The Prato Moment

imageProfessor Charlotte Williams OBE reports from Prato, Italy, on an international colloquium organised by the Deans of Social Work Education in Australia on 12-13 September 2016, at which Jill Manthorpe and Mary Baginsky participated. (570 words)

There are few opportunities to bring together a group of individuals in leading roles in social work education cross-nationally; particularly so in providing them with the thinking space to reflect critically and strategically over a two day ‘lock in’. This gathering could never be representative; it could never be comprehensive in the scope of issues, perspectives or topics it engaged with, nor could it be conclusive. Those ambitions are best left to the International Association of Schools of Social Work. But it did bring together a group of ‘thought leaders’, people who happened to hold significant positions across social work education East to West, in a catalytic moment. There was, we all hoped, an opportunity with some potential to reimagine social work education, present and future. Continue reading

Social work research with adults in England: The state we’re in

Manthorpe and Moriarty 2016 Social work research-01The adult social work sector in England needs to urgently identify its key research priorities, in an inclusive and rigorous way, if it is to generate the ideas and evidence needed to ensure that people receive the best possible support, according to researchers at the Policy Institute, King’s College London.

In a discussion paper on the state of social work research with adults in England, the researchers stress that the profession needs to be underpinned by research if it is to survive and to flourish. Among their recommendations are the establishment of a network that provides learning and mentor support for early career researchers, practitioner researchers, and managers interested in adult social work research, something that currently exists for researchers working on subjects such as ageing or in health services research. Continue reading

Social Work and Disability

Peter Simcock and Dr. Rhoda Castle introduce their new book, Social Work and Disability, now out from Polity Books. (1,040 words)

0745670199Literature focusing on social work with disabled people, particularly those with physical and sensory impairments, is relatively limited, and so an email from the publisher Polity Press enquiring if such a text would be welcome was met with great enthusiasm. We didn’t realise then, that we would be the authors of that text, especially when faced with other demands on our time, not least PhD study and our ‘day jobs’. However, a number of things motivated us to write this book. First of all, we have both observed some inspiring social work practice with disabled people, and this is an area of work we would like to promote among the practitioners of the future. Although people should not be defined purely in terms of their impairments, there can be variation between the restrictions that people with different atypical physical attributes will face, and variation again between their experience and that of people with learning disabilities. As literature focusing on social work with people with physical and sensory impairments is particularly sparse, this was a gap we sought to address. However, despite this primary focus on disability associated with physical and sensory impairment, we have attempted to take a holistic approach, which recognises that people with learning disabilities may also have physical impairments. Continue reading

Four studies in mental health social care

Dr Joan RapaportOn Thursday 8 October the Social Care Workforce Research Unit held its second annual Mental Health Social Care conference, in conjunction with Making Research Count. Joan Rapaport, Visiting Research Fellow at the Unit, was there. (2,275 words)

In her opening comments, Jo Moriarty, Deputy Director of the Social Care Workforce Research Unit, highlighted that the seminar was taking place as part of Mental Health Awareness week and that 10 October is World Mental Health Day. She observed that as well as mental health social workers, delegates from a wide range of organizations, in particular housing, were represented in the audience. This confirmed that adult mental health was not specific to one area of practice. Continue reading

Common causes: the origins of the Child Poverty Action Group and its relations with social work

Caroline NorrieCaroline Norrie is Research Fellow at the Social Care Workforce Research Unit in the Policy Institute at King’s. (1,049 words)

The Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG) is 50 this year. As part of the celebrations, last month the Social Care Workforce Research Unit jointly hosted a seminar with the Social Work History Network to highlight the history of CPAG and its links with the social work profession.

CPAG is the leading national pressure group working to end poverty among children, young people and families. It campaigns to influence policy; produces information about access to benefits; and provides training for professionals across the UK about welfare rights (including tax credits, and universal credit). Continue reading

Beyond measurable outputs: What matters in social work practice with older people?

