Guide Social and Moral Theory in Casework (Routledge Revivals): Volume 3

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Her experience includes coordination of interna- tional, neighbourhood and community-based initiatives, as well as research on healthcare, eviction, homelessness and social services. She has developed materials for social welfare and social policy education and has critically examined structures for inclusion of residents with low income in municipal policymaking. She teaches courses on social work theory; race, culture, and social work; social work in communities and organizations; and research methods.

Her research interests include diversity and multiculturalism, identity in racialized youth and programme evaluation. She is a sociologist and qualified social worker with expertise in the role of policy in social development. She has published on various aspects of contemporary wel- fare reform as well as social welfare policy at the transnational level. His most recent books include A Crisis of Waste? He is currently developing a research project on material culture in the criminal world.

Deirdre M. She formerly lectured at University College Dublin where she completed her B. Her publications include her book Teenagers and Substance Use: Social networks and peer influence and papers in Social Networks and Connections. Her publications range across the disciplines of sociology, psychology, psychiatry and social work and one of her friendship networks is exhibited in the New York Hall of Science.

He entered social work fuelled by a desire to combine theory and practice in a politically informed praxis. He sees ethnomethodology as providing ways of working that place practice at the centre of everyday realities.

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He is the author of Meds, Money, and Manners: The case management of severe mental illness , where, through utilizing ethnographic and sociohistorical methods, he examines the rise of community support services and the case man- ager and case management, and the limits of management models in providing effective ser- vices. He has served as editor and associate editor of journals for the American Anthropological Association and the Society for Applied Anthropology.

Previously, she earned her masters degree in medical anthropology from Case Western Reserve University, Cleveland, Ohio. Her primary research interest is in ethnographic and discourse analytic studies of clinical and professional decision- making and, particularly, professional talk. This latest study focuses on the relationship between the performance management of public services responsible for safe- guarding children and the impact of anticipated blame within the decisionmaking practices of those providing, supervising and managing these services.

She has been a social work educator at Newcastle since and has published on experience-based education in social work.

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Her interest in evidence-based practice stems from a commitment to engaging in research that is useful and relevant to social work practitioners. Her research spans a range of social work practice fields, including ageing, family violence and single session social work in hospitals. His interests, research and writing are clustered around the bor- ders of research, methodology and practice, in which he has published fairly extensively.

In trying to help people improve their situations, social workers are often required to follow legal pro- cedures or policy guidelines that prescribe what they should or should not do under certain circumstances.

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In important ways, social work draws a line between the needs of people that are made a matter of public concern and those that must be left for the private domain to satisfy. In some important ways, the role of social work is a response to attempts to reconcile individual freedoms with social solidarity. Yet, despite this attempt to balance freedoms with State intervention to satisfy the requirements of needs and protection, there remains a deeply felt need for a sense of belonging, solidarity and a home in modern societies that is not satisfied. Loneliness, isolation, exclusion and depression may be by-products of this failure to satisfy the human need for belonging.

How might social work contribute to a deeper sense of fraternity in societies characterized by division and fragmentation? This requires new ways of thinking about social work and even, perhaps, a new language. Some of the material in this book draws attention to problems of modern daily life, points to possible solutions and asks how we got ourselves into this situa- tion in the first place. These books are written by people who describe themselves as social work researchers — that is, are classified as researchers or practi- tioners who write about social work.

Thinking about social work in this way — as a collection of books or authors — makes one think that social work is a body of knowledge that has accu- mulated over the many years it has been taught or practised. This book makes further contributions to this research tradition with its many strands of concepts, ideas and theories.

Social work has been around in most developed countries for over a hundred years, which suggests that it has a well-established tradition of knowledge. That persistence through time and advances that have been made along the way, which may or may not be a matter of accu- mulated knowledge, is what the research tradition concept highlights. A tradition includes a number of frameworks that consist of specific theories or theoretical models and perspectives. Their interpenetration with the practice of social work, in terms of conceptual schemes and problems investigated, is what has advanced over time.

The integration of theoretical models as explication of and in relation to comprehensive theories is a primary mode of advance of a research tradition.

However, such a tradition changes when newcomers arrive and present new ways of thinking about social work. So, social work knowledge is in a constant state of flux and might best be described as a con- tinuing activity that is formed and re-formed over time. Old wisdom is constantly tested against new ideas and conceptual formulations.


