Social care as she is

Social care as she is


Suzy Braye and Michael Preston-Shoot

Open University Press


ISBN 0 335 192459

This is not an easy book to read and anyone picking it up and
hoping it will provide a recipe for empowering practice, either
with users or with colleagues in social services organisations,
will be disappointed. It is a book which demands that its readers
think about the relationship between ‘the tensions, dilemmas and
themes within the provision of social care’ and the values,
feelings, knowledge and skills which managers and front line staff
experience and use on the job.

The authors are concerned with the services which flow from the
NHS and Community Care Act and central to their ideas is the
difference they see between anti-discriminatory and anti-oppressive
practice. The former, they claim, is reformist and concerned with
unfairness within existing systems; the latter is radical and aims
at a change in power structures.

The distinction is important despite the fact that it is not
carried forward consistently throughout the book. Like many
practitioners and writers before them the logic of the radical is
not easy to accommodate within state provided, cash-limited,

This is a book to dip into and to use as a reference source. The
authors’ determination to include all aspects of every topic and
refer to all work which touches each issue, makes for a dense style
with complex sentences and a tendency towards listings.

This does not lead to readability but it does provide a
wonderful reference source and many of the ideas and the charts,
especially those in Chapter 5, which is concerned with power,
partnership and empowerment, will prove helpful to those who want
to get a grasp of these difficult concepts.

The authors offer ways of organising thinking and of avoiding
the lip service and rhetoric which is all too easily attached to
these ideas. The authors make clear throughout their book that
empowerment is not an activity which can be hived off into front
line staff; it must penetrate strategic planning and, even more
importantly, the ways in which managers relate to those whose work
they supervise.

Any one page of this book raises enough ethical, organisational
and professional questions to keep social care managers, staff and
users thinking for weeks. If anyone still believes providing social
care can rely on common sense this book should convince them the
integrity, commitment and questioning required are far from

Phyllida Parsloe

is professor of social work, University of Bristol

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