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About this book

Social work has laboured too long under a 'deficit' model that focuses on failings and problems of practice. Emphasising best practice, strengths and collaborative partnership this ambitious book seeks to redress the balance. Undergraduate and post-qualifying social work students alike will find it a useful resource.

Table of Contents

Introducing Critical Best Practice in Social Work

Introducing Critical Best Practice in Social Work

Abstract
The aim of this book is to present examples of best practice in social work from a range of critical perspectives. There is a remarkable paucity of writing in social work which focuses in a systematic way on accounts of best practice and an almost complete absence of such work in the literature on ‘critical practice’. The best practice approach presented here is ‘critical’ in two senses. First, it is an urgently needed response to the deep negativity surrounding the profession. This often leads to the ‘best’ in social work remaining hidden from view. Second, it is an approach that proposes the adoption of a ‘critical’ sociological stance through which the best social work practices need to be understood and analysed.
Karen Jones, Barry Cooper, Harry Ferguson

Critical Best Practice: Critical Perspectives

Frontmatter

1. The Theory and Practice of Critical Best Practice in Social Work

Abstract
The aim of this chapter is to introduce the notion of a critical best practice perspective on social work which is at the core of this book. It is the first of five chapters in Part I of the book which outline and discuss the concept of critical best practice perspectives and various theoretical issues, while focusing on practice. As was pointed out in the editors’ introduction, social work has become dominated by a ‘deficit approach’ where the focus is on what does not get done (well), and on how social work supposedly ‘fails’. So great have these problems become in the United Kingdom that following a recent very high profile inquiry into the death from abuse of 8-year-old Victoria Climbie, the profession was pronounced by the Times newspaper (January 29, 2003) to be ‘in terminal decline’. The central aim of a critical best practice (CBP) perspective is to promote positive learning about social work by setting out examples of best practice; that is, outlining and analysing instances where it is argued that what social workers did was done well, with all the benefits that can accrue from this for service users.
Harry Ferguson

2. Beyond Anti-Oppressive Practice in Social Work: Best Practice and the Ethical Use of Power in Adult Care

Abstract
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?
Alison Gardener

3. Situating Person and Place: Best Practice in Dementia Care

Abstract
This chapter is the result of a collaboration between Karen, a social work tutor and academic and Imogen, an experienced social work practitioner in a local authority mental health team for older adults. The first-person voice within the writing is Karen’s, while the practice described is Imogen’s.
Karen Jones, Imogen Powell

4. Emotional Engagement in Social Work: Best Practice and Relationships in Mental Health Work

Abstract
Jane is a woman in her late thirties who has suffered from mental and physical health problems for many years. My involvement with Jane, as a mental health social worker based in a Community Mental Health Team has lasted for approximately five years. This chapter is an overview of my work with Jane and uses a transcript of a recent meeting to illustrate certain key points. The chapter also reflects my particular interest in psychoanalytic theory. Having begun my career working with children and families and moved on to adult mental health, I have long been convinced of the link between early childhood experiences and disturbances in adult life. Further training in the application of psychoanalytic ideas has reinforced my belief that early patterns laid down in response to childhood events continue to have a powerful and often unconscious impact on later relationships and on one’s sense of self. This psychodynamic perspective is intended to compliment some of the more structural critiques outlined in this book and aims to forefront the emotional work that is part of all critical best practice (CBP). The critical framework used to analyse practice in this chapter also integrates psychoanalytical ideas with critical social theory and so recognises the importance of contextualising individual experience within the structures of statutory social work and the mental health system.
Celia Keeping

5. Constructive Engagement: Best Practice in Social Work Interviewing — Keeping the Child in Mind

Abstract
Interviews are increasingly common experiences for people in the world of work. In the world of social work the interview takes on an even greater significance. Few would disagree with Kadushin and Kadushin’s (1997: 3) assertion that ‘It is the most important, most frequently employed, social work skill.’ The interview is often the central means by which social workers make person-to-person contact and a ‘constructive engagement’ with others in order to begin the process of working together. In this chapter I will be exploring a recorded interview between a social worker and a service user in order to illustrate the expertise involved in making a relationship and working to keep it going. The analysis draws upon ‘constructivist’ theoretical perspectives as a way of highlighting and understanding the everyday, but mostly unrecognised, critical best practice (CBP) skills of interviewing in social work.
Barky Cooper

