‘Social work is not just a job’ : The qualities of social workers from the perspective of service users

Research output: Journal Publications and Reviews (RGC: 21, 22, 62)21_Publication in refereed journalpeer-review

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Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)775-796
Journal / PublicationJournal of Social Work
Issue number6
Online published12 May 2019
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2020


Summary: The social work profession emphasises the development of the personal qualities of social workers in addition to requiring them to possess the necessary professional values, knowledge, theories and practice skills. Until now, we have tended to rely on the perspective of social work professional bodies, educators and employers to assess the personal qualities of social workers. We have seldom inquired about the views of service users on the qualities of social workers, thus disregarding their perspective. This article focuses on identifying the important qualities of social workers from the perspective of service users. 
Findings: This paper reports on qualitative research on the personal qualities of social workers that service users value in Hong Kong. It draws on a diverse range of service users with direct experiences of the services provided by social workers. A total of 47 service users from 7 core social welfare service settings and 32 service units participated in an in-depth qualitative interview. Six significant personal qualities of social workers from the service users’ perspective are identified and discussed. 
Applications: The findings have several implications for examining directions for development of the social work profession, the relationship between service users and social workers, effective ways to develop the personal qualities of students in social work education and ways to resolve the dilemma between service users’ expectations and the existing mode of social work service delivery. Issues of particular relevance to Hong Kong are highlighted in discussing these implications.

Research Area(s)

  • Hong Kong, qualities of social workers, service users’ perspectives, Social work