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Rural social work

Rural social work: International perspectives

Richard Pugh
Brian Cheers
Copyright Date: 2010
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  • Book Info
    Rural social work
    Book Description:

    In much of the West the concerns of rural people are marginalised and rural issues neglected. This stimulating book draws upon a rich variety of material to show why rural social work is such a challenging field of practice. It incorporates research from different disciplines and places to provide an accessible and comprehensive introduction to rural practice. The first part of the book focuses upon the experience of rurality. The second part of the book turns to the development of rural practice, reviewing different ways of working from casework through to community development. This book is relevant to planners, managers and practitioners not only in social work but also in other welfare services such as health and youth work, who are likely to face similar challenges.

    eISBN: 978-1-84742-790-8
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-ii)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. iii-iii)
  3. Acknowledgements
    (pp. iv-iv)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. v-xviii)

    Most texts on rural social work are written with a particular national context in mind and rarely address an international readership, though, of course, they may provide valuable information and ideas that can be adapted to other settings. In contrast, this book draws upon a wider range of international research, theory and practice in rural social work with the aims of:

    establishing the diversity of rural practice contexts;

    disseminating information about interventions and models of practice in rural areas;

    promoting the development and inclusion of rural perspectives in practice for the education, recruitment and deployment of rural workers.

    Some aspects...

  5. Part One: The experience of rurality

    • ONE Contexts of practice
      (pp. 3-26)

      At the start of this book we emphasised the importance of understanding the diverse rural contexts in which social work is conducted. This chapter reviews five dimensions that can be used to understand and analyse these contexts:




      political and structural dimensions


      In setting out these key dimensions we do not provide a comprehensive review of every relevant factor, but, instead, signal features that will help rural workers to think about the nature of their own local contexts and how these might impact upon the lives of the people and communities they serve. Although there is considerable...

    • TWO The social dynamics of small communities
      (pp. 27-46)

      The social dynamics of life in small communities impact upon people’s lives, their problems and their understandings of their difficulties, as well as their views about how these might be best addressed. Social work in rural communities may not be completely distinctive from practice in urban areas, such as housing projects or encapsulated ‘urban villages’ (Meert, 2000). However, because small communities are where most rural work takes place, these social dynamics are likely to be more frequently encountered, which is why workers in rural areas need to develop an awareness of these factors and their potential significance.

      There have been...

    • THREE Indigenous peoples: dispossession, colonisation and discrimination
      (pp. 47-74)

      This chapter reviews the experience of indigenous peoples, that is, those who are also referred to as aboriginal or native peoples. It identifies some of the major populations of indigenous peoples living in rural areas within Westernised welfare structures, including: the Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders of Australia; the Māori of New Zealand; the Inuit, Métis and the First Nations (Indians) of Canada and the US. Currently, the proportions of these indigenous peoples in the respective national populations are: 15% in New Zealand, 4% in Canada, 2% in Australia (Statistics Canada, 2008) and 1.5% in the US (US Census Bureau,...

    • FOUR The experience of other minorities
      (pp. 75-98)

      The term ‘minorities’ is used here in a political sense to indicate the position of individuals and groups who may lack effective representation and political power, and whose needs tend to be neglected or ignored. It is intended to describe the status and social and economic position of a group rather than provide any indication of their size. It was noted earlier that the most common experience of minorities in rural areas is of relative disadvantage compared to other groups, and that owing to their comparative social and political invisibility, they were much less likely to have their needs addressed...

    • FIVE Problems and possibilities in rural practice
      (pp. 99-120)

      As the previous chapters have shown, the variability of rural contexts, the complex dynamics of rural societies and the continuing difficulties of indigenous peoples and other minorities provide a range of specific challenges for those who wish to develop and deliver good services in rural areas. In this chapter we turn to some more general issues that emerge from the experience and the literature on rural social services, the most commonly noted being the problem of poor access to services, which is compounded by a lack of alternative opportunities and other supportive provision. Problems of distance from the point of...

  6. Part Two: Developing rural practice

    • SIX Models for practice 1: personal social services
      (pp. 123-150)

      This chapter focuses upon the delivery of personal social services; approaches to practice designed to meet the particular needs of individuals, families and small groups. These are typically delivered through personal interaction in which the social worker directly provides the service or, alternatively, arranges it with other people or agencies. While personal social services have tended to use some form of casework theory or methods, other methods of intervention, such as advocacy, family group conferencing and group work, are also widely used. A new reader coming to the subject of rural social work might be forgiven for wondering if there...

    • SEVEN Models for practice 2: community social work
      (pp. 151-176)

      The dominant paradigms for social work over the last few decades in most Western countries have been personal in scale, with the history of social or community intervention in social work being overlooked. There are enduring arguments about what social workers should do, sometimes presented as a contest between two early positions, embodied, on the one hand, by Charles Loch, Mary Richmond and the Charity Organisation Societies in the UK and the US, who adopted a largely individualistic focus upon particular cases (individuals or families), and, on the other, by the settlement movement and social interventionists like Jane Addams in...

    • EIGHT Workforce issues
      (pp. 177-194)

      Social work in rural contexts presents some additional challenges with regard to issues such as recruitment, retention, education and training that if not tackled can exacerbate the service disadvantages apparent in many rural settlements. This chapter begins by reviewing what is known about rural social workers and the work they do, and discusses why they choose rural practice and how they adjust to it, job stress and staff retention issues. It then turns to the issue of professional education and preparation for rural practice. It concludes with recommendations for employers, educators, the profession, communities and practitioners concerning how to attract...

  7. Conclusion
    (pp. 195-198)

    The core themes of this book, identified in the Introduction, were the importance of recognising the diversity of rural contexts and rural lives, the necessity of an informed appreciation of local context and, following from these, a rejection of any homogenised approach to policy and practice. Accordingly, there is a tension throughout this book as we have tried to demonstrate the variability of rural contexts and at the same time draw the reader’s attention to some common features in regard to the challenges facing rural communities and the social service agencies and workers attempting to respond to them. Some of...

  8. References
    (pp. 199-244)
  9. Index
    (pp. 245-254)
  10. Back Matter
    (pp. 255-255)