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About this book

What do social workers need to know in order to practise skilfully and effectively? Edited by three Social Work’s leading scholars, the second edition of this highly respected textbook helps bridge the gap between social work theory and the challenges of day-to-day practice.

Versatile and thoughtful, the book's simultaneous accessibility and depth make it essential reading suited for both social work students at undergraduate and post-qualifying level. Practitioners, too, will learn and benefit from the insights collected together in this valuable addition to their bookshelf.

Table of Contents

On being critical in social work

Chapter 1. On being critical in social work

Chapter Overview
In this chapter we introduce the themes that will recur throughout the book — criticality and critical practice. Our purpose is to provide the foundations of knowledge and understanding that will enable you to develop your critical thinking. We use the word ‘client’ throughout, rather than ‘service user’, because we use it as part of our argument about being critical.
Malcolm Payne, Robert Adams, Lena Dominelli

Values into Practice


Chapter 2. Values in critical practice: contested entities with enduring qualities

Chapter Overview
Values guide personal and professional ethics. Professional values contain continuities arising from those posited by Father Biestek and discontinuities emanating from recent demands from service users to embed practice in notions of citizenship, human rights and social justice. These support their commitment to provisions that meet their needs and which they control.
Lena Dominelli

Chapter 3. Professional values and accountabilities

Chapter Overview
This chapter explores the concept of accountability and its implementation in social work practice. Although accountability is not a new concept, concern with accountability is currently a high priority. This chapter considers the implications of this for critical practice in social work, drawing on interviews conducted by the author with social work managers and practitioners to illustrate the wider issues.
Sarah Banks

Chapter 4. Identity, individual rights and social justice

Chapter Overview
This chapter deals with questions of rights and justice and shows how these seemingly abstract ideas are of immediate concern to social workers. It examines how five different ways of conceptualising the state affect policies, people’s identities, rights and obligations to each other in society. The view we have affects how we define and label the ‘client’ of social workers. As critical practitioners, we need to manage the tensions between people’s individual rights as citizens and what principles of individual and social justice regard as due to all people.
Chris Clark

Chapter 5. Pushing ethical boundaries for children and families

Chapter Overview
This chapter explores the complex territory of balancing the core ethical tenet of confidentiality with transparency and openness in child and family policy and practice. It draws on Indigenous and asylum seeker examples as a challenge to the erosion of social work values by employers and the state.
Linda Briskman

Chapter 6. Women’s reproductive rights: issues and dilemmas for practice

Chapter Overview
Women’s reproductive rights, linked to their roles as wife and mother, sexual expression and bodily integrity, are contested within patriarchal social relations. I explore their contradictions for practice around women’s choices of adoption, the use of reproductive technologies and abortion. The new reproductive technologies offer women opportunities as mothers, but challenge our understandings of family relationships.
Lena Dominelli

Chapter 7. Ethical tensions and later life: choice, consent and mental capacity

Chapter Overview
While social work is based on the values of self-determination and empowerment, in the best interests of the person who receives services, there are situations where the goals of social work and the interests of the person apparently do not coincide. This chapter explores some of the main tensions arising in such circumstances and how the critical practitioner may develop ways of living with, that is, managing, them.
Robert Adams, Malcolm Payne

Theories for Practice


Chapter 8. Critical reflection and social work theories

Chapter Overview
Reflective practice and critical reflection are methods of interpreting social knowledge, professional and social values and agency and policy aims into practice actions. The reflective cycle and processes of critical reflection enable practitioners to use ideas from practice theories to develop and renew their practice.
Malcolm Payne

Chapter 9. Counselling

Chapter Overview
This chapter explores the relationship between social work and counselling, and the use of counselling theories, values and skills within social work practice. It covers the changing context of counselling within social work, the different theoretical underpinnings to counselling ideas and skills relevant to social work, counselling theory and skills within social work practice today and some current issues emerging from counselling and social work.
Helen Cosis Brown

