An Understanding Of Social Theory Helps Social Workers Maximise The Welfare Of Service Users/Carers’. Critically Analyse This Statement In Relation To One Social Theory Covered In The Module.

An Understanding Of Social Theory


Functionalism is a social theory established by Emile Durkheim. Together with social theory, they define the status of organizations and roles played by social workers to create equilibrium in the society. The paper explains functionalism theory by Emile Durkheim in depth together with its functionality in the society. In addition, it defines social theory and relates its responsibility in social work. Social workers use social theory to assist them meet the needs of people in the society and in particular the older adults aged 65 years and above. The paper ends with definitions of some words used while describing theories and critizing functionalism theory with alienation theory.

Functionalism theory by Emile Durkheim

 Durkheim functionalism theory views the society as a whole system, and as interconnected parts, whichform the whole. According to Pope (2016), Durkheim assumes the tendency of system equilibrium and considers the possibility of social order. As a result, he views structures according to their contributions to the perpetuation and or evolutionary development of the society. Durkheim perceives that commonalities and consensus are the basis of social order. He concentrated on social order problem and the positive effects of social institutions. Durkheim explains that all parts in the society are related and are agents of socialization and they contribute together to maintain the society as a whole.

Emile Durkheim uses Functionalism theory to visualize social structures more important than individual. It explains that individuals are born in the society therefore becoming products of social influences surrounding them such as families, religion, media, and education (Trueman, 2015). Social consensus, integration, and order are the main beliefs in functionalism theory since it allows the society to progress and continue because it shares norms and values meaning individuals have common goals and interests to conform and minimize conflict.

Functionalism theory discusses about the adaptation in relation between the environment and the system. Durkheim argues that social systems should have degree of control in their environment. Shelter and food should be provided towards meeting physical needs of members. The economy is the institution that is concerned with the function (Trueman, 2015). Functionalism theory interprets every part of the society and their contribution to stability of the whole society.

  Durkheim explains that the society consists of parts and each part is functional and operates to make the society stable. Durkheim visualizes the society as an organism where each part must function and no part can work alone. When one part experiences a crisis, the other parts must adapt to fill the void in one way or another. The functionalist theory explains that societal parts are composed of social institutions, which have different needs with particular consequences that follow when they are not met (True man, 2016).

  The consequences are there to shape and form the society. All parts depend on each other to function. The institutions defined by Durkheim are family, government, economy, education, religion, and education.

Functionalism theory explains that institutions exists to serve a vital role to make the society function as a whole body. Institutions that do not serve as whole they die away. New institutions are created when needs evolve or change. The government contributes to making the society whole by providing education to children and families at cheaper prices. The people pay taxes to make the society run and is used by the government to make it run and the whole society. The family depends upon the school to offer appropriate education to the children who will end up in good jobs. The jobs will raise and support their families as well as assists their parents financially (Emirbayer, 2000). As a result, the living standards of the whole society will be raised. The societal rules give orders that ensure stability in the society. The society produces enough food for its people. If the rules are not appropriate, they are changed and its people forced to adapt to the new forms of order, production, and stability systems.

Functionality theory emphasizes on consensus and order existing in the society. It is a consensus that focuses on social stability and shared public values. As a result deviant behaviors change and disorganization in the systems to achieve stability. Social problems are created when one part of the system is not working affecting all other parts in the society. Durkheim argues that it is important to analyze the society and describe its functions. The equilibrium is met by proper functioning of social systems. Example the state should provide education to children using taxes from their parents. However, if the state does not provide proper education, the children drop out and become criminals. As the system adjusts, it introduces rehabilitation centers and jails as well as other means to punish the criminals and make them law-abiding citizens.

Ziyanak and Williams(2014) explain that Durkheim viewed crime and delinquent behavior as a normal and necessary occurrence in the social systems. Criminal actions triggered formation of a consensus among individuals and what they thought could be ethical and moral norms to abide with. Functional perspective explains social institutions as collective means of meeting social and individual needs. Durkheim writings are vital towards understanding deviance. Durkheim argues that crime and small numbers of ill individuals in unnatural settings does not create deviance but the actions are important in the society.

