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 Midnight’s 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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