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Critical realism, as expounded by Bhaskar, is a philosophy of social science that has been applied in social work scholarship addressing such areas as research methodology, practice interventions and programme evaluation. Most of these applications are based on the early rendition of the philosophy, with little attention given to Bhaskar’s later, more mature, development of dialectical critical realism. This article addresses this gap, describing how dialectic critical realism builds on the early iteration of the philosophy to account for emancipatory change in the social world. The contribution of dialectical critical realism to anti-oppressive social work is then considered through the articulation of six, interlinked steps of transformative change. Finally, the preceding meta-theoretical steps are applied to a fictitious case example involving a young person leaving care. The aim here is to show how the steps can be integrated within social work practice to stimulate positive change, human emancipation and well-being.
Professional ethics and values in social care have frequently been described as a site of active resistance against the incursion of neoliberal managerialism in social services. More recently, however, this view has been challenged by an emerging discourse that explicitly treats organisational values as measurable capital assets, exemplified in a growing literature around the concept of ‘ethical capital’. Drawing on data from an ethnographic study on ethics and values within the social care sector in the UK, this article argues that, in practice, the notion of treating values as quantifiable and measurable capital is a consequence of the necessity for organisations to capitalise every part of themselves in order to survive in an increasingly competitive funding market. However, instrumentalising professional ethics in the interest of market competition threatens to undermine its critical potential and to make any part of it that resists subsumption under market logic unintelligible within bureaucratic regimes of performance management.
This study reveals tensions between Jews and Arabs in the Israeli Social Workers’ Union, examining the characteristics, experiences and functioning of the Arab minority representatives over the years until the recent election of a new radical socialist-feminist leadership. Data were elicited from semi-structured in-depth interviews with Arab delegates to the union. It was found that the policies of the union’s institutions discriminate against Arab social workers in three dimensions: (1) under-representation in all its organs, including participation in paid staff in the headquarters and district offices; (2) lack of attention to Arab workers’ voice in the union’s published platforms; and (3) lack of consideration of Arab social workers’ unique needs in programmes more appropriate for Jews. The union fails in its role as the formal and exclusive representative of Arab social workers, who suffer from discriminatory government consideration, including unequal budgeting, lack of recognition and lack of participation in decision making.
Despite the global popularity of restorative justice that has emerged in recent decades, limited attention has been paid to restorative justice conferencing used with offending girls. This article critically analyses restorative justice practitioners’ views concerning gender-specific practice and outcomes in restorative justice conferencing used with girls who offend. It is argued that restorative justice policy and practice has developed in a gender-blind framework, which fails to recognise or respond to the gender-specific needs and experiences of girls who offend. Drawing upon empirical findings, the article conceptualises, through a feminist-informed framework, the practical and policy implications arising from the gender-blind approaches of restorative justice conferencing.
Performance management is usually presented as a technical tool to monitor policies and programmes. Performance indicators are presented as neutral and as having been developed in pursuit of economy, efficiency and effectiveness. According to this approach, if properly conceptualised and constructed, performance indicators illuminate the extent to which agencies or services are achieving goals and provide accountability. In contrast, understanding performance indicators as political requires examination of their social as well as their technical aspects. From this perspective, the effectiveness of an indicator as a means to measure performance is not as important as other roles, such as embedding policy and shaping practice. Accordingly, performance management represents a significant technology of control over social work. It acts as a powerful determinant of which forms of practice are approved by deciding which of them are drawn into the accountability framework and are therefore authorised.
For over ten years now, social work and youth and community students from a university in England have travelled to Palestine to be hosted by families and conduct a study tour of the West Bank. They have visited governors in the West Bank, community centres, camp committees, art centres, social work agencies, museums and faith and political heritage sites across the West Bank and Jerusalem. This article reports on the reciprocity between host families and university staff in addressing student learning for social justice in a community that seeks international recognition and action in respect of the injustices of an illegal occupation. We argue that the goals of the host community in respect of extending their voice and reaching a constituency beyond their borders are compatible with experiential learning goals for students in developing political and cultural awareness through engaging with community experiences of responses to social injustice.
Social work in the US has failed to respond to the largest legislative attack on the rights of transgender and non-binary people in the history of the country. Hundreds of laws have been proposed over the past several years, aiming to ban transgender and non-binary people from public life, as well as criminalising gender-affirming healthcare and attempting to remove transgender youth from supportive families for forced detransition. Beginning with the Trump administration, these bills have exponentially increased in number, now being proposed in more than 60 per cent of the US. This article critically reviews the ways in which national social work organisations have failed to address both the systemic erasure of transgender people in their pedagogy and the behaviours of specific actors within the social work profession who are actively helping to draft anti-trans legislation and advocate for conversion therapy, contravening both the evidence base and code of ethics.
Over the last decade, at a time when funding for services intended to support families has been dramatically curtailed, successive governments in England and Wales have sought to increase the numbers of children being adopted from care. In light of the central role that children’s social workers play in progressing plans for adoption, this research seeks to investigate 15 practitioners’ experiences of operating within the current context. Evidence of significant tensions in social workers’ accounts of planning for adoption and post-adoption contact under austerity is presented, and Evetts’ distinction between organisational and occupational professionalism is drawn upon to understand the influence of the wider political context on decisions made by practitioners in working with children who go on to be adopted.