As we said in the Introduction, social workers often shy away from describing the work they do in positive terms. It may be that we are simply unwilling to ‘blow our own trumpets’, but the argument we have put forward in this book is that social work has developed a default position of negativity, a ‘deficit culture’, which has come to characterise much of what is said and written about it. At first sight, the notion of ‘best practice’ may appear to be a problematic one: there is something hard and definitive-sounding about the word ‘best’, which seems out of place in a profession that has taken critical reflection to its heart. However, in his book on social work theory, David Howe (2009) helpfully looks at the ways in which ‘best’ is used both to describe an objective, measurable outcome (the best score in a competition) and a subjective value (the best meal). He argues that, in social work, as in much of life, the judgements that we make involve both quantitative and qualitative evaluation — weighing up hard, factual evidence along with our own and others’ experiences, moral values, feelings and relationships. The question social workers constantly have to ask themselves is ‘What is the best course of action in this case?’ (p. 201). This is an ordinary, not an exceptional kind of ‘best’ — the best that we can do with this person, at this time, within this set of circumstances.
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