Social Work pp 253-272 | Cite as

Social work processes

  • Robert Adams


Efforts to arrive at a single, definitive statement about the ingredients of social work practice are likely to fail. The title of Martin Davies’ book The Essential Social Worker might imply that there is an ineradicable core of social work roles and activities, but that book does not build on a general consensus about what constitute the essentials of social work. Part I of the present book illustrates the controversial and uncertain context in which social work is practised. Part II demonstrates the great diversity of approaches to practice, some of which contradict or conflict with each other. The postmodern scenarios depicted in Chapter 20 lie closer to Salman Rushdie’s observation in Midnights Children that ‘reality is a question of perspective’ (Rushdie, 1982, p. 165). Rushdie adds that the further you are from the present, the more concrete and plausible it seems, but the closer you get, the more incredible it becomes, a comment which applies with equal force to the past and the present of social work. From a distance, the outlines of the major areas of social work practice dealt with in this third Part of the book — social work with children and families, adults and offenders — seem firm and clear, but a closer study of the detail of each area shows how uncertain and problem-ridden it is.


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Further reading

  1. Farnham, D. and Horton, S. (eds) (1993) Managing the New Public Services (London, Macmillan). Deals critically with the nature and impact of managerialism in the public services, in a way which enables their general analysis to be applied easily to the personal social services.Google Scholar
  2. Le Croy, C. W. (ed.) (1992) Case Studies in Social Work Practice (Pacific Grove, CA, Brooks/Cole). A collection of very wide-ranging case studies in different settings, exemplifying a variety of therapeutic approaches to social work processes.Google Scholar
  3. Marsden, D., Oakley, P. and Pratt, B. (eds) (1994) Measuring the Process: Guidelines for Evaluating Social Development (Oxford, INTRAC). A concise exposition of the process of empowering evaluation, viewed through a number of practical examples from different parts of the world.Google Scholar
  4. Walsh, K., Deakin, N., Smith, P., Spurgeon, P. and Thomas, N. (1997) Contracting for Change: Contracts in Health, Social Care, and Other Local Government Services (Oxford, Oxford University Press). Chapter 1, especially pp. 17–21 on the personal social services, provides an excellent overview of assumptions embedded in the shift towards reinventing local government based on market principles.Google Scholar
  5. Yelloly, M. (1995) ‘Professional competence and higher education’, in Yelloly, M. and Henkel, M. (eds) Learning and Teaching in Social Work: Towards Reflective Practice (London, Jessica Kinglsey), pp. 51–66. Explores the concept of competence as it applies in social work and relevant areas of higher education.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Robert Adams 1998

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  • Robert Adams

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