Research

 

You will find a complete range of our monographs, muti-authored and edited works including peer-reviewed, original scholarly research across the social sciences and aligned disciplines. We publish long and short form research and you can browse the complete Bristol University Press and Policy Press archive of over 1,500 titles.

Policy Press also publishes policy reviews and polemic work which aim to challenge policy and practice in certain fields. These books have a practitioner in mind and are practical, accessible in style, as well as being academically sound and referenced.
 

Books: Research

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This first chapter of the final part of the book begins the process of considering the practices of a rights-focused social work by focusing on assessment. Common theoretical approaches to social work assessment are presented, as well as some key policy developments relating to assessment in child and family work. They are argued to tend to focus on what information should be collected, and while the importance of analysis is often emphasised, it is rarer for there to be a focus on how to do such analysis. The chapter argues that assessment is a form of evidence-informed theory development. The idea of realist social work assessment is introduced, and suggested to be a strong foundation for a practice that allows the rights-focused social worker to combine the views of the individuals, the social mandate and the professional view of the social worker into a provisional theory.

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Formulation is introduced as a way of developing working theories in social work assessment. The theory and practice of formulation are introduced, and additional considerations for a rights-focused formulation are presented. The practice of formulation is then illustrated through an extended case study.

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An Introduction to Rights-Focused Practice

While Social Work theory tends to emphasise helping individuals and challenging social injustice, the reality of practice is characterised by challenge and conflict. This text offers a new concept of Social Work that explains the nature of these conflicts and moves beyond them, with an inspiring and practical vision of what Social Work is and should be.

Placing rights at the heart of practice, this introduction to social work will be useful to practitioners and students with a substantive contribution to the theoretical literature that emphasises the role of social work when rights may be in conflict, enabling students and workers to become more confident dealing with the uncomfortable realities of practice.

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The Enlightenment idea of individual rights is placed into its historical context. Key criticisms of human rights and the idea of the three generations of rights, with rights broadly related to liberty, equality and connection, are reviewed. While acknowledging the importance and validity of many of these critiques, it is argued that individual rights are nonetheless a key part of a good society. This provides the background for subsequent chapters, which consider different types of rights in more depth with a focus on their practice implications.

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The chapter starts by considering the idea that rights tend to individualise people rather than seeing them in connection. It is argued that rights are closely tied to human needs, and humans need connection, and that therefore this is an artificial distinction. The point is illustrated in relation to social work practice, with support for family time, retaining connections and working with the wider network being examples of rights-focused work that moves beyond the individual. The chapter then turns to examine the nature of the relationship between workers and the children and adults they work with. bell hooks’ idea of a love ethic is introduced and explored as a basis for rights-focused social work through a case study.

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Key theories to underpin rights-focused practice are introduced in this second part of the book. The first is the humanist tradition. This is traced back from psychology into social work. The key features of a humanist orientation, its historical antecedents and the challenges and opportunities it poses for contemporary social work practice are presented. It is argued that it is consistent with rights-focused practice because it emerges from the same broad Enlightenment tradition as individual rights, but that it can result in a tendency to over-individualise problems. This leads to the need for a broader social lens, as explored in the next chapter.

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This chapter focuses on rights to individual liberty, and the ways in which they require a profession such as social work. The ‘harm principle’ that individuals should be free to do what they wish provided they do not hurt others, underlies liberal society. Yet what of those who may not have capacity to exercise such freedom, such as children and others who social workers often work with? The chapter explores the nature of risk and protection, the dilemmas and tensions this creates and how workers can and should work with such difficulties. The idea of a ‘ladder of consequences’ is introduced as both a reflection of the realities of practice and a heuristic that has the potential to be used appropriately or inappropriately. The contrast between this complex and challenging work and simplistic approaches to helping is highlighted throughout by a child protection case study.

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This chapter applies the idea of rights and the criticisms considered in Chapter 2 to social work. Key approaches to rights within the social work literature are reviewed. It is argued that the general approach to rights in social work has been that they are a good thing, and that social workers should defend and promote rights. This book agrees that rights are an essential feature of a good society, but it focuses on the challenges and tensions they create. It is argued that much of social work practice, including almost all of that in statutory settings, can be understood as dealing with such issues. This is illustrated through a case study which includes different types of rights.

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The Enlightened Social Worker seeks to understand why there is so often a gap between the aspiration of social work to be a helping profession guided by principles of social justice and the reality of practice, which is often characterised by tension and conflict. The book develops an account of social work that is grounded in the Enlightenment tradition of individual rights. It sees social workers as typically involved when rights are in potential conflict. In working with these tensions social work is an essential profession, with social workers protecting the rights of individuals and contributing to creating a humane, kind and just society. From this foundation the book seeks to articulate theories and practices that provide a foundation for working with the tensions that are an endemic feature of practice. This includes chapters on direct work, assessments, key theories for rights-focused work and moving beyond working with the individual.

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This chapter emphasises the social in rights-focused practice. It underscores the importance of social workers thinking beyond the individual. Ways of doing this are reviewed, including Family Group Conferences, Contextual Safeguarding and working to change policy. Dilemmas relating to focusing on the individual or seeking to change society are considered. It is argued that these conundrums, like so many in the book, cannot be resolved. Instead, we need wise, thoughtful and caring social workers to wrestle with such dilemmas. Throughout, the chapter provides examples of innovative changes championed by social workers actively putting the social into their work.

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