In much of the West the concerns of rural people are marginalised and rural issues neglected. This stimulating book draws upon a rich variety of material to show why rural social work is such a challenging field of practice. It incorporates research from different disciplines and places to provide an accessible and comprehensive introduction to rural practice.
The first part of the book focuses upon the experience of rurality. The second part of the book turns to the development of rural practice, reviewing different ways of working from casework through to community development.
This book is relevant to planners, managers and practitioners not only in social work but also in other welfare services such as health and youth work, who are likely to face similar challenges.
Examination of the histories and contemporary experiences of many indigenous peoples reveals a grim and lethal picture of abuse, exploitation, expropriation, marginalisation, displacement, dispossession, deculturation, colonisation, and discrimination, which needs to be recognised. This chapter reviews the experience of indigenous peoples; that is, those who are also referred to as aboriginal or native peoples. It identifies some of the major populations of indigenous peoples living in rural areas within Westernised welfare structures, including the Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders of Australia; the Maori of New Zealand; and the Inuit, Métis, and the First Nations (Indians) of Canada and the United States. The chapter switches to a general review of the social policy and welfare responses made by governments to indigenous peoples, and concludes with some key observations about the implications for social-work practice with indigenous peoples.
This chapter focuses upon the delivery of personal social services: approaches to practice designed to meet the particular needs of individuals, families, and small groups. A new reader coming to the subject of rural social work might be forgiven for wondering if there was an intrinsic conflict between personal social services and community social work. This is hardly surprising given the widespread use of the term ‘community’ to signify approaches to practice that are responsive to local context. Notions of partnership and localisation of service are hallmarks of so-called community-oriented practice. The chapter examines three dimensions of service delivery: service location and point of delivery, mode of delivery, and organisational independence and degree of specialisation. It also distinguishes four dimensions or forms of practice – generalist/specialist, visiting, embedded, and mandated or statutory practice – and reviews their implications for the provision of rural services.
This chapter reviews five dimensions that can be used to understand and analyse the diverse contexts in which rural social work is conducted: geography, demography (ethnicity and diversity, age structures, and family patterns), economy, political and structural dimensions, and community. In setting out these key dimensions, the chapter highlights features that will help rural workers to think about the nature of their own local contexts, and how these might impact upon the lives of the people and communities they serve. Although there is considerable variation within and between different countries, there are some common themes that can be usefully identified from the literature and the research on rural communities. These key dimensions can also influence how practice is planned, organised, funded, and delivered, and may be used comparatively to appreciate similarities and differences between rural contexts. The final part of the chapter reviews some of the different approaches to conceptualising and studying rural communities.
This chapter examines how the processes of discrimination and differentiation may operate in rural communities. It then identifies some of the minority groups who may be found in rural areas and considers their circumstances: settled black and other minority ethnic groups, Roma and travelling peoples, migrant workers, gay and lesbian groups, linguistic minorities, and asylum seekers and refugees. These accounts are indicative of general experiences and should not be taken as inevitable occurrences in the life of any given individual. This is a crucial point, as the social dynamics of small communities, as well as ‘exposing’ individuals who are perceived as different to the risks of social isolation and marginalisation, may also paradoxically provide opportunities for individual acceptance. The ways in which they are able to do this are varied, but a common factor may be the degree to which small communities provide opportunities for social contact in which individuals from minority backgrounds may be encountered and perceived in ways that free them from the stereotypical assumptions that might usually be made about people like them.
This chapter discusses some general issues that emerge from the experience and the literature on rural social services, particularly the problem of poor access to services, which is compounded by a lack of alternative opportunities and other supportive provision. Problems of distance from the point of delivery of services may be exacerbated by local terrain, weather, and the absence of public-transport networks. All these factors may add greatly to the costs for service users in accessing help, or, alternatively, result in higher costs for service providers. Another area of difficulty in rural social work is the fact that there is often little service back-up available. The chapter first looks at the question of access to services, and then reviews several of the assumptions and issues that face some people in rural areas, including isolation, stoicism, and stigmatisation. It also considers the question of the higher costs of service and different approaches to the funding of rural services, and examines partnerships with service users, carers, and other organisations.
The social dynamics of life in small communities impact upon people’s lives, their problems, and their understandings of their difficulties, as well as their views about how these might be best addressed. Social work in rural communities may not be completely distinctive from practice in urban areas, such as housing projects or encapsulated ‘urban villages’. However, because small communities are where most rural social work takes place, these social dynamics are likely to be more frequently encountered, which is why workers in rural areas need to develop an awareness of these factors and their potential significance. This chapter describes some of the key factors that operate in small communities, and shows why social workers might need to develop some understanding of gender roles, ideas of belonging and place, gossip, and social visibility and confidentiality. The latter part of the chapter looks at some of the important challenges facing workers who live and work within small communities, and draws on previously published work on dual relationships.
This chapter looks at similarities among community-oriented practice, community social work, community work, and community intervention. It examines the ways in which rural social work can contribute to action at the community level aimed at assisting, sustaining, developing, and, sometimes, helping to rebuild communities. Although different writers use different terminology for describing their ideas on community social work, and have developed varied models to describe the processes of planning and development, there is considerable overlap between much of their work. The chapter distinguishes three broad strategies for community intervention: social planning and community planning, community-services development, and community development, which also includes community organisation. Finally, it discusses personal skills, capacities, and characteristics necessary for effective casework.
Rural social work presents some additional challenges with regard to such issues as recruitment, retention, education, and training, which, if not tackled, can exacerbate the service disadvantages apparent in many rural settlements. This chapter reviews what is known about rural social workers and the work they do, and considers why they choose rural practice and how they adjust to it, job stress, and staff-retention issues. It then turns to the issue of professional education and preparation for rural practice. The chapter concludes with recommendations for employers, educators, the profession, communities, and practitioners concerning how to attract the right staff and prepare and support them so that once they come into rural areas, they remain in practice.
In much of the West, the concerns of rural people are marginalised and rural issues neglected. This book draws upon a variety of material to show why rural social work is such a challenging field of practice. It incorporates research from different disciplines and places to provide a comprehensive introduction to rural practice. The first part of the book focuses upon the experience of rurality. The second part turns to the development of rural practice, reviewing different ways of working from casework through to community development.