Alongside this, is the professionalism a theoretical knowledge gives to social work (Howe, 2009). Thompson (2010) argues that other professionals and service users will be more confident in a social worker who is able to demonstrate that their work is based on a theoretical framework, thus showing skills to comprehend and make sense of the service users situation, rather than one who conjectures. Walker states, “it is important that social workers have an understanding of human development to work effectively with other disciplines and to demonstrate a professional literacy commensurate with their status” (2010, pp.xiv-xv). An example of this is a social worker working within a Community Mental Health Team alongside Psychiatrists and Community Psychiatric Nurses who advocate the medical model and “its emphasis on diagnostics and cures’ (Parrish, 2010 p.10). Working in this setting does not mean that the social worker needs to ignore a psychosocial perspective. To advocate for service users effectively, the social worker needs to understand both the medical and psychosocial perspectives, as Parrish states it “necessitate[s] the professional equivalent of being ‘bilingual’ in being able to understand both perspectives simultaneously” (Parrish, 2010 p.10).
In 1992, Hindmarsh’s research on social work graduates, showed that an understanding of theory did provide the graduates with confidence. However, Hindmarsh argued that this confidence did not continue in practice as graduates viewed the use of theory as just a tool to justify their actions or provide accountability to their management (Payne, 2005a). Thompson argues that the professionalism of the social worker is being impacted on by what he describes as ‘managerialism’ (2010, p.51). Thompson explains that government’s budgeting tactics through ‘performance indicators’ is pushing local government to meet targets. This is filtered down the management structure, so that middle managers are dictating what is required and should be implemented by social workers, in order to achieve the targets. Although social workers are dedicated to the use of theory in their practice, managerialism has led to them lacking ‘professional confidence’ (2010 p.51).