Book review: Using the Law in Social Work

Using the Law in Social Work (third edition)


Robert Johns, Learning Matters

ISBN 139781844451142

This is a terrific, straightforward and (almost) jargon-free book that covers a huge range of different situations with breathtaking clarity, from chapter one’s analysis of why “I want to be a social worker, not a lawyer” through to “Providing a Quality service” in chapter eight.

I lost endless amounts of time enjoying going over the tables and facts. Did you know that the age of criminal responsibility is 18 in Belgium but seven in India? We may be aware of the legislation which affects our own work, but the author looks at the broad sweep of primary legislation, secondary legislation and conventions. He even explains the difference between conflicting sets of legal requirements.

Further, the limits of law are detailed. As the book concedes, “the law cannot substitute for sound professional practice”. Law cannot find easy solutions to complex problems, Robert Johns adds. We knew that, but it’s still good to read.

The formal mechanism of how and why laws change comes in a handy chart format. Another chart explains how different agencies work together.

Even the most expert practitioner will gain something from this, a great addition to a very comprehensive series.

Greer Nicholson is a commissioning manager for transport and concessionary travel, London Borough of Newham

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