Chapter 10. Groupwork

Chapter Overview
This chapter considers the changing nature of groupwork and, arguably, the lessening of its significance as a distinctive and skilled method in contemporary social work. Identifying core values and skills, the author argues, with examples, for a reassertion of the place of groupwork across social work practice.
Dave Ward

Chapter 11. Community work

Chapter Overview
This chapter deals with community work, which may be regarded as a traditional part of social work, associated with a range of preventive, community-based approaches to meeting people’s social needs. It begins by examining how community work still serves as an important approach to work with people. It explores different definitions of key concepts, briefly visits the wider historical context of community work and discusses current debates around its relevance as an approach to social work.
Marjorie Mayo

Chapter 12. Psychosocial work: an attachment perspective

Chapter Overview
Intrinsic to children’s development is a tendency towards interaction with the world around them and attachment to those people, notably adults, who are closest to them and therefore best placed to protect them. Good social work needs to appreciate how the psychological and social interact, through people and their environments. This chapter offers an attachment perspective on psychosocial practice.
David Howe

Chapter 13. Cross-cultural and black perspectives through the life course

Chapter Overview
This chapter argues that many well-known psychological theories are developed by white people based on their observations of white people and assume that largely European cultural norms and practices are universal. These theories have not had sufficient explanatory power to account for the behaviour of black people. This is not to say that there are only ‘white’ psychologies and ‘black’ psychologies, but that the different accounts need to be handled with greater sensitivity when considering the diversity of human experience.
Lena Robinson

Chapter 14. Cognitive-behavioural practice

Chapter Overview
A wide variety of health and social care practitioners undergo training in cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT). They use it because of its proven effectiveness. By providing an outline of learning theories, with live practice examples, this chapter aims to encourage social workers to integrate CBT into their work.
Katy Cigno

Chapter 15. Task-centred work

Chapter Overview
This chapter explains a method of social work practice that helps people to reach agreed goals using carefully negotiated tasks. It sets this method in a wider context, including its contribution to the personalisation of services, emancipatory practice and the development of social work as a discipline.
Mark Doel

Chapter 16. Advocacy and empowerment

Chapter Overview
This chapter deals with two quite distinct, but neighbouring ideas — advocacy and empowerment — which both have applications in social work. Advocacy and empowerment are multifaceted notions, each with a historical legacy, the imprint of which is visible in contemporary practice. Although both are mainstream, and even quite traditional in one way, there is a sense in which each, by its nature, contributes to critical practice.
Robert Adams

Chapter 17. From radical to critical social work

Progressive transformation or mainstream incorporation?
Chapter Overview
This chapter traces the transformation of radical social work into critical social work in light of the author’s own involvement in these movements since the 1970s. It examines the diversity of approaches to critical social work and responses to the postmodern critique. The chapter concludes by outlining the key challenges to critical social work in the current context.
Bob Pease

Chapter 18. Feminist social work

Chapter Overview
This chapter emphasises that feminist social work is not a separate way of intervening and is not for women only. Among other things, feminist analysis has contributed to the research base of social work, to mainstream practice and to discussions about the value base of social work.
Joan Orme

Chapter 19. Anti-oppressive approaches

Chapter Overview
This chapter explores how a theorised social work practice informed by anti-oppressive principles can be sensitively and effectively used to address the inequalities and oppression that shape the life chances of service users.
Beverley Burke, Philomena Harrison

Chapter 20. Postmodern and constructionist approaches to social work

Chapter Overview
This chapter explores what postmodernism means and how the ideas associated with it relate to social work. It examines some of the debates about the nature and relevance of modernist and postmodernist ideas, concluding that they cannot be dismissed as unduly negative. On the contrary, they have much in common with views of social work as inherently uncertain, characterised by a diversity of perspectives and perceptions rather than one ‘truth’.
Nigel Parton

Developing Critical Practice


Chapter 21. Being a critical practitioner

Chapter Overview
This chapter delves into what is entailed in becoming a critically reflective practitioner and argues that the complexity, uncertainty and unpredictability of people’s problems require critically reflective social work. We deal in turn with the concepts, contexts, perspectives, process and applications of critical reflection in practice.
Robert Adams

