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Social work

Social work: The rise and fall of a profession?

Steve Rogowski
Copyright Date: 2010
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  • Book Info
    Social work
    Book Description:

    This book traces the changing fortunes of radical and critical social work, and examines the theory, context and application of such approaches. Radical social work of the 1970s declined as the rise of neoliberalism over subsequent decades changed the nature of the welfare state along with what social workers do and how. A looser critical approach developed, although practitioner demoralisation and disillusionment led to the ‘second wave’ of radical social work in the late 2000s. Despite challenges, critical practice is both necessary and possible in the neoliberal world. Core areas of practice with children and families are covered, including some real life case studies, key point summaries and suggestions for further reading. The essential argument is for an emancipatory practice geared to meeting immediate needs, as well as having some vision of a future, more socially just and equal society. The book will be invaluable to undergraduate and postgraduate social work students, experienced practitioners, educators, managers and policy makers.

    eISBN: 978-1-84742-079-4
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-v)
  3. Foreword
    (pp. vi-viii)
    Ray Jones

    As with science, so it is with social work. And as with science, social work is also a creature of its times. The ideological, political, social and economic contemporary contexts are all influences on the positioning of social work and the roles it plays. But this is not the total story. Individuals sometimes swim against the contemporary tides with a vision of what should be and how things could be different, and sometimes they have an impact. This was the achievement, for example, of the social reformers and social researchers of the 19th century, challenging poverty and destitution and the...

  4. Acknowledgements
    (pp. ix-x)
  5. ONE Introduction: the rise and fall of social work?
    (pp. 1-26)

    In March 2008, I attended a conference entitled ‘Affirming our Value Base in Social Work and Social Care’ held at Nottingham Trent University. It was a follow-up to a similar one I had attended there in 2006 and, as previously, it turned out to be an exhilarating day. There were contributions from well-known academics such as Lena Dominelli, Iain Ferguson and Peter Beresford, as well as service users¹ and practitioners. There was considerable concern about the direction social work has been forced to take over recent years, leading to a deprofessionalisation of the role largely because of the growth and...

  6. TWO The beginnings of social work to its 1970s zenith
    (pp. 27-54)

    Rather unhelpfully, theConcise Oxford English Dictionarydoes not define ‘social work’ and merely defines a ‘social worker’ as a ‘person trained for social service’. ‘Social service’ is then simply stated to be ‘philanthropic activity’. Actually, what amounts to social work, helping people with problems and difficulties or in need, has always existed; it was carried out by family, friends, neighbours and volunteers (McLaughlin, 2008). What differentiates social work as a distinct activity is that it can be seen asorganised helpingoriginating in organisational responses to social changes arising from socioeconomic developments in the 19th century (Payne, 2005a). It...

  7. THREE Thatcherism: opportunities and challenges
    (pp. 55-82)

    The seeds of Margaret Thatcher’s general election success in 1979 were laid in the early 1970s by the world economic crisis of 1973. This crisis was activated by a sharp rise in oil prices, but it also reflected much deeper structural problems in the British economy. These included a steady decline in the country’s share of the world export of manufactured goods, along with falling investment and productivity, and rising inflation (Harman, 1984; Ferguson, 2008). The crisis had three main consequences. First, it led to the return of mass unemployment, which reached a total of one million in 1979, higher...

  8. FOUR New Labour: new challenges and (fewer) opportunities
    (pp. 83-108)

    The landslide general election victory of Tony Blair in 1997 saw John Major’s government, with its reputation of sleaze and corruption, ousted. After many years in opposition, the ‘old’ social democratic, to some even socialist, Labour Party had been rebranded by Blair, Gordon Brown and others as New Labour. They had argued that any suggestion of socialism was unlikely to appeal to the new middle classes, so a new direction for the party was needed. Despite the electorate’s calls for change, there was no major transformation in terms of political ideology, economic and social policy.

    Although New Labour espoused the...

  9. FIVE The professionalisation of social work?
    (pp. 109-134)

    As we saw in Chapter Two, social work never had restricted entry to its ranks; nor did it involve a lengthy period of training, have its own body of knowledge or an element of autonomy in regulating members, all of which were common to medicine and law. Even at its 1970s peak, it was denied full professional status, despite its attempts to develop new ideas about professional identity, not always in keeping with the more orthodox definition of professionalism. For example, radical social workers of the 1970s were simply against professionalism, seeing it as elitist and more concerned with increasing...

  10. SIX Managerialism and the social work business
    (pp. 135-160)

    The influence of managers and managerialism in social work has featured heavily in this book and I make no apologies for this. After all, managers have brought about a fundamental transformation in the way welfare organisations carry out government policy, as well as increasing their own power in the process (Clarke, 1998). As a result, what social workers now do is set and tightly controlled by managers. This change reflects a move away from the administration of public services to their management, a process that has been occurring since the 1970s (Harris and White, 2009a). It stemmed from the neoliberal...

  11. SEVEN Conclusion: the changing face or the fall of social work?
    (pp. 161-188)

    The definition of social work by the International Federation of Social Workers (IFSW) reflects the day-to-day practice of most social workers, even if it is not always acknowledged. It goes on to refer to interventions ranging from psycho-social processes to involvement in social policy, planning and development. These include counselling, clinical social work, group work, family therapy and helping people obtain services and resources in the community. Also included are agency administration, community organisation and social/political action that has an impact on social policy and economic development.

    However, there are two points to emphasise in relation to this definition. First,...

  12. References
    (pp. 189-208)
  13. INDEX
    (pp. 209-216)
  14. Back Matter
    (pp. 217-217)