You are looking at 1 - 10 of 14 items for
- Author or Editor: Mekada Graham x
Over several decades, anti-oppressive practice and anti-discriminatory perspectives have become an integral part of social work. Responding to an urgent need for an up-to-date text that addresses recent developments, this book charts the impact of social changes and new literature shaping social work theory and practice with black and minority individuals, families and communities. It builds upon popular texts addressing anti-discriminatory frameworks but focuses specifically upon black perspectives in social work, taking into account current issues and concerns.
Written specifically for a US and UK market, the book provides an excellent introductory text to social work with black and minority ethnic communities for students, lecturers, practice teachers/assessors who are engaged in examining anti-discriminatory practice frameworks and black perspectives in academic settings and practice learning. It will support curriculum-based learning through its focus on anti-discriminatory practice in a climate that appears less sympathetic to the multicultural nature of British society.
Social justice is at the heart of social work’s mission because practitioners often work with people from communities that experience discrimination and injustice on the basis of an individual’s race, gender, class, age, disabilities, sexual orientation, religious or spiritual beliefs, culture or health. Although other helping professions contribute to the well-being of individuals and society, social work is unique in its adoption of social justice as a guide for practice. There has been a great deal of change in social work in recent years but nonetheless these broader aspects of the profession remain. Practitioners carry out their tasks in a variety of settings, engaging in decision making and problem solving drawing on different methods that form part of professional policy and practice. This body of professional knowledge rests on a range of social science perspectives including the development of welfare policy and practice through the 19th century to the present.
In writing about social policy, Williams (2000) views this field of study as an exciting subject because it sheds light on how a society organises and manages social welfare but above all tells us about society’s social and economic priorities, its hierarchies, its inequalities, its cultural practices and its responses to social change. This examination of society to understand more about welfare policies has immediate relevance to social work because the profession is not only deeply influenced by policy issues but also greatly influenced by similar forces. ‘Welfare’ is about people’s lives, their experiences, personal opinions and beliefs and, as such, value judgements and ideas inevitably inform social work policy and practice (Adams, 2002).
In the past, issues of discrimination and oppression were not considered particularly important in social work theory and practice. Conventional models of social work largely ignored the social experiences of many groups and common forms of practice reflected biases found in the historical periods from which they emerged. Early perspectives in social work were more concerned with inequalities in relation to social class and little attention was paid to the social divisions of race and gender. Even though many social workers were aware of the economic and social disadvantages experienced by black people, the issues of racism and discrimination were largely overlooked in social policies and the profession over time has struggled to change its practices to better serve individuals and communities.
However, since the 1980s there has been a growing body of literature that seeks to address many forms of discrimination and inequalities through integrating theories and practice principles into social work and social care (Dominelli, 1988, 2002; Thompson, 1993, 2003; Dalrymple and Burke, 1995; Adams et al, 2002a).Anti-racist social work provided the starting point for these critical approaches towards practice. Anti-racist social work practice was adopted by social work education in the 1980s in what is known as Paper 30 (CCETSW, 1989).
After the introduction of anti-racist frameworks into social work training, this approach came under intense scrutiny. Concerns were expressed about the term ‘race’, its meanings and the extent to which racial discrimination was embedded in British institutions as well as society more generally. Some social work educators were uneasy about the theories underpinning anti-racist social work that appeared to be “informed by neither sociological, political nor economic theory or research” (Macey and Moxon, 1996, p 297).
As anti-racist social work gained ground among many practitioners, its limitations began to surface. Although this approach established a central place for issues of oppression in social work, this form of practice was perceived as too narrow and seemed to neglect other forms of oppression and discrimination. Against this background, anti-discriminatory practice became an umbrella term to describe various sources and forms of oppression that interact with each other and reflect social divisions of class, race, gender, age, disability and sexual identity (Thompson, 1993). This framework developed by drawing on literature that presented a comprehensive understanding of social divisions in society. For example, new theories and critical thinking about disability emerged from disability movements and the voices of people with disabilities themselves. This underpinning knowledge, gathered largely from sociology, was harnessed by social work to ensure practice was well informed. In a similar vein, practitioners were encouraged to maximise partnerships with clients and to engage their experiences and understandings in framing interventions. The notion of empowerment, even with its numerous meanings and lack of consensus among practitioners, encapsulates this thinking.
This chapter begins by exploring the different ways oppression operates as a set of processes that result in direct and indirect forms of discrimination. Following these issues, the next section opens with a brief account of anti-discriminatory practice and anti-oppressive practice. These terms are often used interchangeably and there appears to be some confusion about their meanings that seems to be associated with different underpinning approaches. The section attempts to clarify and untangle these closely related terms to present a clearer picture for practice.
Social work with children and their families has held a central place in the history and development of professional practice. Social welfare legislation has informed the development of children’s services as well as progress made in understanding childhood and the needs of children generally. By tracing the history of child welfare several important changes can be identified. Early child welfare in the Victorian era was characterised by rescuing children through Poor Law actions, but by the early 1900s shifted to the promoting of children’s well-being across the fields of education, public health and responsible parenthood. The Child Study movement played a leading role in developing professional knowledge about child development and was highly influential in establishing health, education and welfare services for all children.
