“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.


Choose a paper for next #swjcchat discussion 19/9/13 8pm

1 09 2013

When we would usually be scheduling the next chat for the Social Work Journal Club on 12/9/13, I’m actually busy that evening (I know, it happens – not very often mind!) so I’m postponing it a week. Sorry. But all the more time to read more articles.

I have found two open access articles that seem interesting and want to ask you, kind and enthusiastic people, to help choose what you would like to read and discuss on Thursday 19th September at 8pm BST. Also, do leave me a message if the time and day of the week don’t work well because I can definitely look at moving it after the next one. I work Mon-Fri 9am – 5pm and won’t be able to do Monday evenings but other than that, I can be quite flexible. Also, if anyone wants to host a chat, please let me know and I’ll happily add you as an administrator to post here.

So these are the papers – as it’s September and we have a new term starting soon

A) “Enhancing Wellbeing in Social Work Students: Building resilience in the Next Generation”  Grant and Kinman 2011 Social Work Education


The need for social workers to be resilient is widely emphasised. Although enhancing resilience in social work trainees presents a challenge to educators, they are nonetheless responsible for developing professionals who are able to cope with the emotional demands of the job. This paper argues that building resilience in the future workforce should be a key element of social work education. However, as little is known about the competencies and support structures that underpin resilience or the extent to which resilience protects the wellbeing of trainees, an evidence-based approach is required to inform curriculum development.

Recent research conducted by the authors of this paper has highlighted the protective nature of resilience in social work trainees. Emotional intelligence and associated competencies, such as reflective ability, aspects of empathy and social confidence, were found to be key predictors of this important quality. The important role played by social support from various sources was also emphasised. The present paper summarises this research, and presents interventions based on the findings that have the potential to promote resilience and wellbeing in social work trainees. Also considered are ways in which the curriculum might be further enhanced to provide trainees with an internal ‘tool-box’ of strategies that will help them manage their wellbeing more effectively in their future career

This could lead to some interesting discussions about resilience generally in social work and ‘fast track’ social work training.

B) Stigmas and Silos: Social Workers accounts of care for people with serious mental illness and cancer  Sinding, Watt, Miller et al Social Work in Mental Health 2013


The purpose of this study was to better understand the processes of care for people living with serious mental illness who are diagnosed with cancer, from the perspectives of social workers. Interviews were conducted with 11 social workers at a multisite acute and tertiary care centre in Ontario, Canada. Analysis showed how patients diagnosed with serious mental illness were channeled to mental health services and their cancer-related concerns discredited, and how care was compromised by the compartmentalization of mental and physical health care. The study also revealed that relationships between patients and their families were often repaired or reactivated by a cancer diagnosis, and health care providers’ empathy and resources mobilized. Theories of stigma are used to deepen study findings and to highlight the significance of social workers’ actions in creating health care environments that are less disabling for people diagnosed with a mental illness. The vital roles social workers play in clinical coordination and in ensuring care equity—and the factors that impede these roles—are discussed.

This is a Canadian study but I think the issues are relevant across the world around stigma related to mental illnesses and people’s access to health services. I think it could lead to a far broader discussions about stigma and place of social work to challenge it.

In the future please to feel free to suggest articles you find. I am restricting it to articles that anyone can access and don’t need to be paid for or Athens Access for.

I’ll close the ‘voting’ next Sunday.

“Setting and Crossing Boundaries: Professionalization of Social Work and Social Work Professionalism” #swjcchat Social Work Journal Club chat 29/8/13 8pm BST

22 08 2013

Next week’s discussion will be related to this article called “Setting and Crossing Boundaries: Professionalization of Social Work and Social Work Professionalism” by Catrin Heite and published in “Social Work and Society”  – an open access journal – last year (Vol 10 No 2 2012).

I’ll write up a quick summary of the paper next week but in the meantime, it’ll be interesting to look at a journal article from outside the UK (yes, it does grate to spell ‘professionalisation like that) and put social work in the context of history as the article does. How important is ‘being a profession’ to social work? Is it helpful? Are we over-professionalising? Well, I’ll leave my questions for next week but I think it’ll be a really meaty topic and article to get our teeth into so please do join me next Thursday at 8pm BST to discuss

“What’s in a Name?” Social Work Journal Club Discussion 15/8/13 8pm BST #swjcchat

13 08 2013

The article for this week’s discussion can be found here as voted for by popular opinion – well, 8 of you!   I’m hoping it will be an interesting and wide-ranging discussion which includes views not only of professionals but those who have used/use social work/social care services.

