Rural Social Work

Richard Pugh.

Russell House Publishing


ISBN 1-898924-67-8

“Think rural” has been a recent challenge to government but the
mind-set to “think rural” has yet to feature strongly in social
work. This book offers a well-written springboard for service
planning and practice for rural communities. Pugh is keen neither
to over-glamorise the attractions of the countryside, nor to
over-emphasise its problems in comparison with urban life.

Pugh argues that the key features of rural social work rest on
how people experience their problems and how services respond to
them. He notes the general myths of rural life and the stereotypes
of rural people. He observes that there is relevant information now
about rural isolation, racism and poverty and that it behoves
social workers to make use of this.

Useful sections of this book include a description of agencies
working on rural needs and examples of good practice from projects
or agencies. Pugh mixes discussion and data about services and
systems with practice examples and suggestions.

On another level, Pugh engages with the politics of the
countryside and the resurgence of activity to defend jobs,
interests and identities. He urges readers to think what might be
behind people’s protests and to avoid stereotypes of rural
conservatism. Linked to discussions of place and identity this
analysis works well in bridging political debate on current affairs
with more theoretical frameworks.

Pugh provides sections on discrete areas of practice as well as
more general points on inter-agency working. Domestic violence is
included as a subject where rural settings may affect a worker’s
practice. In this respect, and in relation to other areas where
stigma or confidentiality are prominent, Pugh offers guidance from
a synthesis of research, experience and reflection.

This book usefully incorporates many user views and builds on a
variety of sources. The voluntary sector appears to have
articulated its experiences in contrast to social services where
data and models are comparatively under-developed, with the
exception of recent activity by the Social Services Inspectorate.
Geography is clearly bound up with activities relevant to social
work and social care and it still matters whether service users or
social workers live and work in the countryside.

This is a much-needed book for educationalist and reflective
practitioners, many of whom may feel that rural perspectives are
poorly served by most literature.

Jill Manthorpe is a lecturer at the University of Hull, and
co-author with Gary Craig of Fresh Fields: Rural Social Care, York
Publishing Services, 2000

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