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Social work and social care in residential and day care settings
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Working in group care (ie residential and day services) is a challenging and complex task, demanding great skill, patience, knowledge and understanding. This book explains how best practice can be achieved through the focused and engaged work of individuals and teams who are well supported and managed. Detailed attention is paid to the value of everyday practice and its underlying principles.

The book brings together theory, practice and research findings from across the whole field of group care for all user-groups - including health, education and probation settings as well as social work and social care.

The first edition was warmly welcomed as ‘well organised and accessible ... and a valuable addition to the literature’ (British Journal of Social Work). This second edition is updated and expanded, including substantial new material on the concept of ‘opportunity led work’.

The book will be an essential text for all those involved in residential and day care practice whether as practitioners, students, managers or trainers. It argues strongly for seeing group care as valuable and skilled work and for a holistic understanding of good practice.

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Having examined the responsibilities of the individual worker through a shift or day’s work, we now change the perspective again. The material in Chapter Four was largely focused on the worker’s responsibilities towards her clients and towards herself, although many of the examples also inevitably touched on her interactions with colleagues. By contrast, we shall now focus much more on the team as a whole and on its task, looking in particular at the worker’s interactions with other team members. The perspective taken in this chapter is therefore different from the previous one in that we are now considering the worker’s part in the whole organisation. Although this is a book about working in group care rather than specifically about leadership in group care, it will be argued that much group care work does require familiarity with the skills and concepts of leadership and management. In the first part of the chapter we shall be looking at the skills of team membership and the various ways in which individuals’ work connects with the work of the team and of the unit as a whole; in the second part we shall consider how a ‘systems’ approach provides a useful conceptual framework for sorting out these connections; and in the third part we move on to look at the application of these skills and concepts to leadership and management roles at whatever level in the formal hierarchy.

To understand the skills required for working as a team member in group care, we must return briefly to the distinctions made in Chapter One between group care and office-based social work.

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We now move to the second of the four perspectives on working in group care that were briefly introduced earlier in the book. As was pointed out in the Introduction, these perspectives are not intended to represent mutually exclusive theories of group care work. Indeed, they are not in themselves ‘theories’ at all: they simply represent different ways of looking at group care work, each of which allows for a wide range of theories to be drawn upon, but all of which need to be taken equally into account if we are to build up an accurate picture of the complex nature of the work.

In this second perspective – The Client’s Stay – the focus is on the life situation of the client, and on the stages in the client’s ‘career’ of contact with the unit from admission through to departure and beyond. This focus derives from that substantial proportion of the literature on residential work which addresses issues of admission, care and/or treatment, and departure. It offers a logical framework of sequential stages for describing the individual’s experience of group care and for analysing the corresponding tasks at each stage for the group care workers.

Although this approach has been principally derived from the literature on residential care, it may also be usefully applied to the stages of a client’s contact with a day care setting. For example, in many family centres, people are referred to the unit, attend over a given period of time, and eventually finish their involvement with the centre and leave.

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Having examined group care work from the perspective of The Client’s Stay, we now consider a third perspective, in which the focus is on the responsibilities of the group care worker in terms of her typical working day, beginning with the necessary preparation before arrival at work, through the various responsibilities of her work, to the handling of departure from the unit at the end of the day. Although it is a new way of describing the tasks of the group care worker, this perspective is also a synthesis of several strands drawn from related fields, and we shall begin by examining some of these strands, in order to explain the origin of this way of analysing the work.

I draw in particular on material from mainstream social work theory. One of the most useful frameworks for analysing practice is the concept of the social work ‘process’ (Payne, 2005a), in which there are identifiable phases of work progressing through time: ‘assessment, planning, intervention and review’ (Parker and Bradley, 2003, p ix), these corresponding to the beginning, middle and end stages of a ‘case’, that is, work with an individual or family. This simple basic formula has remained an underpinning framework in many classic social work texts from Butrym (1976) through to Adams et al (2005), and it underpins the UK requirements for social work training (DH, 2002). In its various forms this framework provides the student or worker with a straightforward means of planning and analysing their practice. Indeed, experience in social work training suggests that, unless students can operationalise some version of the process model, they are unlikely to be able to make constructive use of other more sophisticated models.