 Crime is a crucial function. Durkheim used Functionality to describe deviant behavior in the society. He noticed that deviance results in positive benefits to the society since they are used to differentiate between right and bad ideas in the society. In addition, crime influences non-criminal population and strengthens creative conscience through creation of boundaries for human conduct and approval of deviants (Ziyanak and William, 2014). Durkheim explains that crime is a normal force functioning behind social order and moral parameters. Thus, it is inevitable and important in each society. Durkheim points that division of labor had economic benefits as well as increasing production of goods, affluence and economic success. Punishment corrects the guilty individuals and scares off possible imitators. Further, it prevents violation of the societal cohesion. Durkheim explains that anomic suicide originated from human activities that lack proper regulation and consequential sufferings. Suicide cases are a result of moral degradation, social deregulation, and consequences of divorce, death of spouses or being single (Zinayak and William, 2014)

Durkheim discusses functionalism theory to explain ways used by societies to maintain internal stability and survival through time. He used solidarity to explain social stability. Moreover, functionalism differentiated between solidarity in primitive societies and ensure organic solidarity in complex modern societies. According to Durkheim, mechanical solidarity held together traditional and primitive societies. Societal members live in small groups that are not differentiated. Durkheim explains that communities share strong ties within the family since they perform similar tasks which results in similar values and symbols. However, Durkheim observes major contrasts between traditional and modern societies. In modern societies there are weaker family bonds, there is complex division of labor since each member performs their own tasks.

Durkheim argued that the functionality of the modern society would eventually destroy the mechanical solidarity in traditional societies. However, Durkheim observed that modern societies never fall apart, instead they depend on organic solidarity since there are extended division of labor. The members of the society are forced to interact and exchange with each other to provide for their needs. Further, functionalist perspective explains maintenance of stability in societies as well as internal cohesion, which is important in ensuring continuous existence over time. Each part in the society works together naturally and automatically to maintain overall social equilibrium. A change in one institution precipitates changes in other institutions. Dysfunctional systems in an organization eventually die out since they do not contribute to the total maintenance of the organization.

Summe, Scholl, and Webb (2007) explains descriptions of Anomie according to Durkheim.anomie is a reaction against social controls of the society. It is the breakdown of normal behavior in the society. Durkheim explains that deviant behavior originate from a state of anomie. Durkheim explained that crimes happened to release social tensions and thus cleanse purging effect in the society.

Discussion on how social theory helps social workers (at least three ways on how functionalism helps social workers) linking it to examples of contemporary social work practice. Eg coproduction, personalization,

Functionalism theory helps social workers to interact with their environment and enable them use behavioral theories and social systems. Social workers engage with vulnerable people having difficulties of participating in the society fully. Social workers use functionalism theory to promote the well-being of human and redress human suffering and injustice (Hudson, 2000).

  Social work theory assists social workers to explain the situation of the client and predicts their behavior. It assists in predicting a starting point for social workers. It helps social workers to have an organized plan of their work reducing wandering happening in the practice. It offers a clear framework in social situation and offers accountability to their work. It gives social workers a perspective to conceptualize and address the problems of clients and decide on appropriate interventions. Social workers use social theory to identify knowledge gaps about practice. Social theory to be defined in general and then Functionalism to be defined in depth.

Social theory helps in understanding human behavior and meanings of unique situations experienced by clients. It acts as a guide in the practice of social workers by offering a holistic approach to analyze clients and serve them better (Genitty et al., 2014).

Social work definitions

Larkin (2006) defines social work as interventions given to individuals and the environment, it addresses connections between client systems and clients themselves and their interrelationship with the society. Social work aims at creating personal and environmental changes to improve people’s life and living conditions. Social work aims at identifying the poor, oppressed groups and other vulnerable populations and helping them pout of problems.

Larkin (2006) explains that social work addresses the interaction between people and the environment. It concentrates on ways of improving the lives of people and facilitates transformation and growth through skillful evidence based interventions. Mullen (2014) asserts that Social workers consider evidences and draws conclusions from assessing cases, conducting intervention planning and selecting outcomes that pertain to his professional work. Evidences may be direct or indirect.Larkin (2006) continues to add that social workers concentrate on helping the underprivileged members of the society, strengthening the well-being of people and addressing the welfare of the whole society.The Irish Association of social workers (2011) defines social work as a profession that promotes social change, solves problems in human relationships, empowers, and liberates people to enhance their wellbeing. Mackie (2007) explains that theories of human behavior in social work identify areas where people interact with their environment. Human rights principles and social justice are important to social work.

