Edited by Paul Stepney and Deirdre Ford.
Russell House Publishing
ISBN: 1 898924 83 X
This volume rises to the crisis facing social work by
re-examining some of the time-tested approaches practitioners have
called on over the past 20 years.
This crisis, so the editors’ opening chapter argues, has arisen
from the twin devils of administrative care management and
competence-based training which have dealt professional discretion
and critical judgement a mortal blow. What values they have left
standing New Labour is finishing off by “clearing the streets of
the underclass with surveillance and control”.
Then follows the “march of the methods” – chapters on
anti-racist practice, psycho-dynamic theory, crisis intervention,
and others, each by a different author. There is some good work
here that must not be overlooked. Brian Sheldon explains the
verifiable merits of the cognitive behavioural approach. He has
done this before but social work has always found better things to
do than listen to him – to its cost.
The chapter on task-centred work does not approach the quality
of Marsh and Doel’s explications – but if it sends readers
scurrying to their work it will have done its job. In Gordon and
Delia Jack’s chapter on “ecological social work” the reader cannot
miss the progressive and humanist allegiance that underpins it.
Bill Jordan concludes the volume with a sophisticated critique
of the Third Way. He argues that the Labour government and social
work are both struggling with the same set of issues: how to
combine valuing citizens and users with challenging them to do
their best. He notes that the new cohorts of public sector workers
– gateway advisers, asylum support workers, New Deal counsellors –
arising from social exclusion programmes do have common ground with
social work but only the latter can rise above New Labour’s
mechanistic perceptions of identities, support and
John Pierson is senior lecturer, Institute of Social
Work and Applied Social Studies, Staffordshire