“The Governance of Adult Safeguarding” A Social Work Journal Club chat 8/12/13 8pm GMT

24 11 2013

For next week’s Social Work Journal Club Chat, I’ve chosen this article “The Governance of Adult Safeguarding : Findings from Research” Braye, Orr and Preston-Shoot (2012) from the Journal of Adult Protection. I’ll write up a brief introduction during the week  but have a look at it in the meantime in its entirety as  I think it can lead to a very fertile discussion regarding the conclusions and the way adult safeguarding is set up in England and Wales. I’d welcome views and opinions from elsewhere, particularly a Scottish perspective as I don’t really have any understanding of Scottish legislation (sorry!) and the differences. The chat will be on Twitter on the hashtag #swjcchat and feel free to follow @swjcchat which is the Twitter account I’m devoting to these chats.

I think we can also broaden out some of the discussion to a general understanding of where adult safeguarding is and where it might go with the new Care Bill traversing through Parliament. If you have any initial thoughts though that you want to take forward, feel free to leave comments.


EDIT : Due to my own workload management issues, I’m going to have to postpone this by a week and it’ll be the last chat before Xmas!. apologies.




Using Humour in Social Work – Social Work Journal Club Chat 17/11/13 8pm GMT

16 11 2013

The article I’ve unilaterally chosen to discuss this week can be found here. Its  “Use of Humour in Case Management with High Risk Children and Families” by Gilgun and Sharma and published in the British Journal of Social Work 2011 (vol 42 issue 3). I chose it because I thought the topic was interesting and also because I haven’t looked yet at any articles which consider social work with children and families so thought it might be a bit of a different slant on some of the other discussions. This isn’t ‘my’ area but it’s an interesting concept and paper that hopefully will lead to more extensive discussions – and I hope those who do have more experience in this area join in – but if not, I’ll still plough through as best I can with the proviso that I’m no expert!

Some initial thoughts on the article

The article looks at some of the situations where ‘humour’ has been used in practice and why it might be used. Social Work doesn’t initially present as something ‘humorous’  particularly in the face of some of the cruellest situations but there are circumstances where different approaches can be more relevant, meaningful and useful and that’s why I thought it would be interesting to see where the article went.  The article starts with looking at some of the research that has been undertaken about the use of humour generally and what ‘humour’ means.

The article states

“Morrell (2010) concluded that there are three main theories of humour: as an expression of superiority, as release of tension, and as enjoyment of incongruity.”

They go on to explain these different strands of humour at the start of the article. Humour can also involve some shared understanding of particular situations and possibly some shared language and approach. It can be used to break barriers within a particular context.  The authors then go on to look specifically at humour within social work.

They mention that

“A few studies address how humour helps social workers cope. In a survey of thirty-two social work students in Australia, Moran and Hughes (2006)used standardised measures of humour, stress and coping. They found that the use of humour helped the students obtain social support, thereby helping them to cope with stress. They also discovered that participants who enjoyed humour without contributing to its production tended to score higher on stress measures that those who produced it.”

I think most of us who have worked in the field can attest to that but the authors are looking for use of humour directly in work with people who use the services of social work agencies.

I don’t want to lift the article per se because the backgrounds to the case studies presented are really interesting and are best read in their entirety. The researchers observed interactions between children, families and social workers and documented the conversations. They drew on a couple of these conversations which had been transcribed in the paper to illustrate the use of humour in case situations but they used the data on all the interactions observed to feed into the conclusions.

They found that humour was used to relieve stress and reduce anxieties both in practitioners and people who were using the services. They also found that staff used humour to indicate “liking and admiration for child service users” which I thought was interesting and potentially really useful.

The case examples given are interesting in that they weren’t what I was necessarily expecting. One explores how social workers have used humour relating to a parent of a child they have worked with to release some of the anxieties about their behaviours but it feels that it is ‘at her expense’. Another case study demonstrates some of the ‘black humour’ that may abound in social work offices where humour is used in relation to an adolescent and some of the ways he uses the language around his sexualised behaviours. I think, while the context was different in my work situation, I could understand and reflect on the way conversations flowed sometimes in offices I worked in. There can be a fine line though sometimes between ‘laughing at someone’ and ‘laughing about a situation’. Another case study, shows how humour can be used to ‘break ice’ or just face a difficult situation straight on and allow the conversations to start again and to move the situation on. A final example is given of the case where humour is used to demonstrate appreciation, understanding or just fondness for the children involved. This feels a lot more comfortable for obvious reasons.

It’s worth looking through the article and the case studies. I haven’t really done it justice in my summary but in discussing it, I’m suggesting some of the questions below to think about. Please do feel free to suggest others.


Do you recognise the use of humour at work?

Do we need humour at work?

How do we make sure we don’t cross the line between mocking and laughing about situations?

Do you have any situations (anonymised) that would help explain how humour works?

Does humour release stress?

How can we involve service users (children) in humour to engage them better?

Is there a line that shouldn’t be crossed?

I’m sure I’ll think of others. Please do join me if you can on 17/11/13 at 8pm GMT

“Use of Humour in Case Management with High Risk Children and Families” Social Work Journal Club Chat 17/11/13 8pm GMT #swjcchat

10 11 2013

After my brief work-related hiatus, I propose starting with this article next week for a discussion “Use of Humour in Case Management with High Risk Children and Families” by Gilgun and Sharma and published in the British Journal of Social Work 2011 (vol 42 issue 3). The article is open access and I think it presents a lot of interesting points that can be extrapolated to the way we, as social workers, we do and could use humour in all the areas we work in. I don’t have any experience of working with children so hopefully others can join in with their own experiences in that perspective but having looked through the article, I think a lot of the situations and learning can be discussed in a broader sense.