Chapter 22. Safeguarding children

Chapter Overview
Critical practice can be sustained in the fraught field of safeguarding children if workers constantly reflect on how their work is measuring up to their vision and values, use knowledge proactively but tentatively as working hypotheses, and openly negotiate the various imbalances of power.
John Pinkerton, John Devaney

Chapter 23. Fostering and adoption

Chapter Overview
This chapter explores what critical practice in fostering and adoption involves, by looking at fostering and adoption in their current contexts, considering the critical application of research to practice and exploring the dilemmas and tensions in practice via a practice area pertinent to both fostering and adoption: ‘safe caring’.
Helen Cosis Brown

Chapter 24. Looked-after children and young people in residential and foster care

Chapter Overview
This chapter focuses on the transformative potential of four fundamental elements of critical practice in residential care: critical consciousness; critical reflexivity; critical awareness of the residential space; and relationships. It identifies a conceptual framework that highlights the context and boundaries of childcare work.
Alastair Roy, Frances Young, Corinne May-Chahal

Chapter 25. Family-based social work

Chapter Overview
This chapter considers the implications for family-based social work of the welfare policy context and recent research. It looks in particular at family group conferences as a model of family-centred practice.
Kate Morris

Chapter 26. Youth justice and young offenders

Chapter Overview
This chapter argues that a critical understanding of the youth justice system and knowledge of international conventions are needed for effective work with young offenders. It makes its case based on a philosophy of putting children first.
Kevin Haines

Chapter 27. Safeguarding adults

Chapter Overview
This chapter explores the mechanisms in place for safeguarding vulnerable adults against abuse, exploitation or neglect and reflects on progress towards coherent practice in this arena. On the way, it addresses important questions about the way terms such as ‘vulnerability’ and ‘abuse’ are being used and about the aspirations that are wrapped up in the notion of ‘safeguarding’.
Hilary Brown

Chapter 28. Care management

Chapter Overview
Care management has established itself as a distinguishable mode of intervention on the global social work scene and in the UK is the umbrella under which all social work with adults is now organised. Some argue that it has led to the demise of relationship-based social work, yet creative possibilities are emerging.
Margaret Holloway

Chapter 29. Mental health

Chapter Overview
This chapter offers some suggestions to mental health social workers about how to develop critical practice as a way of responding proactively to the challenge of delivering contemporary mental healthcare within a context of paradox and conflicting discourse.
Di Bailey

Chapter 30. Physical disability

Chapter Overview
This chapter argues that if social workers are to play a positive role in the provision of welfare for disabled people, they will have to develop positive attitudes towards impairment in order not to cause further disablement.
Bob Sapey

Chapter 31. Learning disability

Chapter Overview
This chapter examines the meaning of learning disability, recognising the barriers to reaching a specific definition. It discusses three dominant models or approaches to learning disability: the medico-psychological model; normalisation; and a rights and citizenship perspective. Finally, it looks at the implications of this last model for critical practice in social work.
Tim Stainton

Chapter 32. Older people

Chapter Overview
This chapter addresses some key critical debates and dilemmas in social work practice with older people. It discusses the role of critical practice in the development of positive social work practice with older people and proposes an agenda for change and development which incorporates the key messages of critical practice.
Christian Beech, Mo Ray

Chapter 33. Care at the end of life and in bereavement

Chapter Overview
This chapter sees dying and bereavement as matters of concern for workers in all areas of social care. Two factors are considered to be essential for critical practice: confidence about the practitioner’s role, and the habit of reflectivity. Relevant concepts and models are outlined and several practice examples illustrate their application.
Caroline Currer

Concluding comment

In this book, we have scrutinised theories and approaches in social work. We have argued that it is important for social workers to try to reach an understanding of the complexities embedded within human relationships, the values on which they base practice, the approaches and methods that they try to use, and the specific settings in which they practise. It is impossible to practise without that alertness to the issues involved in these aspects of practice.
Robert Adams, Lena Dominelli, Malcolm Payne
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