Critical Best Practice: Interventions and Interactions

Frontmatter

6. Best Practice in Social Work Interviewing: Processes of Negotiation and Assessment

Abstract
Critical best practice (CBP) perspectives offer ways in which practice interventions can be understood as indivisible from theoretical perspectives. All of the chapters in this book demonstrate elements of this theory-practice integration. In Part I the chapters highlighted various theoretical perspectives that are useful in taking a ‘critical’ position in social work and conceptualising best practice, while outlining the very practice that was ‘critically best’. The book now moves to Part II to build on that by considering CBP firmly from the vantage point of social work interventions and interactions, with theory brought into support the analysis.
Barky Cooper

7. Best Practice in Child Protection: Intervening Into and Healing Child Abuse

Abstract
Our aim in this chapter is to reflect on the nature and meaning of best practice in child protection. Collectively, we bring to this chapter many years experience of teaching and working with child abuse and protection. Sarah is a lecturer in social work at the University of the West of England, while Anne was at the time of writing a team manager in a social services childcare team. The social worker whose work we critically analyse within a best practice paradigm we have called Miranda, which is not her real name. All identifying characteristics have been changed to ensure anonymity. The case in question was taken from a social work team that dealt with longer-term ‘children in need’, child protection work and looked after children and young people. Members of this team also carry out Core Assessments using the government’s national Assessment Framework for England and Wales (Horwarth, 2000). The team works in a multi-ethnic inner-city area. Team members were from different ethnic backgrounds, of varying ages and experience and both male and female.
Sarah Leigh, Anne Farmer

8. Best Practice in Family Support and Child Protection: Promoting Child Safety and Democratic Families

Abstract
The focus of this chapter is on best practice in child protection work combined with family support. Understandings of the complexities of practice with respect to interventions to protect children have increased significantly through studies which have represented the views of professionals and family members (Farmar and Owen, 1995; Thoburn et al., 1995; Buckley, 2003; Scourfield, 2003). Service provision in family support has also benefited from research and increasing theoretical sophistication (Gibbons et al., 1990; Dolan et al., 2000; Feather Stone, 2004). However, there is still little published work in this area which delineates best practice, where examples are provided of what is being done well and how such best practice can be learned from and developed. Turnell and Edwards’ (1999) solution and safety oriented approach is distinctive in its attempt to develop a focus on strengths-based practice in child protection work. In what follows a best practice example of child protection work combined with family support is outlined in depth, critically analysed and offered as a basis for such learning.
Harry Ferguson

9. Best Practice in Child Advocacy: Matty’s Story

Abstract
This chapter will use the story of Matty Collins, a 10-year-old young white person, to focus on best practice concerning the involvement of young people in decision-making meetings that affect their lives. It examines how Joe, an independent advocate, worked with Matty to help him contribute to the assessment of his situation, which was being undertaken by professionals, and to the plans being made for him. Joe’s work with Matty was focused on two events — a Child Protection Conference and a Family Group Conference. Matty and his family have agreed that we can use their story, but all names and identifying features have been changed for reasons of confidentiality. The account is jointly written by Hilary Horan, a Children Services Manager working for Barnardos1, where she has developed and managed several Family Group Conference and Advocacy Services over the past nine years, and Jane Dalrymple, a senior lecturer in social work at the University of the West of England.
Jane Dalkymple, Hilary Horan

10. Best Practice in Adult Protection: Safety, Choice and Inclusion

Abstract
The protection of vulnerable adults from abuse as a responsibility of the state is a relatively recent concept and most commentators agree that European policy and practice is some way behind that of Canada and North America (Pritchard, 1999; Juklestad, 2004). In the United Kingdom, the policy framework for practice is only a few years old (DH, 2000) and, despite recent guidance from Directors of Social Services (DH, 2005), best practice in Adult Protection remains a contested and as yet under-researched area.
Karen Jones, Kate Spreadbury

