Book review: Radical social work today

A timely critique of the face of social work since the publication of Bailey and Brake's seminal "Radical Social Work" in 1975.

Radical social work today: Social Work at the Crossroads, edited by Michael Lavalette

Publisher: The Policy Press

List price: £21.99

ISBN: 978-1-84742-817-2

A timely critique of the face of social work since the publication of Bailey and Brake’s seminal “Radical Social Work” in 1975.

This book looks at what has become of radical social work in the intervening years and looks at the impact of such things as Thatcherism, the neoliberalism of New Labour, “equality legislation”, the popularity of individual pathology, marketisation, managerialism and the emphasis upon resource allocation.

The academic contributors provide very thought-provoking and challenging accounts of their views as to what has become of the profession.

They all write with great passion and concern for the future and of the distinctive contribution that social work has to offer in today’s diverse, confusing and cash-strapped society.

It offers a reflective on many radical social work theories (very useful for students) and questions the values inherent in practice today.

There can be no doubt that social work is at a crossroads; the advent of personalisation, for example, can be seen as an opportunity to return to fundamental social work values and a break away from the “computer says” model of care management, but only if social workers have an understanding of much wider issues.

The book ends with a rallying call for social workers to organise themselves in the collective defence of their profession and to develop an understanding of skills, to make the social work and not the markets work.

This book is a must for students, social work teachers and practitioners. It encourages the reader to “touch-base” with their values and to remember the reasons why they made their own particular career choice and to ponder upon their own part in the future of the profession.

Julie Heath, works as a group manager for adult care at Derbyshire County Council.

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