Social work as a professional activity is in danger of being subsumed into the more general arena of bureaucratic ‘competence’ as managerial systems seek to exert increasing control over the workforce (Jones 2001; Lymbery and Butler 2004). It falls therefore to those engaged in the task continually to assert its unique contribution as a care profession (Beresford 2001). The social work role and task is not simply about action and good intentions, laudable and important as these are for many people who need and require support in their lives. It is also about thinking, planning and empowering those using the service and it therefore needs workers to develop a conscious awareness of their own approach to practice. This should enable workers to be aware of how their own knowledge, skills and values impinge and impact on the service user’s situation. By maintaining this level of artistry (Ruch 2000), workers are less likely solely to become caught up in the procedural imperatives of the managerial agenda. It is our view that the development of each worker’s approach to practice requires to be undertaken in a reflective and deliberate manner, as this will underpin every other aspect of professional activity and process.
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