In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section European Institutions and Social Work

  • Introduction
  • Journals Focused on European Social Work and Social Policy
  • European Organizations

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Social Work European Institutions and Social Work
Nathalie Huegler, David N. Jones, Karen Lyons
  • LAST REVIEWED: 26 November 2019
  • LAST MODIFIED: 26 November 2019
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195389678-0278


This bibliography examines the influence of the formal pan-European political and economic structures on the practice and development of social work, social services, and social care in Europe, with particular reference to human rights, social welfare policy, and the practice of social work. Europe as a continent stretches from the Atlantic Ocean to the Ural Mountains, from the Arctic Ocean to the Mediterranean Sea, from Portugal to Russia (beyond the Urals), and from Finland to Greece, while also including island states such as Cyprus, Iceland, Ireland, Malta, and the United Kingdom. The continent includes not only some of the most economically and socially developed countries in the world, but also some of the poorest. It comprises the forty-seven democratic countries that are members of the Council of Europe (CE), with a total population of around 740 million. All the member states have ratified the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms (also known as the European Convention on Human Rights, or ECHR), including respect for its legal institutions. Belarus, Kosovo, and the Holy See (in Rome) are also within the region but are not members of the Council. Twenty-eight of these countries are also members of the European Union (EU), a political union with common institutions and legal frameworks that have supremacy over national parliaments. Social work as a profession has been well established in Europe for over a hundred years within a variety of social welfare models; the countries in central and eastern Europe have reestablished social work since the 1990s, following the ending of the Communist political systems. The practice of social work has evolved differently in each country, but it shares common characteristics. The main political and social structures of Europe—the Council of Europe (CE) and the European Union (EU)—have a significant influence on the development of national social policies through EU Directives (laws), the human rights principles, and the conventions of the Council of Europe and convergent visions. The key instruments that impact on social work policy and practice are identified alongside analysis of their significance.

European Institutions

A number of powerful European institutions have been created since the end of the Second World War in Europe in 1945. These were intended to create economic and political structures to ensure mutual respect and peaceful coexistence and to minimize the risk of future conflicts, which have devastated Europe several times in the previous hundred years. The vision expanded in recognition of the development of regional economic structures, in part to balance the growing economic and political power of the United States of America and latterly of China. The development of European structures aimed at promoting political and economic unity across the continent has not been without frictions, with issues such as the economic crisis in the Eurozone, Brexit, migration, and populism testing notions of European solidarity. This section examines the history and evolution of the main institutions and their constituent parts.

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