Skip to main content
main-content
Top

About this book

Social work practice is becoming increasingly complex, with social workers struggling to hold onto their ideals and values in a pressurized and challenging social, political and organizational environment. This book provides an analytically coherent approach to the impact of macro, mezzo and micro factors upon practitioners' daily experiences. In taking a positive view of social work's potential and capacity to deliver beneficial services, detailed guidance is offered of cutting edge, creative practice with a variety of user groups.

Table of Contents

Social Work Ideals and Practice Realities: An Introduction

Social Work Ideals and Practice Realities: An Introduction

Abstract
The basis of this book is that many social work practitioners and students in the United Kingdom experience a gap between the ideals that informed their entry into the profession — for example, a commitment to social justice and to making a difference in people’s lives — and the realities of practice with which they are confronted. Practitioners are struggling to survive (let alone thrive) as they experience externally imposed changes to their work that move them away from their personal and professional values. The consequences of this are potentially shattering, as Jones (2001) has graphically depicted.
Mark Lymbery, Sandra Butler

Part I

Frontmatter

1. Progressive Practice for Tough Times: Social Work, Poverty and Division in the Twenty-first Century

Abstract
Social workers are faced daily with contested accounts of inequality and oppression from personal, cultural and institutional sources. Service users’ desolate, angry and resilient testimonies about their lives collide with, and often contradict, official accounts of the kinds of people who use social services and why. Social workers’ responses to perceptions of the failure, ‘abnormality’ or moral deficit of those accessing welfare services lie at the core of their practice. In mediating between the marginalised and the mainstream, practitioners find themselves negotiating with a divisive and unequal social order, and in so doing, need to orientate themselves to the power dynamics permeating British society (McDonald and Coleman, 1999).
Ann Davis, Paul Michael Garrett

2. Responding to Crisis: The Changing Nature of Welfare Organisations

Abstract
The purpose of this chapter is to chart the organisational changes that have affected social work within Britain. While the chapter concentrates particularly on the experiences of welfare organisations within England and Wales, the political, economic and social context within which these changes have taken place is applicable to the rest of the United Kingdom, as are the organisational responses that are described. The focus of the chapter is at the mezzo level, although there are also short summaries of issues that derive from the macro analysis of Chapter 1, since these contribute to a fuller understanding of this chapter in its own right.
Mark Lymbery

3. Social Workers’ Management of Organisational Change

Abstract
Given the effect of neoliberal policies on social work, alongside the burgeoning of managerialism and the implementation of ‘modernisation’ measures under ‘new’ Labour (DoH, 1998a, 1998b, 2000a), what scope is there for practitioner-led approaches to organisational change? Drawing on the emergent critiques of chapters 1 and 2, and applying the analysis from the macro/mezzo levels, this chapter engages with some of the micro dilemmas confronting social workers in bridging the gap between their ideals and practice realities. Although the chapter is framed within the context of policy and practice within Britain — specifically England — we believe that the analysis can be applied elsewhere. The concept of the reflective practitioner (Schön, 1991) on which the chapter is based has broad validity within different welfare regimes and across different professional disciplines.
Marian Charles, Sandra Butler

Part II

Frontmatter

4. Social Work in the Voluntary Sector: Moving Forward While Holding On

Abstract
The challenge facing the voluntary sector is to hold on to this independence while taking increasing responsibility for direct service provision, a space previously occupied by the statutory services. The government’s commitment to this ever-increasing role of the voluntary sector in social care provision is set out in its Compact — an agreement drawn up with the voluntary sector in 1998, with separate documents for each of the countries in the United Kingdom (Stowe, 1998). Its guidelines define mutual expectations and good practice in areas such as contracts and funding. Further momentum was created after the government’s July 2002 Comprehensive Spending Review. In September 2002, the Treasury unveiled its recommendations entitled ‘The Role of the Voluntary and Community Sector in Service Delivery’. This three-year blueprint aims to enable the voluntary sector to play an increased role in public service delivery, pledging to fund properly the costs of providing services, encourag-ing more long-term contracts and promoting wider use of the sector’s expertise.
Bill Badham, Tina Eadie

5. Community Connections and Creative Mental Health Practice

Abstract
There is a history of distrust between the people who use and those who provide mental health services. Despite this, user consultation and empowerment have become critical themes in mental health, generating efforts to produce user-centred services, generally concentrating upon either training the users to help reform existing services or creating new organisations unpolluted by traditional values, policies and practices. There are alternatives to these options, such as training the traditional power holders to let go, creating new patterns of decision making, or re-interpreting the notion of empowerment so that it relates to independent living rather than service design and delivery. It is this last strand that we pursue here by examining the development of community inclusion as a viable option for service planners in constructing alternatives to heavily congregated mental health services. The chapter uses the pioneering work of the Community Connections Project, Nottingham, as a practice scenario at various points in the chapter to illustrate many of the themes for discussion. Because of this, the various practice scenarios in this chapter are different from those found elsewhere in the book; as they refer to the establishment of a specific project they do not contain separate practice questions, but refer to the various issues confronted when establishing the project. It should also be noted that while this scenario outlines the development of a particular service (a mezzo response), it was established because of the effects of the macro level on people experiencing mental health difficulties. However, there are other responses that individual practitioners could make to these circumstances: the approach outlined does not represent the only possible ‘solution’.
Peter Bates, Sandra Butler