11. Best Practice with People with Learning Difficulties: Being Seen and Heard

Abstract
Our aim in this chapter is to consider the nature of critical best practice (CBP) with people with learning difficulties. The co-authors of the chapter are Jonathan Coles, who works as a lecturer in social care and has a practice background in education and care with people with learning difficulties, and Peter Connors who is a learning and development manager in an organisation which provides residential and day care for people with learning difficulties, mental health needs and/or physical impairments.
Jonathan Coles, Peter Connors

12. Best Practice in Emergency Mental Health Social Work: On Using Good Judgement

Abstract
My shift on the emergency social work duty desk began at 10.00, one Saturday morning, with a typically terse instruction from the social work team manager: ‘There’s a mentally ill woman on the seventh floor of Olympic House threatening to throw herself and her baby off the balcony. Go and sort it out’. The implicit faith in my abilities was flattering, but the potential implications of the situation were almost numbing. In this chapter I will use this case example as the basis for examining some of the key issues and dilemmas in performing critical best practice (CBP) in mental health social work. Particular consideration is given to the core ethical dilemmas and tensions that arise from having the intention to work as a critical practitioner in empowering ways which promote service user’s choice and self-determination, while being a statutory social worker operating within mental health legislation with the duties and obligations to protect vulnerable people that this brings. What in this context does it mean to use good judgement? In exploring ways to use good judgement and work with the tensions between care and control I will suggest that the discursive use of language (Potter & Wethereil, 1987) is important in all aspects of social work, and particularly in achieving CBP in ‘emergency’ mental health work.
John O’Gara

Critical Best Practice: Practice Settings and Cultures

Frontmatter

13. Partnership Working as Best Practice: Working Across Boundaries in Health and Social Care

Abstract
In the preceding chapters, we have presented some of the underpinning theoretical concepts which inform our idea of critical best practice (CBP) and drawn on these to explore its meaning in a number of different practice contexts. This chapter and the two which follow seek to develop the idea of CBP by focusing in greater detail on the organisational and cultural context of social work.
Pat Taylor, Karen Jones, Des Gorman

14. Promoting Best Practice Through Supervision, Support and Communities of Practice

Abstract
Critical Best Practice (CBP) involves working with uncertainty and risk while maintaining open approaches to practice (Ferguson, 2003). For this difficult and demanding activity to be achieved effectively, a continuous, critically reflective examination of one’s own and others’ values, feelings and perspectives is needed. This chapter will explore a range of approaches to supervision as well as a number of other sites of support. Our aim is to illuminate some of the supervisory and/ or supportive practices which facilitate best practice through the development of engaged, self-aware and critically reflective social workers.
Judith Thomas, Kate Spreadbury

15. Best Practice as Skilled Organisational Work

Abstract
The organisational dimension of social work is often neglected in practice literature. While there are notable exceptions (for example, Lymbery Sc Butler, 2004), there is a gap between the realities of organisational life as a social worker and social work practice as presented in the literature. Discussions of organisations or management are not usually integrated with practice examples. Such integration would help social workers develop organisational skills and knowledge that would enable them to carry out their job more effectively. The stereotypical gap between social work theory and practice is in many ways a reflection of this lack of analysis and an insufficient understanding of the organisational realities in which social care staff operate. Furthermore, the common deficit model (Ferguson, 2003) is explicitly or implicitly applied to discussions about the organisational context of social work practice: the employing agencies are ‘too bureaucratic’, ‘too managerialist’ and so on. The organisational setting becomes an easy target to criticise, and this can add to the negative burden that social care agencies and employees have to carry with them.
Bruce Senior, Elspeth Loades

Concluding Reflections on the Nature and Future of Critical Best Practice

Abstract
The aim of this book has been to provide examples of best practice in social work seen from critical perspectives. The book has drawn upon and sought to develop existing literature on how social work is created through interactions between practitioners, service users, managers, values, the law and organisational rules and procedures. In some key respects, however, what has been presented in the book constitutes a new way of thinking and writing about social work, given the paucity of literature which has focused in a systematic way on accounts of best practice and the almost complete absence of such narratives in the critical practice literature. In this conclusion we want to draw together the various strands of the book and reflect on the present and possible futures of critical best practice (CBP) perspectives.
Karen Jones, Barry Cooper, Harry Ferguson
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