“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

“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?

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.

Social Work, Professionalism and Boundaries #sjwcchat Discussion 29/8/13

29 08 2013

This is the chat log from the Social Work Journal Club chat on 29/8/13. Many thanks to all who participated and read from afar.

I’m going to be out on 12/9/13 so the next chat will be 19th Sept. Keep an eye on the site and I’ll keep reviewing papers and policy as they pop up and I’ll do another ‘select a paper to discuss’ early next week so we can all choose something for the next time!

About Boundaries and Social Work/Social Care – Social Work Journal Club Chat 29/8/13 8pm

28 08 2013

The article for the chat tomorrow at 8pm can be found here. It is published in the open access online journal ‘Social Work and Society’ and is called “Setting and Crossing Boundaries: Professionalization of Social Work and Social Work Professionalism” and is written by Catrin Heite from the University of Zurich. It’s the first time we’ll have been out of the UK in terms of discussing an article and I hope it’s as interesting to others as it is to me!

I’m interested in boundaries and power in social work. Boundaries between social workers and people who use services. Boundaries between practice educators and students. Boundaries between social work managers and social workers. Boundaries between social work academics and social work students. There are all different interpretations and some fluidly but I think, in an age where social media can break down some barriers, it’s worth reflecting on which ones need to be maintained and why.

Heite looks at the boundary between ‘professional’ and ‘non-professional’. This is an issue in social care too where I have seen some hierarchical pandering to the increased ‘professionalisation’ of social work. Does social work need ‘professionalisation’ – is it a matter of status or will it actually make the work we do better? The craving of social workers to be ‘respected’ like nurses/teachers/doctors – (I’m not convinced yet that they aren’t,  but I think the profession has a collective inferiority complex where it becomes obsessed by ‘status’)  is that real or imagined slight? ‘Noone likes social workers’ really? Have we seen some of the press nurses have been getting recently – but back to the article.

Some of the language in the article isn’t terribly ‘user friendly’ so I’m going to sum up some of my thoughts in response to it.

Heite starts by looking at what ‘boundaries’ are. Boundaries are artificial contructs which we create to provide some order and a sense of hierarchy and power. She says

The boundary classifies, categorizes, sorts, normalizes, includes and excludes, privileges and de-privileges, allocates rights and removes them; the boundary is an expression of power relations and governance, and a medium for their maintenance

So around boundaries we have issues of power and who has it and who doesn’t. I’m not sure I’m entirely convinced on this 100%. Power is at the heart of the reason for boundaries but it isn’t always people in ‘power’ who create and maintain them. Sometimes the fact that people with power can’t maintain boundaries is an abuse of their power.

Heite talks about how professionalisation creates a boundaries between those who are ‘in’ and those who are ‘out’.

Professionalization and the securing of the status of profession is a process of defining the boundary between profession and non-profession by agreeing upon definitions of reality and by disputing and acquiring status and monopolizing resources. This involves claiming, and recognizing, that a certain field of occupational action is a professional field or is in need of professionalization

She goes on to say

Boundary-setting is efficient in defining what a profession is and is not, debarring other occupations from a certain professional realm, monopolizing this occupational area, and also claiming professional authority over a sphere.

so an interesting question arising from this text is around what ‘social work’ is? Does it exist as a ‘profession’. We have, over decades, seen the hiving off of different tasks of ‘social work’ yet we have (at the moment and I assume only temporarily, a generic training route). My idea of social work is very different from someone who works in child protection and again from someone who works in care management or leaving care team or fostering and adoption. Is it one profession?

How different is (or should be) social work from social care work? When I started in the field people who worked in residential care were called residential social workers regardless of training and background. Weren’t they doing ‘social work’? No, now it’s a ‘protected title’ but who does it protect? Has hiving off ‘social work’ as a ‘profession’ weakened ‘social care’?

Heite turns to look at the history of social work and relates it to the ‘women’s movement’. Social work is, she says a ‘female profession’ and as she terms it ‘the social question’.

It is concerned with the boundaries between normal and deviant, integration and disintegration, as well as with those vulnerable and disconnected people who have to survive at the boundaries of society.

