Twelve: Contradictions and change?

The previous chapter was designed to get readers thinking about how to use sociology in the work they undertake. Earlier chapters emphasised the material conditions of people’s lives. We all experience the same things, but, of course, we experience them in different ways. How social workers apply sociological concepts to their work also depends on the kind of work they do, and where they do it. For example, some social workers are involved mainly in ‘forensic’ work, while others work in community settings. Some are ‘providers’, while others are primarily engaged in assessing for, purchasing or coordinating services.

This book also identifies that there is a lengthy tradition in social work that places social justice and change on the agenda. Students of social work want to bring about change, often expressed in terms of ‘making a difference’ (Price and Simpson, 2004). The changes to social work practice and organisation discussed in this book mean that this tradition is in danger of being lost. A consequence is that social work will become just another service industry. The authors’ experience as educators also indicates that social workers want to reconnect with the lives of service users and communities: they do not enter the profession to spend their days filling in forms. They also realise that many of those who are involved in ‘direct working’ with service users are often low paid, relatively poorly trained and frequently perceive local authority social workers as distant figures.

With this in mind, the book concludes by examining this tradition of change in social work, realising that many things are far easier said than done.

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