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The Law and Social Work

03 / 1993

Approaching the question of the place of the law in the practices of social workers sends you back to the basement rules of the law and of social work. After reminding us of the definitions ("the Law": set of rules which enforce some sort of order for life in society ; "Social Work" : rather on the side of what rejects any sort of order), the author explains that the law and social work both take part in the management of social contacts.

For instance, at an ADICOD conference (ADICOD : Association for the Dissemination of Information about the law in the social, medico-social and educational fields, France)in October 1990, professionals observed that social work often comes into action in extreme situations in which the law has little impact.

a)Users’ demand :

- People’s rights. The evolution of the family institution and of the person-society relations leads to many-sided family rights and their judiciary registering, a factor which social workers have to take into account. Thus, as regards paternity enquiries, accurate knoledge of legal incidence is necessary for the social worker to make situations clear and propose the better adapted answer to the parent who is asking for support or the other who is claiming to exert a right on the child. The many-sided aspects of divorce origins and its impact on the family, on individual situations, have to be taken into account by social workers in their objective of autonomy.

- Social rights. The economic crisis, the setting up of a dual society, make it necessary for social work to apprehend not only the elements of labour rights, but also the multi-sided measures for unemployment social treatment, for training and social or professional insertion, for the minimum insertion income, and to feel implicated in the connection between the social sector and the economic sector. The self-implication of social workers appears as compulsory in terms of evaluation and social accompanying in applying texts.

b)Evolution of social work practices :

Although during the seventies the emergenge of the words "social work", "social inspection" led social workers to being suspicious towards institutions and to take side with the users, the issueing in the following years of new legal texts protecting the rights and freedom of the individual (mediator, data-processing and liberty, family and child welfare, ...)contributed to repositioning the "customer" of social services as a user, a law consumer, by installing external regulating structures for the relation between institutions, social workers and users.

c)Expectations and responses as regards training.

The training programme of social service assistants includes 160 hours teaching on the institutional frame of social action, so as to allow the candidates to get the necessary legal knowledge for social situation analysis. In 199O, with the reform of specialized educators training, the legal training subject is raised from 60 to 180 hours. A study by ADICOD (October 1990)comforts the wish to see in the programmes more subjects in connection with present day questions (consumers in debt, insertion minimum income, decentralisation)or with practices (rights of children, rights of the family, work legislation, social assistance). Nevertheless, the contents and the pedagogy still have to be improved and better adapted.

Giving social workers a legal culture is an important objective to provide them with good knowledge and appropriation of the principles, control of the main concepts, consciousness of the efficiency (or inefficiency)of the law, and acquisition of the legal reasoning.

The "slicing up" of the law into subjects should be re-thought for social training sessions, so as to allow social workers the full exercise of their mediating role between the law and the user, of their interaction between the latter and the institutions. Pedagogy should exact from the partners (generalists and specialists)real team work with organized strategy so that such training sessions might bring forth actual complementarity of the law and human and social sciences.

Key words

legal training, law, training, human rights, right to information, social regulation, social practice

, France


Such concern is not specific to France. As a matter of fact, the 24th conference of the International Council on Social Welfare, held in Berlin in August 1988, was about the topic "Law and legislation, social action, social development". Participants from all continents approached several of the questions mentioned above, in particular the function of the social worker mediator between the user and the law, but also that of an interpreter of claims concerning the respect of fundamental rights and "better law".


Original card in French in Dph data base. The ’title/sub-title’ field corresponds to the ’translated title’ field in the French card.

"Informations Sociales" special issue: "La demande de droit" (the demand for law)grouping together a dozen texts: One law can hide another, Law and mediation, negociated justice, legal services ...

ADICOD, 1, rue Edgar Mouton, 3.000 Nîmes. Tel : (04)66 76 75 04


Articles and files

LALIRE, Marie Colette, Droit et travail social, Caisse Nationale des Allo in. Informations Sociales, 1992/10/00 (France)

Juristes Solidarités - Espace Comme vous Emoi, 5 rue de la Révolution, 93100 Montreuil, FRANCE - Tél. : 33 (0)1 48 51 39 91 - France - - jur-sol (@)

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