She touches on the professions routes from the Christian charities in the 19th century and the increasing involvement of middle-class women in the ‘social question’ through initially voluntary and then vocational work.  An interesting point she touches on which is increasingly relevant is the place that the image of the ‘deserving’ v ‘undeserving’ poor had in the mind of those middle class ‘helping’ professionals.

Unannounced visits to the home and questions asked of neighbours about the family being supported, among other means, represented techniques for the bourgeois monitoring of proletarian lifestyles, in the sense of disciplinary interventions across class boundaries. In this way, the class-specific power dynamics between bourgeois and proletarian women found in the context of the invention and professionalization of social work a new location for moralizing, disciplining and monitoring

I expect social workers today may feel uncomfortable with this – I do – but I can also see there’s an aspect of these attitudes that roll over in making decisions about how people live their lives and spend their money. How people from working classes have much more involvement with ‘social services’ than those who are middle class. There is, perhaps a hang over and the move of social work into a profession creates further divides (I have to wonder about the ‘elite’ Frontline ‘fast-trackers’ moving into ‘leadership’ and how this builds higher boundaries and makes me ponder what social work is? Is it just about education/training?)

So what makes a profession?

Heite looks at how knowledge, theory, science (and social science) created a knowledge base for social work which creates a profession of it.  She looks at the move from vocational to professional in social work which is interesting in itself.

She says

The perception of professional work both as intellectual, science-based, ethically consolidated, autonomous, self-controlled, and also as engaged, impassionate, emotional and dedicated is a feature that is difficult to calibrate when demarcating the boundary between profession and non-profession.

We can calibrate when we are assessed on these issues – you are either ‘qualified’ or not. You are either ‘registered’ as a social worker (here in the UK) or not. But what about people who are registered and not doing a job that requires a social work qualification (me, for example) or people who are qualified but working in an ‘unqualified’ post. There are always differences but there is a boundary that is set clearly in terms of registration/regulation of social workers.

Heite looks at the move from the mid 1970s towards the professionalisation within social work and of social work.

She relates social work as work on the boundaries – boundaries between ‘functional’ and ‘non-functional’ between ‘normal’ and ‘deviant’. I think we have to look at the scale of work done by social workers to understand better but it’s interesting to think what makes someone a ‘user’ of social work services. It isn’t always as clear cut and depends very much on the issues. Certainly in the team I used to work in many people had parents who received social work services and we were simultaneously providers of services and receivers of services as family members.

Perhaps more of those barriers are fading yet, it is vitally important to hold on – not to maintain professional status but to protect those who have less power.

It’s interesting that Heite says

“the boundary” offers a theoretical, analytical, practical and political perspective for social work as a science and a profession. As shown above in addressing the analytic notion of the boundary, the boundary not only deprives and excludes, but also moves players to take action against these deprivations and to disregard them, and to transform and shift boundaries.

So those with power have the ability to set and to move those boundaries and that’s an important issue to remember. Whose boundaries are they and who are they for? Who do boundaries protect? Personally, I think as someone with power, I need to create and maintain boundaries to protect those I work with. Is that a patriarchal assumption I’m making to make me feel better or ‘more distant’ from those who use the services I provide? Maybe but maybe not. I’d justify it by saying that while I have power, the relationship I have with people I work with has to address that. That’s why I think the issue is the same with lecturers and social work students, practice educators and students.

Heite emphasises that boundaries create professionalism.

Socio-pedagogical professionalism can thus be understood as a means – varying in content and full of contradiction – of dealing with boundaries: supporting and enabling, but also monitoring and disciplining.

I’d hope, like Heite does, that these boundaries enable and support rather than push hierarchy and power on to people.

– Questions

So some questions to think about if you do want to join for the chat tonight

-What is social work? How does it differ from social care work? Where is the boundary?

-Has professionalism improves social work delivery?

-Who is professionalism ‘for’?

-Are boundaries useful? How are boundaries useful?

-Do boundaries make hierarchies better or worse?

-Should boundaries come down? Whose decision is it?

-How has more fluid communication (like social media) effected boundaries?

-Are boundaries between academics/practice educators and students different from boundaries between people who use services and professionals by their nature?

I’m sure there are many other questions I’ll think of and please join me and add your own!

“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