Valerie D'AstousVal D’Astous is a PhD candidate at the Institute of Gerontology, King’s College London. (969 words)

As I walked past a small group of men for the second time, in search of the location, a cheery, ‘Can we help you luv?’ was offered. Paper in hand with the address, I knew I was close, but gladly accepted their offer. Two gentlemen ended up walking me around the corner to the place I was seeking, the Burrell Street Sexual Health Clinic. ‘Hope all goes well for you,’ one gentleman wished me, as I thanked them and said goodbye. I laughed as I entered the building, the site for the Making Research Count Conference: Rethinking Social Work Practice with Older People: Threats and Opportunities. I knew I was in for a great day! Continue reading

Social work and the ill body

Liz Price Liz WalkerLiz Price (left) and Liz Walker both work at the University of Hull. (401 words)

Social work is remarkably silent when it comes to the physical body. By definition, the profession is similarly unnoticed within the experience, and practice, of illness. This book addresses these silences through an exploration of chronic (autoimmune) illnesses engaging in wider debates around vulnerability, resistance and the lived experience of ongoing ill-health.

We demonstrate the role that social work has to play in actively engaging the (ill) physical body, rather than working around and through it. We focus on autoimmune conditions such as lupus, multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis and scleroderma. Conditions like these allow for an exploration of the everyday lived experience of illnesses which can exacerbate social and economic vulnerability and may precipitate personal and social crises, requiring a variety of interventions and support. Continue reading

Assessing practice: the OSCE adapted for social work

photo of Imogen Taylor

Professor Imogen Taylor, University of Sussex, reports on the first seminar in a new series hosted by the Social Care Workforce Research Unit at which she was discussant. (332 words)

Professor Marion Bogo from the University of Toronto Faculty of Social Work gave the first of the new Social Work Seminar Series at King’s College London on Tuesday 5 May on the topic of the use of the OSCE, an Objective Structured Clinical Exam, in social work.

The invited audience for this virtual seminar [these are Prof Bogo’s presentation slides] came from social work policy, education, research and practice, including key members of stakeholder groups, to hear about the use of the OSCE in North America and debate its application to social work in England.  We learned that the OSCE was initially developed in medical education in the 1970s in Scotland and has been adopted by other health related professions. In North America, it is now being piloted and researched in social work. The essence of the social work OSCE is two-fold: first, practice competence is directly observed and assessed in 15-minute simulated interviews with standardised clients/users played by actors trained to enact the role of a client scenario; second, immediately post-interview, ‘meta-competences’ are assessed  in a rating of the students’ critical reflection on their practice, how they linked theory to practice and what they planned to take forward from the experience. Continue reading

New directions in child welfare: good news from the Canadian province of New Brunswick

Geraldine Poirier BaianiDr Joan RapaportGeraldine Poirier Baiani (left) and Joan Rapaport report from New Brunswick. (931 words)

These days, high profile reports of child care tragedies, rising numbers of children being taken into care and social workers struggling with high caseloads are commonplace. Stories of positive developments in children and family services are rare. However, a chance meeting whilst on holiday led to a remarkable discovery: the caseloads of child welfare social workers in the Canadian province of New Brunswick now stand at an incredible seven. Continue reading

An insight into Behavioural Insight – or the evolution of a grudge about nudge

Dr Mary BaginskyMary Baginsky is Visiting Senior Research Fellow at the Social Care Workforce Research Unit in the Policy Institute at King’s. (830 words)

When the Department for Education published the Behaviour Insight Team’s (BIT) report on decision-making in intake teams in children’s services earlier this year the sharp intake of breath from many social work academics could be heard across the land, followed by a Twitter tirade. What had led to this?

In another place I have railed against the trend for think tanks and the like to label a shallow dip into a subject as ‘research’ and then to go on to make huge claims that are intended to, and sometimes do, influence policy. But in the past I have also been seduced by the ideas that have emerged from BIT, also known as the ‘nudge unit’. Its stated aim is to apply insights from academic research in behavioural economics and psychology to public policy and services. So when the unit advised the HMRC to change the wording on some of their letters, the result was an extra £200 million collected on time; and when it found that it was clearing the rubbish out of lofts that stood in the way of people insulating them they suggested providing a subsidised loft clearance and the rate at which insulation was happening soared. However, my admiration did not stretch to the findings of the report on social workers’ decision-making. Continue reading