worked with children and people with disabilities who are in the care of voluntary organizations. Social care practitioners now work with a broader range of people of all ages, who have special needs or vulnerabilities. People who are suffering from one form of marginalization and discrimination or another. They work with people suffering from the structural deficiencies and discrimination in our society such as poverty, sexism, racism and violence. They equally work with children and adolescent in residential care, children with hyperactivity disorder, people with learning disabilities, the homeless, people with drug and alcohol addiction, survivors of clerical sexual abuse, migrant community, travel community, older people and families in the community.

The History of Social Care

Historically, children with disabilities were taken away and kept in institutions run by the religious orders. In independent Ireland, social care was historically provided on behalf of the state by the Catholic and other churches (Fanning and Rush, 2006) and was largely unregulated or regulated in a fragmented way. A piece of British legislation, the 1908 Children’s Act, provided the legislative framework in Ireland for the greater part of the twentieth century. But by 1991, the social and political situation with regard to children at risk had changed significantly, reflecting a greater consciousness of the centrality of the rights of the child (Buckley et al., 1997, Focus Ireland, 1996, O’Higgins, 1996). Modern social care practice was born out of serious deficiencies in the running of children’s centres and the recognition of the need for professionally trained staff (Kennedy and Gallagher, 1997). Several influential reports have helped to shape the development of social care practice. With what is obtainable globally, they aimed to reorient the direction of social care provision away from care in large institutional settings and towards care in small-scale units and in the community. They emphasized the rights of those they cared for and criticized many aspects of the institutional practice. In the education and training sector, the report of the committee on caring and social studies (NCEA, 1992) laid out the basis for the range of educational programmes and training in social care practice. There is now less emphasis on some practical skills and a greater emphasis on research, policy issues and academic knowledge. There is now less emphasis in social care practice in large institutions such as children’s homes. The emphasis has changed dramatically in favor of alternatives such as foster care, community-based projects and community childcare.

Social Care as a Profession

Professionalization is a process whereby an occupational group can claim special status and power for itself. A profession should show ownership of a recognized body of knowledge exclusive to that profession with development of new knowledge through research, self-government through a body that sets and monitors its own standard of practice, control of training and practice, monopoly of practice in its own field of toil, conformity to moral and disciplinary codes of behavior, autonomy of practice, greater individual accountability, and a public ideology service to a client group (William, 2001:77).

In Ireland, (CORU) the Health and Social Care Professionals Council was established in March 2007 with the appointment of the Social Care Work Registration Board in April 2015. CORU is the body responsible for regulating health and social care professions. CORU’s role is to protect the public by promoting high standards of professional conduct, professional education, training and competence amongst Health and Social Care professions.

The reason for the professionalization of social care in Ireland was as a result of the serious deficiencies found out in the report into the running of children’s centres, and the recognition of the need for professionally trained staff.

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The Skills of Social Care Members

Social care members need interpersonal skills-relationship which require empathy, communication skills, self-awareness and an ability to use critical reflection. Social care members should be able to work therapeutically with clients. They should be reliable, responsible and observant. They should be capable of problem solving, competent in effective and efficient decision making, implement and evaluate the effectiveness of treatment programmes and sensitive in their communication with vulnerable people. They should be able to keep records, maintain confidentiality and use their own initiatives. These skills are necessary in the realization of the core principles of social care work which includes, respect for the dignity of clients, social justice, human rights, and the empowerment of clients to achieve their full potential.

The Roles of Social Care Members

Social care members are responsible for the care, protection, support, welfare and advocacy to vulnerable individuals and groups of all ages who experience marginalization, disadvantage or special needs. Client groups are diverse and include children and adolescents in residential care, young people in detention schools, people with intellectual disabilities, the homeless, people with alcohol/drug dependency, families in the community or older people. They are professionally required to guide, challenge and help those in their care and support them in achieving their life goals and to reach their full potential.

The Merits and Demerits of Professionalization

Professionalization of social care practice has brought about significant changes in the training, education, skills and roles of social care practitioners. Modern social care practitioners with the scope of their training and knowledge can work in as many places as possible.

Professionalization in Ireland has created a means by which those with power and status has limited the ability of others to access them Max Weber (1858-1817). Professionalism is thus a form of social closure. Those who enjoy privileged membership of a professional group, can make it very difficult for others to join them by establishing long and expensive course of study, limiting the numbers admitted, discriminating against certain categories of people or creating difficult and complex bodies of knowledge that people must master (Share 2013).

Professionalism has made a clear point of departure in the provision of care in defined institutional contexts. In Ireland, Social care has evolved into a loosely linked set of practices that spans youth work, residential care, community childcare, project work, community development, educational work and therapeutic practice.

Professionalism has broadened the scope of practice for social care members. It has equally changed the circumstances surrounding the programme of education, training and deployment of qualified social care practitioners (Farrell and Doherty (2005: 84).

Social care practice in Ireland developed as a range of activities that people carried out in institutions and residential centres belonging to religious bodies. Professionalization has broken these chains of activities. The professional social care practitioner can now be a free agent who can offer a lot of experiences and who can now lay claim to a certain range of competencies.


Social care is a new area of growth in Ireland. It is a demanding and rewarding occupation, as social care practitioners make a real difference in the lives of the people. Formal social care practice has a humble beginning in the history of healthcare in Ireland. It was located within a largely religious or humanitarian contexts but has now expanded to include the statutory community and voluntary sectors.

Social care practitioners are well educated and highly trained. A statutory registration system is being established to oversee future professional development in the field. The management and reporting structure in social care practice is moving towards the acceptance of social care practitioner as an independent and autonomous professional.


  1. Criteria and Standards of Proficiency for Education and Training Programme. CORU.
  2. Affairs, H.S.E.f.t.D.o.S.a.F., 2002. Joint Commitee on Social Care Professionals , Dublin : HSE.
  3. Kennedy and Gallagher, 1997. Social pedagogy in Europe; Irish Social Worker 15(1), pp 6-8. s.l.:s.n.
  4. Share, K.L.a.P., 2013. Applied Social Care An Introduction for Students in Ireland. 3rd Edition ed. croydon: Gill Education.
  5. Share, P.C.M.a.C.B., 2012. A Sociology of Ireland.. Dublin: Gill and Macmillan.
  6. Share, P., Jan 2019. Code of Professional Conduct and Ethics for Social workers. CORU 2019 Regulating Health and Social Care Professionals ( online ) @
  7. William, D.a.L.K. .. (. )., 2001. Obstacles to the Professionisation of social care in Ireland.. Irish Journal of Applied Social Studdies, pp. 73-90.

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Social Care in Ireland. (2022, August 25). Edubirdie. Retrieved September 21, 2023, from
“Social Care in Ireland.” Edubirdie, 25 Aug. 2022,
Social Care in Ireland. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 21 Sept. 2023].
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