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  • Author or Editor: Erika Laredo x
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This conceptual article aims to introduce and explore the practice of social streetwork. Streetwork is located as a historical professional discourse that has contemporary relevance for a rapidly changing and globalised world. As a practice discourse, streetwork occurs across a range of community-based helping professions, including social work, youth work and community work. The social work profession is increasingly becoming clinical and situated within statutory organisations, placing a greater emphasis on outcome-based targets, rather than building relationships. As a result of austerity, traditional youth workers are becoming invisible, often moving into statutory education settings and complex needs welfare agencies. This article will argue that for the broad helping professions to remain relevant, we must engage with vulnerable and complex populations where we find them – at the street level – promoting a direct practice of social justice at a micro-level. Within this discussion, we will define and explore a streetwork approach by examining the methodologies and objectives of streetwork practice. We will argue that by keeping to its origins of using informal and non-formal education as its primary tools, streetwork as an intervention works to combat poverty, social exclusion and discrimination. The article articulates a foundation for practice based on the promotion of low-threshold interventions with complex and hard-to-reach social populations. One of the key themes we will explore is how to locate streetwork practice as a form of social support, accompaniment and tool for promoting social inclusion and social democracy.

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Within this article we highlight that social work is both a political as well as a professional practice. Despite years of technical specialisation and a policy context that has focused social work on risk management and resource allocation, there remains a deep commitment to care, compassion, and solidarity within contemporary social work practice. The article and its analysis make the case for a more politically informed social work practice, one that is based on solidarity; in opposition to a system that isolates individuals and internalises complex social problems. We posit that the application of solidarity within social work delivers a practice that promotes social inclusion and is based on the provision of practical social support. It is from this perspective that we will present evidence from ethnographic research, drawn from community social work practice, to highlight the importance of social solidarity and provide an insight into different ways of working.

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