Major developments in children’s welfare services took place in the 1940s, when the Labour government established comprehensive social welfare institutions to provide state welfare services from the ‘cradle to the grave’. The 1948 Children Act provided the legislative framework for the creation of Children’s Departments where the particular needs of children and their families became widely accepted among professionals. The Act replaced the Poor Law, with its emphasis on rescuing children, with the promoting of children’s welfare and social work practice with the family as a whole. These developments were based on the premise that families have the capacity to care for children, and social workers set about supporting individual families to prevent the admission of children into public care.
Further legislation was introduced in response to public concern about child abuse that highlighted the need for child protection services.
Mental health is an integral part of overall health and well-being. It has many definitions but is generally described as a “positive sense of well-being and a belief in our own worth and the worth of others” (HEA, 1997, p 2). Having positive mental health means being able to live life to its full potential, to be able to cope with change, the ability to understand and make sense of surroundings. This important aspect of overall health shapes life experiences and is something that individuals, groups and communities aspire to achieve. It is widely accepted that many people experience mental health problems at some point during their lives. Sometimes these problems are sufficiently serious that they require professional intervention and support. People usually seek the help and advice of their local GP as the first point of contact with mental health services leading to a range of professionals, including social workers that may become involved.
Over the years social work has struggled to create mental health as a specialist area of practice with a clear professional identity. With the introduction of community care and the modernising agenda for social services, social workers now have an important role in caring for people with mental health problems as part of community mental health teams. One of the most controversial areas in mental health has been the high presence of black and minority ethnic people who are compulsorily detained in mental health facilities and their experiences of mental health services generally. In this regard, research evidence concludes that black people experience discrimination in mental health services and often receive a service that fails to address their mental health needs (Raleigh, 2000).
Social citizenship rights have never been fully extended to disabled people and, as a result of this, disabled people are over-represented among the unemployed and experience higher rates of poverty and in general do not enjoy a standard of living that is comparable with current social expectations. Over time there has been an uneasy relationship between healthcare professionals and disabled people. Professional social work has operated from a framework that encourages paternalism and dependency as part of an individualised understanding of disability. Social work services concerned with disabled people developed in the health sector of the welfare state as well as some services in the voluntary sector. Prior to the 1970 Chronically Sick and Disabled Persons Act, services were frequently provided in a haphazard way. This legislative framework established responsibility for disability services within local authorities. However, the development of services varied across local authorities and tended to be given lower priority than other services.
Social work continues to be dominated by an individual approach or a medical model of disability that has been heavily criticised by disability organisations. Much of the criticism levelled against social work has been the exercise of professional dominance and control over the lives of disabled people that seemed to serve the interests of welfare professionals rather than meet the needs or aspirations of service users. This way of dealing with disabled people created dependency with little opportunity for service users to have a voice in the planning, design or delivery of services.
However, beginning with legislation such as the 1990 NHS and Community Care Act, there have been moves to reduce professional dominance and dependency through managerialism, the introduction of market principles and social care.
In recent years social work with older people has become a more important area of practice. As more people are now living longer into old age, social workers are likely to work with older people who experience dementia and ill health, and those in greatest need. In these situations, social workers deal with complex needs bearing in mind the need to assist older people in maintaining their independence with the help of packages of social care and support.
There is general agreement that improvements in public health, housing, food supplies, working conditions and medical advances have contributed to increased average life expectancy. These gains indicate the way in which social policy directly affects the experience of old age. Although many older people remain in good health, the level of retirement pensions and provision of health and social care are also important factors in the overall experience of old age. Some older people have accumulated occupational pensions, private savings and purchased their own homes, while others find themselves dependent on state pensions for their incomes and on declining public welfare services.
In many respects understanding patterns of inequality in society over the lifespan can shed light on the range of different individual experiences in old age. For example, long-standing inequalities experienced by women in the labour market, combined with disadvantages in social security policy, are carried into old age so that the risk of poverty increases. It is also widely recognised that social divisions become more apparent in later stages of life as inequalities of gender, race and disability become more critical in shaping people’s lives.
In the past social work tended to marginalise or exclude perspectives from different vantage points in favour of conventional or mainstream thinking about social life. As the limitations of class analysis became recognised, other forms of oppression such as sexism and racism as the experiences of communities and groups surfaced into the public arena. However, just as feminist theories and practice tended to be neglected in social science generally, black perspectives have remained largely on the outer edges of research agendas and interest. Nevertheless, there has been a steady growth of black scholars who are seeking to influence social work practice and make visible marginalised interpretations of social life, and particularly black service users.
Although social work has long produced a flurry of literature addressing issues of equality, diversity and social justice in both theory and practice, these values and priorities have tended to be overlooked when thinking about diverse approaches to knowledge forms and new directions for social work.
The book began by charting the development of anti-racist social work and underpinning knowledge drawn from sociology and race relations. This section of the book outlined the key debates surrounding assimilation and deficit models of black families which entered professional knowledge in social work and in many ways provided the impetus for anti-racist social work practice.
Although anti-racist social work was both promoted and maligned, this perspective made a major contribution to social work by shifting dominant frameworks towards understanding issues of racism, power and structural inequalities. Even though anti-racist social work offered a powerful critique of social work theory and practice, these perspectives provided opportunities to discuss social welfare concerns emerging from black communities themselves as well as lived experiences in the context of societal racism.
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.