6. Exploitation, Protection and Empowerment of People with Learning Disabilities

Abstract
This chapter connects the macro and micro levels of analysis, focusing specifically on issues related to adults with learning disability — their abuse and exploitation, protection and empowerment. The macro examines how society treats learning disabled people, while the micro is concerned with individuals’ feelings about their abuse and place in the community and the consequent implications for social work practice. First, the chapter will explore the meaning of, and society’s contribution to, exploitation; how this impacts on learning disabled people in their homes and in public places. Second, it considers the balance between protection and the rights of users to take risks. Finally, it concentrates on empowerment, with particular reference to the role of self-advocacy. Throughout, we will address how social work practice can contribute to a new relationship based on opening up choices to disabled people while ensuring their safety. Social work agencies walk a tightrope between the provision of protective strategies and the type of services contributing to the prevention of abuse, while enabling vulnerable adults to make their own informed decisions wherever possible.
Pam Cooke, Rachael Ellis

7. Managerialism and Care Management Practice with Older People

Abstract
The purpose of this chapter is to analyse the impact of community care policy on social work practice with older people. Given the different legal systems that support community care, the arguments in this chapter are directly applicable to England, Wales and Scotland. However, the more general theoretical background of managerialism is accepted as a more international phenomenon (Pollitt, 1993), and the chapter’s themes will therefore have resonance beyond national boundaries. It will focus on the introduction of care management, and the extent to which the practice of the new care managers has become dominated by organisational priorities, to the overall detriment of service quality. In the overall schema of the book, the chapter focuses primarily on linking the mezzo and micro levels of analysis of Chapters 2 and 3. However, it is prefaced by a brief discussion of the macro context of community care policy, and therefore draws to some extent on the analysis developed in Chapter 1. It argues that creative social work should be a central component of care management with older people, and that routinised responses to need are inadequate when confronted by complex sets of human circumstances. Indeed, as Johnson (2002) argues, the state of care management for older people is simply incompatible with notions of social justice.
Mark Lymbery

8. Creativity and Constraint in Child Welfare

Abstract
In recent years child welfare services have been dominated by child protection with a consequent deterioration in the understanding and execution of social work responsibilities for ‘looked after’ children. This is due in part to the growing gulf between case management and therapeutic work, but also relates to the perceived downgrading of the status of work with children ‘looked after’ compared to the specialisms of child protection and substitute home finding (Utting, 1997). Social workers have become ill equipped for direct work with children and unable to communicate with those with special needs (SSI, 1997). Such a decline is hardly surprising in a climate where the emotional elements of social work practice are devalued or denied in environments dominated by managerialism and bureaucracy (as outlined in Chapter 3).
Marian Charles, Jane Wilton

9. Social Work with Young Offenders: Practising in a Context of Ambivalence

Abstract
The practice of youth justice has to reconcile society’s deep cultural ambivalence towards offending by young people. The need to punish for wrongdoing and to demonstrate disapproval has a strong claim on our collective moral conscience. Moreover, the problem of crime is officially documented as being primarily a problem of young people (Brown, 1998; Muncie, 1999; McLaughlin and Muncie, 2000). In tension with this is a recognition that rule-breaking by young people is not at all uncommon and that the wisest course may be to support young people as they ‘grow out of crime’ (Rutherford, 1986). An inclination to help is made more compelling by a recognition that young people are not always so aware of the consequences of their actions as those who have lived longer — making them less blameworthy (Walker, 1983). There are also well-established associations between offending and various indices of social and emotional disadvantage (Farrington, 1997) which suggest that help may be both more efficacious and fairer. Yet despite this, the socio-political climate has tended to emphasise blame and demand the punishment of young people who transgress the law (Haines and Drakeford, 1998: p. 234).
Rob Canton, Tina Eadie

Part III

Frontmatter

10. The Future of Social Work

Abstract
In considering the future of social work, this chapter links the experience of the past thirty years with current trends. It reflects on the extent to which past and present learning can guide us in the next phases of social work activity. Such an exercise is, of course, limited. Unforeseeable events, political decisions, the impact of European and global influences will introduce new twists in occupational development. Nevertheless, if social work is to remain a significant element in the provision of social services, it must be rebalanced so that the exercise of professional judgement and responsibility interacts effectively with organisational accountability. This chapter attempts to show some of the reasons why the present distortions have arisen and what now needs to be done.
Olive Stevenson
Additional information