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About this book

The relationships between men and social work are contentious because men are under represented as social workers and over represented in social work management. Also, most social work service users are women and children, and social workers often deal with the direct and indirect consequences of men's violence.

The question of men and the social work profession emerged in the literature in the mid-1980s but nowhere has the broad spectrum of critical issues been addressed in an integrated way. This book provides the first overview of the theoretical and practice issues raised when we put 'men' and 'social work' together. It introduces the key contributors to the debate so far and others who are entering the debate from their particular area of practice or academic interest. Theories of identity and gender are brought to bear on the development of the social work profession in Britain. Chapters include analyses of men's positions within the specific practice areas of child care, community care, mental health services, probation and social work education.

Men and Social Work is written for social work students, workers and academics. The book raises questions about the professional and gender identities of men social workers and offers some recommendations for practice. A new agenda for debate within the profession and the academy emerges from the critical discussions that take place in this book.

Table of Contents

Introduction: Themes and Issues

This book is about men and social work. It addresses the following questions: Where are men social workers located in the profession? When do men become social work service users/recipients (the terms ‘user’ and ‘recipient’ are used here to emphasize the degree of choice that different individuals may have in working with a social worker)? How is social work gendered? How do men’s ‘presences’ and ‘absences’ both within the profession and as actual or potential social work users/recipients contribute to the gendering of the social work profession? What are the particular issues that men social workers encounter in their work? These are just some of the questions that this book sets out to address while also raising new questions in this little researched area.
Alastair Christie

1. Gendered Discourses of Welfare, Men and Social Work

This chapter traces discourses of welfare in Britain by considering some post Second World War discourses of welfare (associated with modernity) and discourses of welfare towards the end of the twentieth century (often identified with late modernity). The main concern of the chapter is with how these discourses are gendered, particularly in relation to the gendering of men in families, as social workers and social work service users/recipients. It emphasizes the close association of men with the roles of ‘breadwinner’ and ‘soldier/hero’ in discourses of welfare in the middle of the twentieth century and the discursive production of men in relation to ‘risk’ by discourses of welfare in the latter decades of the century. The final section of the chapter considers the ways in which discourses of ‘risk’ associated with men impinge on social work practice. It also identifies the ways in which associations between men and ‘risk’ may contribute to men’s exclusion from some social work services and raises questions about their roles in the social work profession.
Alastair Christie

2. Men in Social Work: the Double-edge

As a key actor in stimulating the debate about the employment of men as social workers in child care services, Keith Pringle offers an autobiographical account of how he came to this debate and outlines his current thinking on this issue. Arguments for the employment of more men in social work are critically discussed most notably those put forward by the European Network on Childcare Studies in the area of social psychology and on men’s violences to women are reviewed to identify evidence about men’s practices. Pringle develops his own model for addressing the issues raised by men in social work by bringing together work on anti-oppressive practice and on the critical study of men and masculinities. His concern here is to put oppressive power relations at the centre of the analysis. The final section of the chapter looks at models of anti-sexist practice that might be taken up by men social workers. It also considers strategies for enabling men’s positive contributions to the social work profession.
Keith Pringle

3. Men Social Workers in Children’s Services: ‘Will the Real Man Please Stand Up’?

In this chapter, Hicks describes the experiences of men, and in particular gay men, who are working in children’s services. He argues, using three case studies, that men social workers can develop positive working relationships with children and parents. Hicks identifies an absence of analysis of men’s sexual violence in research on male survivors of sexual abuse. He does not argue that men social workers should become ‘role models’, but that they have particular responsibilities to challenge men’s sexual violence and to question dominant forms of masculinity.
Stephen Hicks

4. Men, Social Work and Men’s Violence to Women

In this chapter, Hearn considers men’s violence to women within the context of patriarchal gender relations. Findings from his research on men who have been violent to women highlight specific practice issues for social workers, probation officers and workers in ‘men’s programmes’. The research identifies how little direct contact social workers had with men who were violent to women. To illustrate his arguments, Hearn describes five cases in which men who were violent to women had direct contact with social workers. The research also found that while probation officers had more contact with men who were violent to women, there was relatively little work done by probation officers with these men specifically on their violence to women. Hearn argues for the development of more pro-active approaches by social workers and probation officers to working with men on their violence. However, this development cannot depend solely on the motivation of individuals or groups of workers, but needs to be supported within agencies. In the final section of the chapter, Hearn identifies issues that agency policies need to attend to if this type of work is to be appropriately supported.
Jeff Hearn

5. Men Probation Officers: Gender and Change in the Probation Service

This chapter focuses on the historical development of the Probation Service tracing the links with social work through shared training and professional qualifications. The formal split between the training routes for probation officers and social workers in the mid-1990s is then reviewed and investigated from a gendered perspective. A theoretically distinctive approach is applied that draws on the literature of gender and organisations. This points to the need for a gendered analysis to be applied in order to reach an understanding of the extent and full implications of recent changes. Challenges and concerns that are facing the Probation Service and probation officers, particularly in respect of the professional value base and practice interventions with offenders are highlighted. The development of a ‘smart macho’ organizational culture in the 1990s depends on competitiveness in reaching targets. The individual responses of maingrade probation officers to these changes are discussed in this chapter.
Jill Annison

6. Men and Community Care

In this chapter, Bowl takes on the task of writing about the broad area of community care in relation to men. While some writing and research exists on men in relation to child care and the criminal justice system little has been written on men and community care. Bowl describes men as both the receivers of care and as carers. Although men often benefit from community care services, dominant forms of masculinity represent men as ‘competent’ and ‘independent’ and exclude the idea of men as carers. Bowl identifies how men in particular cultures and contexts provide care for friends, partners and relatives. He argues that social workers need to challenge dominant stereotypes of men as being, at best, ‘reluctant’ carers. These practice developments would be encouraged, in Bowl’s view, by detailed research on men and community care.
Ric Bowl

7. Men and Mental Health Services: a View from Social Work Practice

The link between young men and suicide is gaining increased coverage in the media while other aspects of men’s mental health, and the services provided, receive little attention. In this chapter, the specifically ‘gendered’ diagnosis of mental health is discussed. For example, men are under-presented as suffering from depression, whereas men are over-represented in psychiatric diagnoses which involve drug and/or alcohol misuse. Emotional ‘inexpressiveness’ is often linked to men’s depression and suicide, however, in this chapter social isolation and psychological instability are highlighted as key factors in men’s mental ill-health. Three case histories are used to describe the varied experiences of men users of mental health services.
Nigel Phillips

8. Men and Masculinities in Social Work Education

Social work education in the UK is largely based within institutions of higher education in which men are over-represented as lecturers and senior academics. Social work courses challenge gendered hierarchies by seeking to promote anti-sexist policies and practices. Evidence from research presented in this chapter suggests that men social work students recognize that they are entering a non-traditional occupation for men and describe themselves as non-traditional men because of their professional commitment to care for others. Cree argues that the ‘non-traditional’ orientation of men social work students may encourage the development of anti-sexist practice. Building on this potentially optimistic view of men social workers, suggestions are made for the development of a gender-aware social work curriculum.
Viviene E. Cree
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