Social workers

The college of social work (2013) explains that social workers are responsible of transforming the lives of mentally ill older adults, promoting their rights and needs among those living in extreme marginalized and silenced societies. They are responsible of making sure that they reduce staff costs without compromising the quality of services offered. Social workers ensure personalization of services and safeguarding of human rights. These are done through building professional relationships and empowering people in their communities and families. Social workers manage conflict and support people to manage their own risks.

 Social workers know the legislature and apply legislation process as required. They access practical support and services. They work with other professional to achieve best outcomes to people. Social workers promotes change in the society, help solve relationship problems and empower and liberate people in the process of enhancing their well-being. Social work utilizes theories of human behavior and social systems to identify interactions of people and their environment (Moriarty, Baginky, and Manthorpe, 2015).

Social workers and their roles in maximizing the welfare of old adults

Social workers and older persons

Social workers regard the older populations as their primary clients. Adults aged 65 years and older are referred to health facilities where lower age limits are predefined. Social workers attend to adults living independently within the community, with their families or guardians, those able to attend day care services, those living in sheltered accommodations and those in high dependency long stay residential units (The Irish Association of social workers, 2011).

Assessing needs of the older adults

Social workers assess the needs of older adults, manage their stresses, offer counselling and therapies based focused to get solutions. They conduct advocacy work and develop group and communities they live in. In addition, they assess forms of abuse either physical or emotional, and complaints regarding standards of care given. Social workers cooperate with their children, spouses, grandchildren to assess the need s of older adults and meet them. They give them advice and information, intervene in times of crisis, offer basic support, therapies, manage their critical situations and counsel during bereavement. They mediate during conflicts and manage them. They offer assistance while navigating the set bureaucracies such as home care and nursing home (The Irish Association of social workers, 2011). They offer training courses and assign support groups to carers and family members. Carers who might not be family members are trained and given extra information on how to look after the older adult, are issued with confidentiality information in cases when the adult is suffering mental health problems. They are directed on ways of supporting them according to required care per each condition. The multidisciplinary team is also involved to bring back information on special needs and circumstances of carers and families offered to the older person. Social workers realize the needs of the older adults, explain them and outline ways 0f solving them.

Material well-being

Social workers have a duty to realize the material wellbeing of older adults, which includes a reasonable standard of accommodation in long stay facilities. They state that older adults have a right to have adequate possessions and sufficient money that maintains reasonable standard of comfort. Older adults require adequate public provision to make sure that older adults have adequate housing and realistic system of income support (Chu & Tsui, 2008).

Emotional well being

Social workers have a role to realize emotional well-being of older adults. Failure to properly function among older adults results in depression. Conditions such as bereavement, isolation, and lack of effective transport services indicate threats especially among the disabled adults (Bilton et al., 1996). However, social workers ensure they avail day care services and counselling to cover such threats.

Social inclusion

Social workers provide ways of having the older adults accepted in the society and contribute to it. Social workers work with voluntary services and public systems of support to increase mobility and participation of disabled older adults (Cree, 2000). They access institutions and agencies that offer wheel chairs among other assistive devices to the old.

Physical well being

Social workers offer medical care, occupational and physical therapy to counteract negative effects of disability and illnesses among the old (Knowledge and skills statement for social workers in adult services, 2015).

Interpersonal relationships

Social workers offer transport services and other forms to increase mobility, which will strengthen interpersonal relationships (Beres, 2010). The older adults can contact with their friends and family to give life good quality.


Social workers ensure that they create awareness and skill to be self-determined to reduce dependence on other people (Ritzer, 2013).

Social assessments

Social workers aim at maximizing the opportunities of older adults and enhance their quality of life in their social systems, rights, and needs. Social workers identify practical and emotional needs as well as appropriate support. Social workers study the older person, their family, and carers. They identify needs in terms of accommodation, food, shelter, hygiene, partners and their integration in the isolated or integrated communities. Social workers make conclusions about their self-esteem, emotional health, stress levels, cognitive ability, learning ability among others (Bisman, 2004).

