When I was studying for my Social Work Diploma in 2000, it was a requirement that every piece of work I wrote demonstrated my commitment to anti-oppressive practice (AOP). I was encouraged to analyse the cultural and structural oppression embedded in society and to demonstrate how, as a social worker, I was both working within those oppressive structures and actively seeking to challenge them. That AOP was social work’s defining theoretical basis was something I felt that I could not safely question — or not if I wanted to qualify. So, when I wrote about my practice, I would try to fashion what I was doing into an anti-oppressive mould. I often felt caught in something of a double bind. On the one hand, I was committed to challenging oppression and, on the other, I had no choice but to oppress. At a basic level, how could I balance the conflicting rights of a disabled person and their carer? If I supported one, was it not inevitable that I would oppress the other? Or, if I believed I had a legal and ethical duty to seek to have restrictions placed on a woman with dementia, how could I escape the fact that my intervention was highly oppressive?
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