Over the week, I’ll write up some of my thoughts and a summary of the article but read and enjoy and join me at the new, improved (hopefully, as it was chosen by democratically!) time of Sunday 17th November at 8pm GMT.

Next Social Work Journal Club chat 3/11/13 #swjcchat Postponed to 17/11/13

22 10 2013

Update: Apologies for the postponement/hiatus of the Social Work Journal Club. I’ve been incredibly busy and had to prioritise work-related stuff so have not been able to prepare another article/chat. I will be back on 17/11/13 though at 8pm GMT.


Thanks for your patience.

Choose a Day/Time – Social Work Journal Club

13 10 2013

When I started this, I chose fortnightly chats at 8pm on Thursday randomly. I’d like to know if this a time that is convenient for people so here’s a poll! I’ll close it in a week – next Sunday. I make no apologies, ok, a slight apology, for only suggesting days/times I’m available – that’s why some slots are missing!  Note: Times are BST (British Summer Time)

Critical Reflection – A Discussion

13 10 2013

This is a link to the discussion we had on 10/10/13. Thanks so much for everyone who joined in!

“Critical Reflection – reflecting on learning to be reflective” Social Work Journal Club Chat 10/10/13 8pm BST

2 10 2013

This is the article chosen for this week’s chat. It’s “Critical Reflection – reflecting on learning to be reflective” by Helen Hickson and was published in “Reflective Practice” Vol 12 No 6 Dec 2011.  My thoughts are shorter than usual, partly because I hope more people will go to source and read the article itself – it does a far better job of explaining than me summarising – but also because I’ve been extraordinarily busy this week!  It is quite different from a lot of research papers in that it is written from a very personal perspective. As Hickson  opens

This paper is a personal reflection of my experience as a social worker engaged in postgraduate study in critical reflection

While being about reflection, it is also a reflection and hope it will open the door for us to discuss how and why we reflect and how we develop reflective skills in practice and in study.  Hickson starts by exploring what ‘reflection’ actually is which is a good question. Mostly, she notes in the introduction, it is a concept without a firm definition and can mean different things to different people. It would be hard to find someone who doesn’t claim to be a ‘reflective practitioner’ but that can look very different. She says

With the diversity of definitions and frameworks for reflection and reflective practice, one thing on which writers agree is that there are common themes and no singular ‘right way’ to go about reflective practice. There is also agreement about the value in reflective practice; however, writers from various disciplines see reflective practice in different ways and use a range of terms to describe methods and techniques. These different ways of understanding reflective practice and the context in which it is experienced result in a high degree of complexity in understanding reflection conceptually, theoretically and in practice.

So whatever ‘reflection’ looks like, it’s a good thing – and that moves far beyond the social work and social care framework – in most roles, paid or unpaid, a period of reflection can be useful – so what is it about social work and reflective practice that is different? Or is there anything?

Dickson then introduces the ‘critical’ part of reflection and perhaps that’s where more structure comes in.  In social work there are theoretical frameworks built around reflection – but, she asks, is ‘critical reflection’ a social work theory? It is more than ‘thinking about things’ or ‘thinking about how you would do things differently’. It is a  pillar of professional competence but does that make it a theoretical framework or a method of practice – perhaps a little of both.

Dickson goes on to consider ‘reflection in action’ and ‘reflection on action’ where the former is contemporaneous while the latter takes place after the experience. It would be interesting to consider how we apply these two in a work setting and if we are able to.  Moving to look at ‘critical reflection’ specifically she says

Mezirow (1990) contemplated reflective practice and identified that there was more to reflection than simply thinking about experiences, suggesting that critical reflection involves a critique on the assumptions on which our beliefs and values have developed

And now we can see how we move from a basic reflection to a deeper, perhaps more fundamental processing of our own assumptions and attitudes and work on trying to figure out where they are and where we are in the work we do with people. Critical reflection involves seeing our actions, attitudes, assumptions and beliefs through a prism of theories, knowledge and power. Within a context rather than in isolation and perhaps that’s the difference between reflection and critical reflection.

Dickson breaks down the process of her reflecting on her own practice. I’d recommend going to the piece directly as it’s not something that can easily be summarised. Perhaps when we do discuss the article we can look at how useful it is to read about someone else learning to reflect and whether that’s a useful learning tool.  She refers to her reflective diary – I know I’ve seen students do this. As  a practice educator, I gave my student periods of time to ‘reflect’ but I’m not sure that it was the best way of achieving the outcomes.  Like Dickson, I found that I didn’t really ‘get’ reflection until after I qualified – and for quite a few years after I qualified. Some skills were useful but they are skills which provide a platform.

Reflection doesn’t relate solely to social work of course, so I hope others from other disciplines (and none) will join in too to discuss the paper, reflection, critical reflection and the learning of it together.

Some questions to consider

What is reflection

How is reflection useful to you

Is critical reflection a theoretical framework or a practice tool?

How have your attitudes to critical reflection changed through practice/study?

Is there anything unique about social work and critical reflection?

Reflection in action/reflection on action – how do you do this?

How has critical reflection changed your attitude to your job?

Can reflection skills be taught?

How do you break down the reflection process?