Gender And Communication: Social Work and Social Care Perspectives

By Joan Orme.



ISBN 0 333 61989 7

Joan Orme’s book demonstrates why gender is such a thorny issue
for practitioners by reviewing theoretical debates and community
care policies. Practice addressing gender, race and sexuality is
limited by categorising service users as older people, mental
health survivors, disabled people and so on.

Our attention is drawn to the aspects of people’s lives that
determine eligibility. She links gender theories to discrimination
because of race and there are chapters specifically on older
people, mental health survivors and disabled people.

The chapter on disabled people describes the territory, but does
not name the social model of disability or discuss direct payments
which many service users find a liberating force. Does part of this
originate from the power to shape support to fit their gender,
race, culture, history and sexuality? Direct payments are altering
relationships and language from “care” to “support”, from “carer”
to “personal assistant”.

Social work and social care are described as operating in the
“borderlands”, the uneasy territory between individuals, groups,
the environment, communities and organisations. There are
similarities between this view and Gerry Smale’s idea of the
marginality of social work. Both need further exploration in the
current reconstructing social work and social care.

This book is also useful for students when tackling specific
areas of practice and theory, and practitioners wanting to re-think
the complex problems they face everyday because of the way gender
is invisible much of the time and highly visible at others. It is
essential that often complex theoretical debates do not paralyse
our efforts to develop gendered practice. Gains have been made, but
Joan Orme’s book reminds us why it often feels like such a

Daphne Statham is director, National Institute for
Social Work.

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