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  • Author or Editor: Charlotte Williams x
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This chapter looks at the strategies for implementing anti-racist practice. In the 1980s the anti-racist social work movement argued that effective anti-racist practice would also require the significant recruitment of black and Asian workers who could challenge practice on the frontline and change the culture of social work organisations. This chapter revisits some of the early 1980s debates and traces the history of the anti-racist social work movement and the role of early leaders of that movement. But rather than an overt focus on policy regimes and bureaucracies, which many in the 1980s became concerned to focus on, it argues we need to look at the practices and the networks of anti-racist practitioners ‘the catalysers’ who can bring about significant organisational changes to services.

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In recent decades the imperative to achieve greater levels of engagement in public policymaking has given rise to a plethora of participatory methodologies aimed at reaching out to so called ‘hard to reach groups’ (Boag-Munroe and Evangelou, 2012; Brackertz, 2007). In all social policy fields, engaging under-represented groups in governance is driven by the need to design and deliver more responsive services, provide legitimacy for policy decisions, improve take up of services and communicate confidence that as citizens all will receive fair treatment from agencies and institutions. This ambition to include has meant that government bodies and associated organisations have turned their attention to specific groups that do not easily participate either as a result of socioeconomic, demographic, attitudinal and cultural barriers, or too often as a result of stigma and discrimination. Participation is fundamental to the notion of citizenship, encompassing issues of recognition, representation, consultation and the right to have one’s voice heard and incorporated in decision making (Fishkin, 2011). Such participation points to the responsibility of governments to devise solutions to increase engagement and finding a balance with the bottom up solutions that emerge from among marginal groups in pressing for change. There are accordingly both formal and informal processes involved – political and infra-political realms to consider – that run their own multi-varied course in particular contexts.

This chapter focuses on minority ethnic participation in policymaking as an acknowledged marginalised perspective. The issues attendant on migrant or ethnic minority participation raise some very particular concerns in relation to participatory strategies not least because they defy the boundaries of what Wimmer and Glick Schiller (2002) call ‘methodological nationalism’ which characterises much social policymaking.

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In Stan Cohen’s essay in the classic Radical social work collection, he draws on the idea of ‘the jester’s joke’ as a means of illustrating the need for the occasional prompt to jolt professional thinking and action. This chapter argues that the radical trajectory of anti-racism in social work in Britain has found itself in a cul de sac characterised by a politics of compromise. Social work deployed a particular model of radicalism and a set of strategies that have been exhausted in terms of their usefulness in the current political context such that they cannot be regarded as ‘radical’ at all. In their book, Bailey and Brake implied a significant rethink of the role and identity of social work and the ways in which social workers were being prepared for the world of practice. The variant of radicalism proposed by Bailey and Brake placed too much confidence in the trade unions, while failing to observe the discriminatory practices of trade unionists themselves.

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Transformatory practice with black and minority ethnic individuals and communities

The gap between the theory and the practice of working with Black and minority ethnic groups presents an ongoing conundrum for social work. This exciting textbook presents a new theory based on a rich understanding of the constraints and creativities of practice.

Taking a transformative approach, this accessible textbook presents evidence from both academics and practitioners. Contributions draw on real-life practice scenarios and present case studies to illustrate the many dimensions of working in a diverse society, encouraging students and practitioners to form innovative solutions to service delivery.

Covering practice themes including risk, co-production, interpreting, multi-disciplinary working and personalisation, this is vital reading for all students in social work, and practitioners undertaking continuing professional development.

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Inspired by Hessel’s (2011) call in Time for outrage and drawing on the concept of ‘moral outrage’, we argue in this article that addressing contraventions of human rights and social justice issues demands an emotional connection with the nature of injustice. We propose that contemporary social work in Western liberal democracies has lost touch with the moral imperative, sentiment and affective encounter as a positive impetus for collective action. We consider competing interpretations of why this might be the case and look beyond the incursions of neoliberal market methodologies towards a consideration of the complex relationships between power, subjectivities and collective emotion. Western epistemologies have viewed emotion as the antithesis of rationality and discouraged this type of thinking as somehow risky, tricky and dangerous. We seek to reconfigure this political and ethical (mis)appropriation of emotions and argue for its centrality within the social justice mandate of social work.

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Interest in collecting social work histories has gathered pace with collections held by the Social Work History Network in Edinburgh University and Kings College, and several writers offering historical accounts of the development of social work. Few systematic accounts exist that specifically track the history of social work and social work education for engagement with black lives and with black communities, though there exists a considerable body of literature from which this history can be gleaned, some rapidly going into attrition. Here, we set out a timeline through a black British history that charts significant events, key moments, landmarks and publications, and legislative and policy turns that have relevance to the story of social work education in the UK. The timeline offers a mere snapshot, but nevertheless a useful one, in prompting deeper exploration of context, analysis and interpretation. We have consulted widely in the development of this timeline and offer it here as our contribution to Black History Month 2018.

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In recent decades, government bodies and a wide range of policymakers have been concerned to establish greater levels of engagement with the publics they service. This ‘consultative turn’ in policy and practice is driven by the need to design and deliver more responsive services, to provide investment in, and legitimacy for, policy decisions and policy implementation, and to bolster the notion of citizen engagement with greater levels of democratic participation. Policy information, consultation and feedback are seen as the key to better practice. The ambition is to improve the transparency of government deliberative processes, increase the accessibility of policy-based information and increase uptake by citizens of government programmes. In this endeavour, government and associated organisations have become concerned with those segments of the population that do not readily or easily participate, among these, minority ethnic groups.

Many organisations and local councils have identified so-called ‘hard to reach’ populations using largely demographic definitions, such as young people, rural dwellers, disabled people and minority ethnic groups, but have also defined populations as hard to reach by virtue of attitudinal barriers. For example, those who believe that services are not for them or that the council is not interested in their view, those ignorant of policy and practices, and those who do not have the ‘know-how’ to engage. A number of practical obstacles also prohibit engagement, such as transport difficulties, health barriers and cultural and language diversity, among others, which work to hamper engagement in specific constellations. In addition, stigma or discrimination can deter groups from engaging with public bodies.

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Across the decades, high-profile cases, such as the death of Tyra Henry (1984), Rocky Bennett (1998), Victoria Climbié (2000) and Hylene Essilifie (2007), among others, are often cited as evidence of the practice gap in appropriately meeting the needs of black and minority ethnic (BME) service users or in developing acceptable and effective interventions. While these sad and tragic cases have provided a spur to major changes in policy and practice, whether in the field of child welfare, mental health or youth justice, they are but the tip of the iceberg and can only hint at some of the complexities that characterise this terrain. Difficulties in the encounter between state social work and ethnically and racially diverse publics are not new. In the UK, the mismatch at this interface has been recognised, politicised, theorised and extensively documented most significantly since the mass migrations following the Second World War (Williams and Johnson, 2010). By all accounts, service delivery for BME groups has been flawed, leading to poor outcomes in health, housing, education, employment and social care. In this encounter, a number of lessons have been learned and internalised on both sides of the social services counter; some for the good, some for the bad. Perhaps one of the most significant learnings is that this interface is not static. It is, in essence, not so much an encounter as a dynamic, in which far-reaching change has occurred and continues to occur in the nature of service delivery, within the social work profession itself and in terms of the nature and extent of ethnic and racial diversity.

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