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We shall begin by considering the nature of group care work: what is group care, what is distinctive about it, and how does it differ from other forms of social work and professional practice? We shall consider what the distinctions and overlaps are between residential and day care work, and, in particular, what group care workers actually do. We shall then look at three key issues arising in all group care practice – issues of power, prejudice and dependency – and then at some basic principles of group care practice, which underpin all of the later discussions in Chapters Two to Five about the responsibilities and working methods of the group care worker. Finally in this chapter, we shall look at the problem of the prevalence of bad practice and the struggle to work towards positive high-quality group care.

Group care is social work in a residential or day care setting. We may well then ask: what is a residential or day care setting? Such questions of definition have exercised others in the past and the boundaries of residential care are constantly shifting as policy evolves (for example, DH, 2005), while some have discarded the term ‘day care’ in preference for the idea of ‘day services’ (for example, McIntosh and Whittaker, 2000; Clark, 2001). For the sake of this book, a group care setting is a place that people attend for some form of organised and purposeful social work help on either a daily or a residential basis, and where, in addition to individual help, there is also some form of group or communal activity, which may range from a group meeting or shared mealtime at one end of the spectrum to full residential life at the other end.

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This book has ranged over extensive territory, and in these final pages we shall briefly look back across that territory to review and evaluate the material covered, then look at some further applications of this material and some implications for training, before concluding with a re-examination of the principles of professional group care and the associated requirements on workers and managers.

The aim of the book has been to construct a theoretical and practical framework within which group care workers can analyse their work. The method used has been first to present an outline of the context of the work, and then to show how this context influences the tasks and responsibilities of the workers, using several different approaches or perspectives. The four perspectives that have been covered are Opportunity-led Work, The Client’s Stay, The Worker’s Shift, and The Team and its Task, and I have argued that these are not alternatives but complementary views: in order to have a full understanding of their task, a worker or team must hold all four perspectives in view together. The value of the Opportunity-ledWork framework is that it encourages workers to identify and use the wide range of possibilities for responsive and supportive work that can be offered in the context of everyday living in group care. It has only been possible here to give a brief introduction to the approach, whereas in daily practice many workers do some of their most valuable work in this mode; it is the responsiveness and attention to detail on the part of the staff that can make all the difference to the quality of the client’s experience in group care.

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The purpose of this book is to offer a framework for analysing what happens in social work in residential and day care settings, and to show how this framework can be usefully applied in practice, both by practitioners themselves and by students and those involved in teaching about this work. The method of the book is to bring together a number of different perspectives on group care work, and to show how they relate to each other. Some of the ideas are drawn directly from the existing literature and research, while some are drawn from my own experience both in group care practice and in the training of group care workers.

The book is aimed at all of those working in group care, whether as care staff, managers or trainers, although it is also intended for those undertaking placements in group care settings as part of social work and other programmes of learning and development. The field is extremely broad: in no sense can this book provide a full introduction to the issues arising in every group care setting – ranging from, for example, day care work with older people to respite residential care for children with learning difficulties – and for such depth and detail the reader will have to turn to some of the many books and articles referred to throughout the book, which do deal in particulars. What is attempted here is a bringing together of the themes arising for those working in any group care setting, with examples drawn from a wide variety of places, and with the aim of helping group care workers to be clear as to what the various settings have in common and where they differ.

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We looked in Chapter One at certain features of group care that distinguish it as a mode of working from other settings. In this chapter we shall explore some of these features in greater detail, and consider their implications for those working in this setting. In respect of each of these factors, we shall be asking: what impact does this factor have on those involved in group care (both as workers and as clients), and how can the workers respond appropriately to the challenges set by these factors? However, we shall start by considering perhaps the most important aspect of context: the consumer’s viewpoint.

If we are to place the individual client at the heart of the system, as declared in Chapter One, it is essential that we listen to what people say about being in group care settings. We must listen to them now – that is, consider the available evidence here before moving to the next stage of this book – and we must listen to them in practice, by whatever means are the most effective, so that we can come to understand the experience of the person we are working with, and so that we can plan, carry out and evaluate our work accordingly. Listening to these voices now means taking a brief overview of the published material on the experience of people in group care. Some of this material is published in survey form or as part of the evidence in research reports or inquiries; some has been written by the people involved themselves or by their relatives or friends: all of it is powerful and worth listening to.

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