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This chapter discusses the context in which policy engagement on the part of social workers takes place. It identifies four distinctive environments that have been identified in the literature on the policy engagement of social workers. The claim is that these environments offer a necessary context within which policy engagement emerges and that they can enhance or impede the impact of the other types of factors discussed in the PE conceptual framework. The four environments examined in detail are: the welfare regime; policies and problems; the profession; and people (service users).
The concluding chapter pulls together the different components of the policy engagement conceptual framework. It makes the claim that an understanding of efforts by social workers to impact social policy requires us to move beyond individual factors and to look at the interplay between the context in which these take place, the nature of the policy process and diverse motivational factors. In doing so, the policy engagement conceptual framework extends the boundaries of current thinking about the policy engagement of social workers. Drawing on these insights, we discuss the implications of this for social work education, practice and research.
Research on social workers’ policy engagement shows that one of the most important factors linked to their policy role is the support that they get from their workplace. Thus, social workers’ engagement in policy will be facilitated if the dominant values and modes of practice in their immediate work environment, that is, ‘the organizational culture’, allow or encourage them to engage in this type of practice and provide them with the resources, facilities and support necessary to do so. Here, we draw on theoretical knowledge on organisations and on the findings of studies on the facilitating role of organisations in the policy engagement of social workers in order to identify the conditions under which social workers in organisations engage in policymaking and the factors that impact the form that this will take. The chapter explores these themes with regard to social workers in advocacy organisations, service providers and governmental services, particularly those on the local level.
This chapter provides an initial overview of the social work–social policy nexus and the past tendency to view social workers primarily as the implementors of social policies. It then offers a detailed description of more contemporary efforts to explore the policy engagement of social workers by reviewing major trends in research on this subject. The chapter identifies the cutting edge in this literature and underscores the potential contribution of the book to this growing field of research. It concludes with an initial presentation of the policy engagement conceptual framework, which seeks to explain social workers’ engagement in policy and the form that this takes.
As individuals with agency in their role as either professionals or private citizens, the decision by social workers to engage in policy will inevitably be influenced by their motivation to do so. This understanding requires us to explore the factors that are associated with the motivation of individual social workers in different positions to engage in policy-related activities. The chapter looks at various facets of the motivation of social workers to engage in policy. These include the civic voluntarism model, motivation theory, personality traits, institutional motivation and gender and ethnicity.
This chapter provides an infrastructure for understanding the social work–social policy interface and, in doing so, sets the stage for the following chapters, which explore components of the conceptual framework. It discusses the types of social policies that social workers are likely to interact with, the various policy arenas in which social policy is made and the modes of social policy relevant to the policy-related activities of social workers: displacement, layering and conversion. A final focus of the chapter is on the various policy routes that social workers can take to affect policies, two of which social workers engage in as citizens (voluntary political participation and elected offices) and four where they act in a professional capacity (street-level policy involvement; academic policy practice; policy practice; and policy practice through professional organisations). We then discuss the differences between the routes and the implications of these.
This chapter explores the specific institutions in which policy is formulated and the impact that these can have on efforts by social workers to affect social policy. The goal of the chapter is to shed light on the place of institutional opportunities in shaping levels and forms of policy engagement by social workers. The notion of opportunity structures is employed as a conceptual foundation for a better understanding of the relevance of the policy environment for the policy engagement of social workers. In addition, the neo-institutional literature, which underscores the role of norms and rules in determining the policy process, is employed as a way to think about the access of social workers to policy processes. The chapter relates to the national and local levels of policy engagement by social workers, and draws upon examples from various countries to illustrate the ways in which the form of social workers’ involvement reflects institutional facets and opportunity structures in different national contexts.
Rather than being seen simply as social policy implementors, in recent decades there has been increasing recognition of social workers as professionals with unique knowledge and insights to contribute to policy formulation and social justice.
This book offers a path-breaking, evidence-based theoretical framework for understanding why social workers engage in policy, both as professionals and citizens, and the impact of their actions. Drawing on concepts from social work and the political, sociological and policy sciences, the authors set out the implications of this framework for research, education and practice.
The long main street of Totnes in Devon springs from Old Market, with its fine views across the Dart Valley. Dropping swiftly past Rotherfold, where the bulls used to be penned on market days, it eases the casual visitor past Drift record store, Social Fabric knitting shop, Sacks Wholefoods, The Happy Apple, the colonnaded Butterwalks, and a succession of gift shops, fashion shops, coffee shops and trinket shops.
If you can shun the temptations of the pubs along the way, from the Bay Horse to the Royal Seven Stars Hotel, you’ll have time to take in the slate-hung upper storeys that are a particular feature of this town, the market square with its stalls selling cheap tools and expensive knickknacks, the ruddy tower of the parish church of St Mary standing aloof from the main street’s greys and pastels, and the imposing arch of East Gate where High Street becomes Fore Street. You might begin to wonder how this town of just 8,000 people, the size of a large urban overspill estate, can support such a huge variety of independent traders. They include three local butchers, Roly’s fudge shop, a toy shop, even one selling harps. Ray Reynolds, preparing his chorizo wraps in Market Square, takes a moment from chargrilling his sausages to boast that Totnes has the best market in Devon, with more than 50 stalls at its regular Good Food Sunday – and this is from a veteran who previously plied his trade at London’s prestigious Borough Market.
At the tearoom in Bury Market there’s a chalkboard with a cheery-looking rag doll beside it. The board advertises Jackson’s rag pudding – ‘a little bit like chippy pudding but better’ – for a modest £3.50. Few people south of Lancashire have come across rag pudding. You wouldn’t call it a delicacy, but it’s substantial and filling, the kind of dish you’d need after a long shift at the mill. And that’s exactly what it was made for: the rag pudding originated in Oldham, where cotton workers would tuck into a pie of minced meat and vegetables, wrapped in suet pastry and boiled in a cheesecloth rather than baked in a tin. A bit like the now ubiquitous Cornish pasty, it was a meal in itself, put together with whatever was to hand. You could make one even if you were too poor to afford a baking dish, which many people were 150 years ago. Lancastrians still vouch for its flavour and wholesomeness, although it’s said to taste even better after a few pints of ale.
The rag pudding makers knew how to make a little go a long way. In a nation where the divide between boom towns and bust towns is becoming starker, it’s a secret many of us will need to re-learn: how to value and apply the resources we have ourselves rather than wait for the wash of others’ economic ripples to reach us. At the heart of that is a rediscovery of solidarity.