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About this book

This fully revised fourth edition of a well-respected textbook seeks to build social workers' confidence in legal interpretation and implementation - practitioners must not only know the law; they must also have a critical appreciation of its implications for human rights, civil liberties and social justice. With a focus on promoting knowledge and skills in recognising, locating and articulating legal issues, it also demonstrates how the law can be used to inform practice standards and deliver positive outcomes for service users.

This is essential reading for Social Work Law modules at undergraduate and postgraduate level. Practitioners and educators will also find it an invaluable resource to guide them through a complex, yet vital, aspect of their work.

Table of Contents

Chapter 1. Towards Practising Social Work Law

Abstract
Social workers in training and experienced practitioners alike often appear apprehensive and lacking in confidence about working in the legal arena. Students anticipate their law learning with a variety of emotions, including anxiety (even fear), and feel overwhelmed by the breadth and depth of learning required (Braye et al., 2011; Preston-Shoot and McKimm, 2012a). There is ambivalence too. The very idea of law being part of social work may be questioned, with concern that its coercive powers are antithetical to social work values. Legal language is perceived as inaccessible and the interface between law and social work as complex and fluid; there is disappointment when the clear boundaries expected from the legal rules are not apparent. Practice teachers appear daunted by their responsibility for teaching and assessing social work law and express reservations about their own legal competence (Preston-Shoot et al., 1997; Braye et al., 2007). Nonetheless, a positive perception of law exists too as a source of legitimate authority, and a resource in advocating for and promoting equality and human rights. Despite its challenges, social work students have long expressed enthusiasm for their law learning (Ball et al., 1995; Marsh and Triseliotis, 1996; Lyons and Manion, 2004; Braye et al., 2011) and law learning significantly impacts upon knowledge and confidence, and changes attitudes about synergy between legal rules and social work values (Braye et al., 2014a; Preston-Shoot and McKimm, 2012b; Preston-Shoot et al., 2013).
Suzy Braye, Michael Preston-Shoot

Chapter 2. Social Work Law: Critical Perspectives

Abstract
In debates about the relationship between social work and the law, law is often presented as a clear set of rules of self-evident and unquestionable integrity, which needs only to be negotiated with technical skill for helpful solutions to emerge. This chapter challenges this view of the law as firm ground, and likens it instead to shifting sand, the reflection of dominant ideologies, attitudes and values which themselves evolve over time in response to complex social and political pressures.
Suzy Braye, Michael Preston-Shoot

Chapter 3. Beyond Dilemmas to Decisions

Abstract
This chapter continues the critique of the law-social work relationship by first exploring conflicting imperatives within the law, and the practice dilemmas that consequently confront practitioners and managers. Two contradictions are particularly pertinent: when an individual’s right to make their own decision potentially conflicts with the duty to ensure that no harm befalls that person or others, and when the rights of different parties have to be balanced against each other and against broader social responsibilities. This territory is particular to social work, which Parton (2014) notes is the only profession drawing on socio-legal expertise to mediate in the intermediary social zone between the family and the state. The chapter then considers decision-making in such a context, where diverse constructions of people’s needs and rights and interpretations of law, ethics and rights affect how social workers intervene.
Suzy Braye, Michael Preston-Shoot

Chapter 4. Care and Support to Adults

Abstract
This chapter outlines the legal knowledge that guides social work with adults who need care and support. Each case study links the legal rules to practice in a given situation, and considers what must and may be done as the case scenario unfolds.
Suzy Braye, Michael Preston-Shoot

Chapter 5. Using the Law to Work with Children, Young People and their Families

Abstract
This chapter outlines the legal knowledge that guides social work with children and their families, showing how law provides a framework for considering what must and may be done in practice.
Suzy Braye, Michael Preston-Shoot

Chapter 6. Frameworks for Decision-Making and Accountability

Abstract
The next two chapters consider the law on how social work practice is conducted, demonstrating how legal frameworks offer positive and constructive contributions. This chapter’s focus is on the law that seeks to ensure the quality of practice. The chapter will first consider how different sources of law influence practice, before considering the law on social work decision-making, how it ensures professional accountability, the mechanisms it provides for representation, complaints and redress, and its mandate for barring people deemed unsuitable to work professionally. The chapter concludes with consideration of the contribution to quality made by registration and inspection of services.
Suzy Braye, Michael Preston-Shoot

Chapter 7. Frameworks for Partnership Work

Abstract
This second of two chapters on the law on social work practice focuses on relationships: between agencies, between service providers and communities, and between social workers, service users and carers. It considers how the law promotes equalities and anti-discriminatory practice, reviews the rules on confidentiality, access to information and data protection, outlines responsibilities for planning, and the use of resources, and concludes with mandates for interprofessional collaboration, and for promoting user and carer involvement.
Suzy Braye, Michael Preston-Shoot

Chapter 8. Making Sense of Practice

Abstract
Social workers practise in unpredictable and complex situations where often they must balance competing rights and ethical principles, resolve dilemmas and manage stress. Decisions call for skilled professional judgement and sound decision-making (HM Government, 2010a; 2015b) in which knowledge of legal mandates alone is insufficient to handle the complexities involved in cases, promote the exercise of human rights and achieve valued outcomes. Indeed, to be the ‘critical fixers’ valued by experts by experience (Braye and Preston-Shoot et al., 2005), practitioners must engage in dialogue not only about what may or must be done but also why and how. This demands that social workers act confidently in and with authority.
Suzy Braye, Michael Preston-Shoot
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