The trickiest community-based challenges for social workers

No matter where they work, social workers make a difference every day. For those who work in the community, their actions not only make a difference to the individuals, families, and groups they work with, but they also help improve the community as a whole. Throughout their work, they face many challenges, helping tackle a wide variety of issues and problems. As well as making the job endlessly varied, overcoming these challenges, and seeing improvements come about is part of what makes the role of a social worker such a rewarding one.

How to meet challenges 

Exactly how social workers face challenges will vary depending on the nature of the problem and the individual style of the social worker. Throughout their work, social workers become keen problem solvers, and learning how to do this starts with their training. If social work is a career that interests you, then it is worth finding out about your training options. You can do a Bachelor of Social Work degree (BSW), but many positions require a Master of Social Work (MSW). These can be studied at university or through high-quality online courses.

What is a social worker? Social workers work in many different places, from the community to schools, hospitals, and prisons helping people. Course providers are a good place to find out more about the different roles and help you decide if social work is for you. Keuka College is one online provider that offers an accredited MSW with an advanced option for those already holding a BSW.

The American Academy of Social Work and Social Welfare developed an initiative of the Grand Challenges for Social Work, many of which rank among the trickiest community-based challenges for social workers.

Youth development 

Children with good physical, mental, and emotional health are more likely to grow into healthy adults who make a valuable contribution to society. However, growing up is never easy, and many problems can impact young people, hindering their development. Many young people have mental health difficulties, with a significant number not being treated. Substance abuse is also a problem for young people. Social workers can run programs and initiatives to help tackle these issues.

Social isolation 

Social isolation is easy to dismiss as people simply being a bit lonely. But in reality, it is a far more serious problem, with evidence suggesting it can increase the risk of strokes, heart disease, and premature death. On a community level, social workers can help raise awareness of this while working with individuals to improve their social interactions.

The health gap 

Good healthcare is one of the marvels of the modern world, but many living in poverty do not find it easy to access, with many not having health insurance. Other factors impacting the health gap are that poorer people are more likely to live in dangerous areas or face discrimination, which can increase their chances of facing physical or mental health problems. Social workers can assist individuals and families in accessing healthcare while also being a powerful voice that can help influence policies.

An aging population

We are an aging population, with the numbers of people aged 65 and older growing. While it is positive that we are living longer, this should not be qualified merely in terms of quantity. Quality of life, too, is important with the challenge of an aging population being to advance long and productive lives. The physical and mental health conditions related to old age are expected to increase along with other issues facing the elderly, such as loneliness, which will put greater pressure on health and social services. Community-based social workers will play a vital role in developing interventions and programs for the elderly to promote their physical and mental health, and to allow their later years to be productive and enjoyable.


Homelessness is a problem that affects many in society, from veterans to young people. As well as the effect on the physical and mental health of homeless individuals, it can have a knock-on effect in areas with a high homeless population. Social workers can work with homeless individuals while also influencing policies with the aim of eradicating this problem.


Social workers work in prisons to help reduce the rate of reoffending from prisoners upon their release, but often, this is not easy once they are out in the community. It is, therefore, important that social workers follow up on the work done in prisons to help the recently released adjust to life on the outside, including promoting employment opportunities.

Of course, prevention is always better than a cure, so it is also important for social workers to promote programs that will prevent anyone from offending in the first place.


Racism and other forms of discrimination have a serious impact, from reducing education and employment opportunities to becoming a victim of crime. Social workers have long played a role in the fight for civil rights, and it is important that this role continues, with the calling out of racial bias in policies and discriminatory practices and looking for evidence-based solutions to racism and discrimination.

Economic equality 

Economic inequality is a community-based problem that causes many of the other problems. In the community, social workers can work with individuals and families to ensure they claim all the help they are entitled to and look for ways to increase their opportunities, such as through education. Ultimately, though, this is a problem on a national level, that social workers as a whole need to highlight with the aim of influencing policies to reduce inequality.

Facing the challenge

Social work is certainly a challenging career that attracts those with good problem-solving skills. There are plenty of training options for those ready to take up the challenges, with in-person courses and high-quality online options. Once qualified, you will enjoy the rewards of knowing that every single day you are making a difference in the lives of individuals, families, and communities.