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Customer Review

31 of 35 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Practices have Values, 6 July 2002
This review is from: Social Work Models, Methods and Theories: A Framework for Practice (Paperback)
The tone for this book is set in an excellent introduction by Nigel Parton, in which he points to the questioning of authority, professionalism, and the nature of scientific evidence which has become commonplace.
While social work managers are trying to balance budgetary control, gatekeeping, and decision-making processes, field work staff find themselves marginalised. Failure to manage high risk cases - notably in child protection and mental health fields - has placed social work under hostile scrutiny.
Can evidence based practice and demands for effectiveness co-exist with a humanitarian, traditional image of social work as a caring profession? Parton believes we have to go back and question our practice values by putting the theories of social work under the microscope. We need a praxis, a relationship between theory and practice which is humane and effective.
Stepney and Ford set the task within the context of the current political world - social work services have become commodities, access to them managed and prioritised, proof required that 'Best Value' is provided, etc. Human needs are fetishised into a demand-supply continuum.
Paul Stepney's overview of the policy context is a well-condensed analysis of many of the problems which impinge on daily practice but which are largely unrecognised by practitioners.
Social work takes place within a political context and political arena (local, national, and international); it's essential practitioners question this while trying to evaluate professional values and relate these to the task in hand.
The political context at least refracts, and frequently distorts, practice values and practice issues. Social work is largely treated as a market, and any market orientation by managers or policy makers seriously manipulates the practices (and attitudes) of social work and social care staff.
Stepney offers a neat little critique of the theory to practice debate. Thereafter, there is a series of cameos of the various theories of social work method which influence practitioners: psychodynamic theory, crisis intervention approaches, task-centred practices, cognitive behavioural methods, etc.
The theme of the book is that at every level, every interaction between service suppliers, service users, and service needers, there are vital moral and social contexts into which we need to tune and not simply try to exclude as background noise. Social work is never neutral. How and why we work has consequences for the people exposed to our work.
Essential reading for anyone in social work - an excellent starting point for further reading.
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