Skip to main content
main-content
Top

About this book

Social Work and Social Work Perspectives introduces readers to a range of important sociological concepts, showing how these can feed critical practice and illustrate social work's complex relationship with the welfare state. Adopting a unique social policy framework, this distinctive text is illuminating reading.

Table of Contents

Social Theory and Social Work Practice

1. Social Theory and Social Work Practice

Abstract
Chapter 1 addresses the main aim of the book, which is to demonstrate the importance of sociology to social work. It does this in two ways. First, it illustrates how sociology informs an understanding of the three interrelated themes of reflexivity, praxis and critical practice. Secondly, it identifies sociology’s importance to an understanding of the practice context of social work, whether it is at the level of society, or of the individual, or at group level. By examining sociological perspectives on society and class, the chapter highlights key conceptual frameworks that can be used to deconstruct complex casework dynamics, such as power, marital conflict, sibling relationships, poverty, racism or the client-social worker relationship. This in turn enhances the development of critical reflexive practice skills. The perspectives on society and class will be explored in relation to the most common form of engagement with clients/service users: social casework. The chapter also examines the ethical dimensions of the client-social worker relationship.
Eileen Oak, Jo Campling

Contexts of Social Work

Frontmatter

2. The Changing Welfare Landscape

Abstract
Some further dimensions of critical reflexive practice skills are now explored as the focus shifts to examine competing perspectives on the welfare state. Several sociological perspectives are presented, beginning with neo-liberal and social democratic approaches. These will be compared with Fordist and neo-Marxist approaches, in terms of how well they account for the operations of the welfare state. The chapter will then move on to consider feminist and anti-racist critiques of these approaches. A fourth and important dimension is added through the contribution of the perspectives of Islamic Political Economy (IPE) as presented by some Muslim sociologists. This is useful in identifying the Western ethnocentric nature of traditional sociological perspectives on the welfare state, and pointing to alternatives.
Eileen Oak, Jo Campling

3. Poverty, Social Exclusion and Citizenship

Abstract
Poverty, social exclusion and citizenship are all connected to an understanding of social policy and welfare. In addition, they are often linked in specific ways in social policy initiatives and welfare discourses. The ways this is done are important because they have implications for the quality of life clients/service users experience and the quality of services they receive. Moreover, access to citizenship rights affects the resources and capacities of social workers to promote the interests of service users. One of the key features in understanding professional social work’s relationship to poverty is to consider one of the recurring themes in the poverty discourses over the past 150 years. Whether these discourses embody neo-liberal or social democratic thinking as employed by governments in the latter half of the twentieth century, such discourses have entailed the notion that those defined as poor are in part to blame for their situation. Such discourses attribute the causes of poverty to ‘flaws’ of character, rather like the Victorian notion of the demoralized poor. Consequently, such an approach has tended to ignore structural inequalities that have an impact upon the poor. The ideas behind such a view have been subtle and covert, and at other times extremely overt and pathologizing. These ideas have, in turn, shaped social workers’ thinking about poor clients/service users and have had implications for the development of empowering practice. We will examine the development of such discourses later in the chapter. However, first it is necessary to consider why the issue of poverty is so important to social work practice.
Eileen Oak, Jo Campling

4. Sociology, the Law and Social Work Practice

Abstract
As Johns (2003) points out, there is a distinct difference between the need of social workers to understand the law and integrate it into their practice, and that of members of the legal profession. For a start, social workers are not involved in the same way lawyers are (for example, they are not engaged to defend or prosecute anyone). For social workers, understanding the law underpins their work in the promotion of human rights. It underpins the intervention in people’s lives to protect them from themselves or other people. It relates to the protection of people’s rights in terms of access to information, confidentiality, assisting with entitlements to services. It also informs the provision of advocacy services and working in publicly accountable organizations (Johns, 2003). All these tasks require reference to the law.
Eileen Oak, Jo Campling

Arenas of Practice

Frontmatter

5. Work with Service Users

Abstract
Sociological theory from grand theory to micro-interpretivist and social constructivist perspectives can inform direct social work with clients/services users. In order to demonstrate this, various interventions with some different service users’ groups will be considered. These are, children and their families, older people, people with learning and physical disabilities, and people with mental health problems. Reflection upon sociology in relation to these service user groups is undertaken to demonstrate how these theories can be employed as a means of engaging with them and understanding their problems. In considering these different dynamics the chapter will evaluate critically the competing tensions between client/service user agency and the structural needs of service provision. These will be examined within social work’s socio-political context to see how they contribute to the contradictory nature of the social work role.
Eileen Oak, Jo Campling

6. Valuing Diversity and Difference

Abstract
The theme of valuing diversity and differences relates to the underlying principle of Valorization, or the ‘valuing’ aspect of SRV theory discussed in Chapter 5. This chapter will explore the various ways clients/service users are devalued, stigmatized, de-individualized, on the basis of their ethnicity, sexuality or religion. It is relevant to devote a full chapter to these particular forms of discrimination and oppression because, despite the ethnic diversity and cultural plurality of contemporary societies, the rates of racist, homophobic and sectarian violence are increasing. As a result, sections of society are becoming more polarized. The forms of this polarization are beginning to permeate the social organization of social work practice despite the existence of an internationally recognized value base, which stresses the duty to counter all forms of discrimination and promote social justice. Therefore, this chapter will evaluate critically the potential of different sociological theories to see how well they account for these developments and provide strategies to challenge these forms of oppression.
Eileen Oak, Jo Campling

7. Social Theory, Assessment, Care Planning and Evaluation

Abstract
There is broad consensus amongst social work academics and practitioners (Lewis. 1988; MacDonald, 1995; Shaw, 1996; Parker and Bradley, 2004; Tsang, 2000; Pawar, 2004) that assessment is a key social work task. Moreover, Parker and Bradley (2004) identify two crucial strands of the assessment: first, that social workers should know what makes for a good assessment, and secondly, they should recognize the key elements of the assessment, which include ethics (which were discussed in Chapter 1), power, professionalism and anti-oppressive practice. This chapter examines the different sociological theories and research approaches that inform an understanding of all of these elements. In addition, it shows how they can contribute to the deconstruction of the complex relationship between assessment and evaluation within the context of social work practice.
Eileen Oak, Jo Campling

8. Sociology and International Social Work

Abstract
This final chapter explores how sociology is linked to two developments in social work, the growth of interprofessional practice, and international social work. Both these trends can be seen in international non-governmental organizations (INGOs) and Non-governmental organizations (NGOs). Ironically, the development of the risk society and the uncertainty associated with it, has led to a crisis over the reliability of scientific knowledge. This has prompted an increase in collaboration between the natural and social scientific disciplines and the rise of interdisciplinary research (Gibbons et al., 1994). It is argued that this has fostered the view amongst governments that such an approach to knowledge is transferable to the health and social work fields. Consequently, we are witnessing the proliferation of interprofessional practice in relation to social services provision. This approach is influencing practice, not only in state-funded social services departments but also in INGOs and NGOs. Moreover, these developments are occurring in a period of major, global, social transformations, which some sociologists such as Beck (2006) term ‘cosmopolitanism’. This is why cosmopolitan sociology is being used in this chapter, to analyse these social transformations and to evaluate critically their practice implications.
Eileen Oak, Jo Campling
Additional information