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Social work is much more than this. Social work tries to understand and explain why this rather than that happened. Most importantly, it tries to explain why something happened in the context of wider events. That wider context is a social dimension which is broader and more complex than the immediate situation in which people find themselves. Even feelings that appear completely spontaneous, such as the anger expressed at certain types of crime, are, in reality, the product of a social context. The value of interpretation in social work When thinking about social work practice, it is readily apparent that it tries to make sense of human situations — in their social context — by analysing commonsense claims and conflicts about them, while encouraging people to reassess and discover different or more nuanced ways of interpreting them.

Interpretation is at the core of social work. The rights of custody over children require interpretation of the law. Communication with others rests on the assumption that social workers can grasp the intended meaning of their speech or writing and thus understand cultural contexts. Similarly, during times of crisis, social workers are often required to reinterpret previous situations or routines.

Interpretation seeks to establish a way forward or a way to orientate ourselves within a difficult situation. A crisis that suddenly envelopes us can put a question mark by all previous interpretations. A common- sense interpretation, by its very definition, means that the interpretation is common to most people, but social work interpretations are very often not of this nature. As a client may describe her action retrospectively in ways in which she did not, or could not, describe before it was completed, interpretation has a privileged position in social work.

Thus, social work interpretations are often not based on common sense. It is our view that, despite being overlooked in social work skills training, interpretation is constitutive of social work and may specify the distinctive way of becoming human in our social world. To understand diversely shaped cul- tures, experiences, actions and beliefs — and to make their significance apparent in spoken and written forms — is the core of interpretation and it is indispensable to social work.

One of the things that this book tries to emphasize is the great importance of the skill of interpreta- tion for social work. Social work thinking questions the conditions of social life and its values as well as the purpose of social and human action.

An engagement with such areas of life is often more challenging, difficult and arduous than com- monsense thinking suggests and requires more than administration and policy implementa- tion or simply fulfilling a legal mandate. Throughout its history, social work has taken issue with so-called facts and laws and often challenged normative mandates of what is a right, con- ventional or proper way to live.

For many students, that is what makes social work so engag- ing, compelling and distinctive. That means, rather cyclically, your reading and thinking about the material is an interpretation of an interpretation. We think that by reading these kinds of interpretations, your own interpre- tive skills will improve. To do so can be difficult because some of the ideas, concepts and meth- ods are complex.


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  • Theorizing can be hard work and does not lend itself easily to the lazy mind. However, wrestling with these kinds of things means that you develop a sensibility for or an attunement to theoretical ideas and concepts.

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    We also believe that it encourages critical scrutiny and promotes the habit of self-analysis and questioning views that claim to be cer- tainties. In developing good skills of interpretation, what we thought we understood fully, based on routines and habit, is questioned once again, opening up a new set of possibilities such that prior conceptions are replaced by new understandings. While the process may never end, we think that it will enhance your judgements and help you feel more certain about where you stand on important issues in social work and society at large.

    It will also help you become more aware of the way in which you habitually approach situations. Theories that fit with how you usually look at things will excite you; those which present a very different per- spective might annoy you. When thinking about social work, we challenge ourselves to open up to new interpretations and perspectives and embrace complexity.

    Thinking critically in social work Good research-minded intervention depends on critical thinking at least as much as on factual knowledge, laws, proof or evidence. Social work is no exception to that rule. Critical thinking is defined as a type of thinking that is orientated towards changing society for the better.

    Yet, despite the importance of critical thinking, social work students are not always taught how to think critically about the theories, methods and concepts they must use. This often results in the uncritical acceptance of facts and theories about human behaviour and the social environment.

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    This can lead to bias, distortion or unpredictability when dealing with the complexity of the social world. For us, skills in making good judgements or interpretations are at the heart of social work thinking and are based on the evaluative ability to think critically. Critical thinking is a skill that must be developed in order to interpret successfully — and simultaneously — information from a variety sources, such as interpersonal relationships, family life, government policy and legislation and changes in society.

    This book shows students and researchers how to think critically about key topics, such as the relationship between theory and practice, and the way in which theory — and theoretical perspec- tives — opens up possibilities for change. Critical analysis has demonstrated that theory and practice cannot be separated in any obvi- ous way — the two dimensions are interdependent.

    Thus, for example, abstract changes in con- cepts are always embodied in real and particular events.