Edited by Mary Nash and Bruce Stewart.
Jessica Kingsley Publishers
Measures of spirituality do not figure widely on any social services inspectorate indicators. At first, this book will seem light years from preoccupations with hospital discharge rates, star ratings or child protection targets. Yet its contents are vitally important.
Containing chapters from a range of mainly Canadian and New Zealand writers it illustrates a rich mix of cultures, embracing not only Western but also Maori and Polynesian thought.
Social care is interpreted to include psychotherapy and community development as well as social work. Spirituality is seen as “knowledge of the heart” or one’s fundamental belief systems. As such, it is different from organised, institutional religious beliefs. Topics range from children’s experiences of spirituality in play therapy to work with elderly people, spirituality in volunteers and how the subject is addressed on social work courses in New Zealand.
The central thesis – that contemporary work rarely touches on these areas of our being that really matter – is important. Where the book disappoints is in failing to link this enough with day-to-day practice, but there is much to provoke thought and the richness of the many cultural examples refreshing.
Chris Hanvey is director of UK operations, Barnardo’s.