Social work is an academic discipline and profession that concerns itself with individuals, families, groups and communities in an effort to enhance social functioning and overall well-being. Social functioning is the way in which people perform their social roles, and the structural institutions that are provided to sustain them. Social work applies social sciences, such as sociology, psychology, political science, public health, community development, law, and economics, to engage with client systems, conduct assessments, and develop interventions to solve social and personal problems; and to bring about social change.
The social work industry developed in the 19th century, with some of its roots in voluntary philanthropy and in grassroots organizing.However, responses to social needs had existed long before then, primarily from private charities and from religious organizations. The effects of the Industrial Revolution and of the Great Depression of the 1930s placed pressure on social work to become a more defined discipline.