Policy and Politics matter: The shaping of contemporary social work in times of neoliberalism.
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AbstractThe commentary draws on a range of work to demonstrate the argument that policy and politics are of central importance in shaping social work in England. I outline the development of my practice wisdom and then examine the contested nature of social work knowledge. Drawing on my practice with people who were poor and marginalised, I came to believe that social work must have a commitment to equality and social justice and that to achieve this social work must engage with policy and politics. My outputs begin by examining the connection between my practice wisdom and the dialectical nature of social work’s enduring tensions, located in a work that underlines the importance of sociology. A further four outputs focus upon aspects of social policy, notably key elements in the rise of neo-liberalism in contemporary social work in a text that argues explicitly that social workers need to develop a politically engaged practice. My other outputs illustrate the impact of politics, neoliberalism and its attendant policies in the early 21st century, gathering evidence from three broad areas. First, the nature of globalisation is examined focusing upon the movement of social workers and ‘cross-national’ social work. Second, there is an explicit exploration of social work under neoliberalism, drawing on the case of Children’s services and learning disability. Third, I examine ‘policy practice’ and the concept of ‘choice’. I argue that social work has always had a concern with politics and policy but that in more recent years this has declined and has been overtaken by a focus upon individualism. My core theoretical themes are the dialectic and an examination of hegemonic structures which impact on social work. I explore the continuing importance of my work in relation to contemporary social work, showing that policies and politics matter more than ever. I conclude by arguing that, as social work is under political attack from the current Government, the ‘radical tradition’ needs to be kept alive.
TypeThesis or dissertation
DescriptionA commentary on previously published work submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements of the University of Wolverhampton for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy.
Showing items related by title, author, creator and subject.
Mission impossible? Critical practice in social work.Stepney, Paul M. (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2006)In recent years, the capacity of social work to be a force for progressive policy and social change has been significantly eroded. Social work in the UK has been re-branded and reshaped within New Labour’s modernized welfare state, only to become politically compromised and compliant: ‘the dog that didn’t bark’ even when its soul appeared to be stripped out. This article offers a response to this predicament informed by a structural modernist analysis revitalized by elements of critical postmodernism (Fook, 2002). Without wishing to offer any definitive prescriptions, the concept of critical practice is worthy of consideration, as it offers the potential for combining the role of protection with prevention whilst embodying possibilities for critical reflection and change. This became the focus of a recent conference organized around the theme of celebrating social work (Torfaen, 2002). Further, it offers practitioners a means for critical engagement with the issues that lie at the root of injustice and exclusion, to develop a more emancipatory approach, whilst resisting pressures for more enforcement and control.
Mental Health, Social inclusion and the green agenda: an evaluation of a land based rehabilitation project designed to promote occupational access and inclusion of service users in North Somerset, UK.Stepney, Paul M.; Davis, Paul (New York: Haworth Press, 2005)The current debate about social inclusion in the field of mental health reveals a tension between the political and economic objectives of social policy. The former utilises the language of citizen empowerment and rights, whilst the latter is concerned with reducing welfare dependency through labour market activation. A central question here is whether a suitable programme of therapeutic work, training and support will produce better outcomes than those predicted by either a clinical diagnostic assessment or indeed open employment in the labour market. This article evaluates a research project with mental health users designed to develop pathways towards inclusion. The principal means for achieving this was a programme of 'green' land-based activities, training and social support. The researchers employed a mixed method approach, utilising a quasi-experimental design with a hypothetical control and standardised testing. This was followed by interviews with users, staff and focus group discussion. The evaluation produced some unexpected findings; for example, it was found that no strong correlation existed between diagnosis and performance. Many users performed better than had been predicted by their diagnostic assessment. However, the reasons for this remained unclear until the qualitative interviews enabled users to give accounts of the problems they faced, explain what inclusion meant for them, and outline how the project had brought gains in confidence, motivation and self belief. The data gathered during the research derived from different epistemological positions. This can be seen as representing two ways of 'slicing the reality cake' rather than producing one complete view of mental health users reality. One construction related to how 'the system' diagnosed, processed, and 'objectively' managed them. The other was about how users' responded to their situation, utilised the opportunities available, and made 'subjective' sense of their experience.
Hospital discharge and the citizenship rights of older people: will the UK become a test-bed for Europe?Ford, Dierdre; Stepney, Paul M. (Carfax (Taylor & Francis), 2003)The authors are both experienced social workers and teachers in the field of community care. They draw on their UK and European experiences as well as the growing body of research on hospital discharges of older people to illustrate how citizenship rights and social justice cannot be upheld without ethical good practice in this field. Community Care in the UK now contains in-built tensions and potential conflicts between health and social services staff over continuing care. Entitlements and ethical considerations can be obscured by the economic interests of the agencies involved. These developments which are already evident in other European welfare states provide a warning to Eastern Europe about the dangers of importing managerial and market principles into the field of care for older people. Research evidence supported by case studies is used to illustrate how rights to health care and even human rights can be overridden when policies of cost containment combined with efficiency targets begin to shape decisions about care. Further, the recent proposal to fine UK social services departments 100 (140 Euros) per day for delayed discharge will only exacerbate the problem. The authors argue that research can provide guidance on the essential elements for good practice in inter-professional work, especially concepts of well-being that include justice, fairness, participation and autonomy to counteract the jeopardised citizenship of older people.