Advocating on behalf of their clients

Social workers advocate services in the community needed by the older persons. They work with local authorities and social welfare services to network and lias with resources in the community. They offer information to families and clients on benefits and support services. They empower clients, support, and encourage them (Reckwitz, 2002).


 Social workers listen to clients and offer different types of motivation. They give them convincing reasons to change their lifestyles as well as helping them to adjust and transition to various changes in life (British Association of social workers, 2002).


Social workers offer counselling to clients on ways of managing stress, how to cope with bereavement and loss, and ways of managing addiction and adjustment. They identify strengths of the older persons and term them as unique. They engage in-group works with carers, clients and families by forming advocacy groups and carers groups (Dominelli, 2000).

Working with families and carers

Social workers negotiate between family members in case of conflict and mediation. They offer therapy skills and family work. They assess risks, manage issues such as domestic violence, emotional abuse, and financial stress, and self-neglect. Social workers are responsible of controlling domestic violence, abuse, and discrimination of the old (Giddens, 1997). They act like case managers to handle complex cases that involves service managers and high-level managers in the HSE.

Respect and dignity

Social workers ensure that older people enjoy their independence despite any disability. They ensure that all members of the community respect them. Their social, religious, cultural, and political views are recognized and respected. Social workers stress that older persons have privacy rights and total control over their lives and their environment (Reed and Alexander, 2009). They ensure that the old are involved in decision-making and in discussions affecting their lives.

Elder abuse

Social workers have a responsibility of eradicating any form of abuse among social workers. It is their responsibility to investigate, prevent, and conduct interventions in cases dealing with sexual abuse, neglect, and physical issues. Social workers avoid situations that cause harm, distress, and violation of human rights among older adults (Alexander and Reed, 2009). As a result, they prevent occurrence of all material abuse, discrimination and financial abuses. Social workers have certain duties to perform when abuse is suspected. These include facilitating multidisciplinary assessment of the capacity of the older person in respect to their ability to care and protect himself or herself. They are responsible of assessing financial, social, material, and family circumstances, special needs, and accommodation. They identify extent of support from neighbors, friends, and carers among other well-wishers to the family. They assess the capability of the carers to care for the older family member (Milne et al., 2013). They lias with healthcare services such as hospitals, psychiatry, and geriatric of old age persons. They work with private and voluntary care services, primary care teams, and communities. Moreover, occupational therapists and primary care teams are involved.

Physiotherapists, home care and home help managers are involved to offer extra information to careers’ and family members (Leary, Tsui, and Ruch, 2014). Social workers are involved in crisis intervention and prioritizing protection of their clients. Example they mediate and employ conflict management skills to offer resolutions after an abuse has occurred. They take legal action on behalf of the old (Banks, 2006).

Definition of key terms

Assessment      the exercise of identifying emotional and practical needs as well as appropriate supports.

Advocacy        the local authority

Networking     it is the process of linking with community resources, active retirement, and day centers.

Counseling      it is the act of giving therapy to stress management and dealing with loss and                                             bereavement (Coleman, 2016).

Placement                    sheltered accommodation.

Alienation theory

Blunden (2016) reports that alienation theory discusses people and transformation of their labor into powers that rule them. They act as if they are driven by supra human and natural law. Alienation originates from the belief of inanimate commodities having valuable human powers, which enable them to govern activities of human beings. Cox (1998) explains that max developed alienation theory with an aim of revealing human nature, which lies behind impersonal forces that dominate the society. Max shows that aspects of our societies are results of past actions done by humans although they appear natural and independent. Encyclopedia of Marxism comments that alienation is a state of people becoming foreign to their worlds. Coser (2016) states that Marx alienation theory reveals that features of capitalist society such as political economy, the state, and religion have alienation conditions.


Max through his alienation theory of alienation dismisses the fact that factors in the society are interrelated and must work together to have proper coordination in the community as outlined by Durkheism. Marx adds that social systems are controlled by super powers that enable them to govern their actions. However, this is unlike the argument of Dukheism who states that social systems in a society control themselves and their environment. Their interrelation helps them adapt to changes occurring in the society.

In conclusion, functionalism theory aims at establishing the equilibrium in the society through interdependence of factors in the society. Social theory helps social workers to identify the needs of the older adults, assess them and identify ways of assisting them.


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