McLaughlin, the author of the paper, tackles an issue that has been controversial and subject to debate, possibly as long as we have had social work. How do members of staff in services that are the providers (or commissioners) of services refer to people who use those services and how do people who use those services, most importantly, want to be referred to.

McLaughlin looks at the way the social work profession has used labels such as ‘patient’, ‘customer’, ‘client’, ‘expert by experience’, ‘consumer’ and ‘service user’ and how these labels may ascribe power to the quality of different relationships. It’s not possible to pretend the power doesn’t exist but it’s also a word that, by labelling and describing someone, automatically infers assumptions.

McLaughlin takes a historical look at the way the language has developed, starting in the 1970s with the favoured ‘client’.  The word though, was challenged within social work in the UK (less so overseas) due to the potentially passive nature of the term.  It was claimed that ‘client’ makes assumptions of power remaining within the grasp of the professional. Personally, while not necessarily favouring the language, I think we need very clear reminders of where the power lies in the relationship between people who use social work services and the ‘professionals’ and pretending language may change that could be a little disingenuous. But we watched as client faded.

McLaughlin moves on through the 1980s and on to the 1990 NHS and Community Care Act and the (in England) split between adult and children’s services. In adult services social workers became care managers. The purchaser/provider split changed the relationship with commissioning.  The social worker was the assessor and the commissioner/purchaser. People became ‘customers’. or ‘consumers’. There was a ‘service’ or ‘package’ to consume – or buy – even if it was commissioned through local authorities.

This switch though, was not evident, says McLaughlin, in children’s services as there was a less choice involved in the provision of some core child protection services. Consumer and customer make assumptions about choice. Personally, having worked through this period in adult services, I think there was – and still is – a fallacy of choice rather than genuine choice and sometimes language is used to mask that – but back to the article.

McLaughlin makes some interesting points about the marketisation of social work and how the language of consumerism was adopted before shuffling us to the end of the 1990s and a different turn.

‘Service user’ he says, developed from the late 1990s/2000s and greater participation and involvement from and by people who used services and the development of the National Service Frameworks. ‘Service users’ became more involved, even, embedded in delivery programmes for social work training and feedback and education in the sector. There could well have been (and be) a tokenistic aspect to this.  There has been and continues to be an increase in service user involvement and the language has reflected this but it is by no means ‘done’. Not by a long way.

McLaughlin analyses the use of ‘service user’. It is a generic term used for anyone who may use a social work service, adult or child, mental health, physical disability or learning disability.  It picks out one aspect of someone’s life – namely that they are a recipient of social work services, and labels them accordingly without representing or acknowledging the myriad of roles we all have – as parent/child/worker/partner/retiree/friend/supporter.

He raises an important point too when we look at ‘service user’ involvement in education, research and consultation that there is an ‘in’ and an ‘out’. Professional and service user. It’s pretty clear in the language where the power lies there. And it doesn’t acknowledge that people can be both. You are ‘one of us’ or ‘one of them’.

‘Service user’ also neglects those people who are denies services but who might find them useful or need them – or people who refuse services which are offered to them.  He also raises the issue of people who are subject to actions where there is no choice or option offered, for example, the removal of a child or a detention under the Mental Health Act. There’s no choice there.


McLaughlin touches on the differences in the relationship when someone uses direct payments and buys and commissions (potentially) their own service. Are they are customer now? I’m not sure but there’s also the different roles that someone has in a multi-disciplinary team. Having worked in a community mental health team, you might have some people referring to a patient, others a service user, others a client. Language needs to (or does it – this is what McLaughlin suggests) find a way to work across disciplines.


McLaughlin moves to the label ‘user’ which often has connotations of the substance misuse so alone doesn’t seem to ‘fit’. He then looks at the way ‘experts by experience’ has developed in its use.


McLaughlin concludes with some thoughts about the way we construct language and he offers some possible alternatives which I’ll leave you to read and evaluate.


So some questions for the discussion on Thursday 18/13 (and please do ask and contribute your own) They may not all come up but some things to think about.

a) Where are we at the moment in terms of language/what do you use at work/in the sector?


b) How do we get away from labelling/stigma/assumption?


c) What do you prefer to be called? (as someone who works in the social care or as someone who uses/may need to use social care services in the future?)


d) Is customer relevant?


e) Do we ask people? Do we respond when we ask?


f) Does language matter?


g) Do we need to find a ‘word’ to describe all people who do and may use social work services?


Those are my initial thoughts but by no means to I ascribe any expertise to them. Do join me on Thursday 8pm BST for about an hour to discuss this paper and issues which arise from it.