Social workers face a series of challenges as they strive to make an impact on their clients. One major challenge is government regulations, which create challenges and hurdles from many different angles for social workers. This is an irony considering its government providing social services in the first place. Though regulations are often intended to protect people, they can be a hindrance to their care as well. Several will be explored below including: the definition of homelessness, HIPAA, and shifting political climates.

Definition of Homelessness:

Most state government’s definitions of homelessness are centered on individuals or families who are living on the streets or perhaps in their car. This is certainly a major part of what homelessness is, however it does not encompass the full spectrum of individuals and families who are indeed without a home. Social workers work with clients who are living on the streets, however more commonly they work with individuals or families who are living in a hotel or are perhaps living in an apartment designed for a family of four yet housing a family of 10. Both situations are dire in their gaps which additional government assistance could often fill, yet won’t due to this type of regulatory hurdle. This presents quite a frustrating situation for social workers who are trying to get assistance to people who truly need it. They often must think outside the box and coordinate with local organizations such as houses of faith to help meet the needs of their clients.


The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 is a federal act in place to protect patients’ private information and their access to health insurance in case of the loss of a job. The way HIPAA plays out is often far from its original intent. It can be a challenge for social workers helping family members arrange care for their loved ones. Some organizations in the chain of care may have a strict your interpretation of this policy and may not release critical information to family members, where other organizations may have a more liberal approach and facilitate proper cooperation. This creates issues for the social worker who are trying to coordinate care between different organizations as there are multiple layers involved in complete care. Without those layers working together, progress may be slowed or incomplete.

Political Shifts:

Another hurdle is when there is a shift in political parties who come to power. This can take various forms but in general, when conservative parties and politicians are in the majority in a region or even on the federal level, it typically means a reduction in the amount of resources available. The nature of government provided resources is that they are not typically held back for future use. They are allocated and utilized in a very short timeframe. This makes it extremely challenging for social workers are on the front lines as the resources available to them over the course of several years can vary drastically.


Government regulations have a big impact on social work. Not only do they create its availability but they also can place limitations through the availability of Information and resources as social workers are at the mercy of these regulations. Social workers must be adept communicating with various layers of care and finding resources when funding changes.


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