Strengthening Social Work Practice: A Better Understanding Of Anti-Oppressive Practice Is Required

At times I wonder whether certain people, particularly those who do not associate with the world of social work, actually understand us! It is alarming at times when I read particular statements like:  'to much focus is given to anti-oppressive practice in social work courses'.

This was recently online and echoes Sir Martin Narey's 2014 report on social work education where on page 11 of his report he states:

 "It is vital that social work education for those working with children is not dominated by theories of non-oppressive practice, empowerment and partnership"

I disagree with this perception, because the strength of anti-oppressive practice is that it actually combines participation, partnership and empowerment, which offers the potential for the service user's voice to be heard and acted on. Also, it is not only fundamental but crucial that students and developing social workers understand the concepts of anti-oppressive practice, as this will help them by offering choice to service users and will prepare them in how they deal effectively with power differences by addressing the impact of oppression from all angles.  

I would argue that more needs to be done to recognise anti-oppressive practice and debates about this area of practice should never be allowed to run dry! This is not only insulting to a profession whose ethos is to challenge structural inequalities, but rather sad that we have still not managed to get across that very important message about equality and the importance of giving vulnerable people their rights, how very sad indeed! If developing practitioners on social work courses do not learn about the difficulties people encounter in their lives, how will they ever get individuals to take control and empower them? This will only be achieved when social workers feel comfortable in their own profession, and I am sure that all social workers from all sectors will agree that they would benefit from manageable caseloads and good supervision. Social workers need opportunities to talk about what they are going through and the complex cases they are dealing with. This is why the Professional Capabilities Framework (PCF) is so important because it does not only focus on one area of practice, rather the PCF model actually encourages looking at the practice from all angles. The advantage of this is that social workers are not being penalised, practitioners are being encouraged to reflect, and are also motivated because their strengths are being recognised.

Social workers are having to deal with rapid change far to quickly, for example with the introduction of the Care Act, the assessment paperwork being changed, more emphasis being placed on continued professional development and now having to contend with the changes in education. PLEASE STOP! Let social workers take a moment to breathe! I do not understand why we are moving so fast, have I missed something and what is the rush? Mistakes are made when things are hurried. Change is welcomed, however, stop telling social workers what to do and get them involved in decisions that concern them about their future roles!

 

The author of the above piece has written several Practitioner’s Perspective articles for Swan. Recently they included the note that they are leaving the profession. Here is a piece on why:

 

A final farewell

It is said that the most beautiful things in life are hidden and that they are to be discovered and can only be understood by the heart. Indeed, much that is beautiful is hidden, but if its beauty is not to be revealed at all then its very existence is mere speculation surely! It is a good job then that pioneers of the profession like me continue to silence the critics with determination, enthusiasm and powerful words! I guess Shakespeare was right that “the course of true love never did run smooth”. Yet, if the love for something is true then there are valid grounds to fight for it, are there not? When those with a reduced vision cannot see the re-modernization of 21st century social work I fear what the future will hold for the profession. I know that I will hold steadfast to the core social work values even if a few have been short sighted in seeing potential, never mind hard work!

Whilst the future seems to look bright for social workers, it is important that we do not forget our past and changes to come must be in the best interest of all social workers. Social workers must continue to be involved in any future changes to the profession. I know how much it means to social workers to be heard. As a member of The College of Social Work (TCSW) I have always felt part of a family. Indeed, all families have their problems but in times of difficulties they stand together. I refer to TCSW as my adopted family as they were an organisation unlike the ‘others’ proclaim to be. This family made me feel welcome and they did what they set out to do, they gave me a voice. They nurtured, empowered, encouraged, consolidated, strengthen, and supported me. I will always defend my adopted family to the ramparts and stand shoulder to shoulder with them as this family made me feel wanted!

Time and again many have tried to rein social workers in yet they have failed in all attempts. I know that I will never give in. I will continue to promote the social work profession wherever I end up and I will draw inspiration from the great, as Sir Winston Churchill once said:

“Never give in. Never give in. Never, never, never, never—in nothing, great or small, large or petty—never give in, except to convictions of honour and good sense. Never yield to force. Never yield to the apparently overwhelming might of the enemy.” 

If I am going to accomplish anything then I will do so with honour and on my own, and become a man of worth and that is the greatest lesson my father has taught me and it is something that I will never forget! I have been asked: What will you do now? The answer is not so simple because I still have many people to irritate and upset. No-one said the truth was easy to digest.

As I bid farewell, I leave knowing that I have left my mark on the profession! No doubt that there are many challenges ahead, but that cannot deter one from succeeding and by blending original thinking with focus and rigour I will plough forward with hope! I shall savour all the great moments I have experienced and as my journey continues I will endeavour to champion the profession!

Arreptum iter Coepisset – the journey has just begun!

 

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