Equip yourself for the frontline of care

- Social Work with People with Learning Difficulties. First Edition
- Practical Computer Skills for Social Work. First Edition
- Management and Organisations in Social Work. First Edition
- Collaborative Social Work. First Edition
- Social Work in Education and Children's Services. First Edition
- Social Work with Children, Young People and their Families in Scotland. First Edition

February 23, 2007

The six books reviewed here add to the growing number of titles in the series Transforming Social Work Practice, which is primarily aimed at social work students. The books have a clearly identifiable and predictable presentation. Interactive learning and reflection is encouraged by a range of activities. At the end of every chapter is a summary of the main points, as well as suggestions for further reading and signposts to other resources. The books are written by authors who generally bring to the table significant practice and academic experience.

Paul Williams in Social Work with People with Learning Difficulties introduces the reader to the idea of disability as a social construction and successfully highlights the contested nature of "defining"

a person with learning difficulties. The early chapters provide useful factual information (for example, legislation and policy summaries), but, more important, challenge the reader to unpack and reflect on their assumptions and beliefs about people with learning difficulties. Crucially, Williams highlights the strengths, resilience and achievements of people with learning disabilities and challenges models of practice that are grounded solely in notions of the "problem" of disability.

The reader is introduced to key areas of social work practice with an emphasis on models of good practice. For example, the chapter on assessment discusses theoretical perspectives, including biographical and life-history approaches, as a way of highlighting uniqueness, as well as enabling the person to talk about their experiences, including oppression and marginalisation.

Communication as a right, regardless of the complexity of a person's needs, forms a key theme in the book. Ideas for positive practice, alongside information about other relevant resources, make this a useful and engaging part of the book. Some inherent tensions in practice are introduced. For example, "Valuing people" highlights the importance of developing frameworks and practices for person-centred planning while being compatible with agreed eligibility criteria. Inevitably, a book of this size can be only an introduction to social work in this area, but it provides the reader with a good read, a useful introduction, food for thought and the wherewithal for further study.

The General Social Care Council requires that social work graduates be computer literate to the level of the European Computer Driving Licence (ECDL) or its equivalent. Practical Computer Skills for Social Work by Claire Gregor aims to provide a text for social work students who are developing their IT skills. The book offers a useful discussion on the potential abuses of IT in a social work context (for example, preserving confidentiality and good practice in maintaining records) and discusses relevant legislation.

Each chapter introduces a topic by giving examples of how it may be relevant to social work. There is an emphasis on "doing", with practical computer-based activities throughout. Model answers at the end of the text allow the reader to check their answers. More important, students can compare the steps they took to achieve the specified outcomes with the exemplar.

The book generally adopts an uncritical stance towards the use of IT in social work and does not consider the impact (positive or otherwise) that the increased use of IT may have on direct practice. There are already a number of texts about ECDL. I am uncertain, therefore, as to the extent to which this book would appeal to ECDL students. Rather, I suspect that the text will prove most useful for students who are required by their university to produce an IT portfolio or other types of assessed work.

The profound changes experienced in the organisation of social work forms the basis for the book Management and Organisations in Social Work by Trish Hafford-Letchfield. This book introduces the reader to the development of the managerialist approach to managing health and social services. The apparatus of managerialist organisations such as performance management, resourcing social work services, best value and the role of management and leadership in the personal social services are explained. Some critical issues in current practice are also covered.

The book raises topics that are identified as being of central importance in the modernisation agenda. For example, service-user involvement is introduced and its anticipated role in promoting citizenship involvement and social inclusion in service development. But a detailed discussion of, for example, the complexities of user involvement, its potential misuse and the complex agendas that are likely to inform the imperative to "consult"

or involve cannot be realistically achieved in a general text of this nature.

Material is presented in an accessible and interesting way. I believe the text will encourage students to think about organisational theory and management, and it could enhance and promote active learning. However, student readers will need to develop these introductory ideas if they are to achieve a critical perspective on and deeper understanding of the organisation of social work.

A fundamental commitment of the present Government is to foster collaborative working. Although this issue is raised in several of the books reviewed here, Collaborative Social Work by Anne Quinney aims to provide a more complete review of the drive towards achieving this goal. In her opening discussion, the author reviews the case for collaborative working. Evidence of fragmented practice, boundary disputes between professionals, poor collaboration and professional mistrust are highlighted as contributing to poor practice and negative experiences for service users. Nevertheless, Quinney notes that while there is strong evidence that a failure to work together leads to poor practice, there is as yet a comparatively weak evidence base that working together promotes closer collaboration, better practice and improved outcomes for service users.

The book examines the potential for collaboration in a number of areas and also provides the reader with information about the ways in which key public services are organised and mandated. In the health context chapter, Quinney discusses the potential contribution that social work can make to challenging and addressing health inequalities. But the discussion stops short of exploring the challenges and opportunities that are likely to exist in bringing together professional groups with their discipline-specific knowledge, skills and values.

Perceived hierarchies in the value placed on different knowledges and unsettling traditional power bases are not substantially explored.

Nevertheless, the book raises a number of key issues likely to be helpful in encouraging undergraduates in health, social work and related fields to understand the context for collaborative working.

The interprofessional and partnership theme continues in Nigel Horner and Steve Krawczyk's book Social Work in Education and Children's Services . The introductory chapter provides a useful discussion, highlighting the central role of education and educational reform in the Government's aspiration to address broader social issues. Policy and legislative developments are discussed and the impact, for example, that "Every Child Matters" is likely to have on services for children is reviewed. Horner and Krawczyk steer the reader through some of the complexities of the policy and legislative landscape and raise potential contradictions in current policy. The book is underpinned by an acknowledgement of the diversity of young people, the challenge of inclusive education and responding to individual need.

Horner and Krawczyk emphasise the role of social work in education and point to the potential benefits for children of achieving well-developed partnerships that engage with the needs of individual young people and their contexts.

The book is well written and communicates information in an accessible and interesting style. It will be of relevance to social work students and to student teachers and other practitioners engaged in children's services.

Social Work with Children, Young People and their Families in Scotland by Steve Hothersall provides a comprehensive overview of the legislative framework for children and families social work in Scotland. There are areas of overlap between this book and a host of other social work texts (such as theoretical perspectives on social work and developments in collaborative practice). Inevitably with a book of this size, some areas are summarised rather than addressed in depth (for example, theories informing practice).

The book's strength is in its attention to the Scottish legal framework for practice. For example, considerable attention is given to the underlying principles, purposes, practices and role of the Children's Hearing system.

The book explores the legislative framework for assessment and intervention practice and the role of social work in supporting children who are looked after. These discussions are linked to principles and values underpinning good practice.

The book is relatively silent on issues such as the diversity of children and young people and the role of participation and involvement of young people in the development of children's services. It will doubtless provide a useful source of reference to undergraduate students studying law components or as a source of reference for students on a placement.

Students should, though, be encouraged to seek wider sources of reference to develop their knowledge base, including case law, relevant journals and appropriate web-based learning opportunities.

Social Work with People with Learning Difficulties. First Edition

Author - Paul Williams
Publisher - Learning Matters
Pages - 155
Price - £16.00
ISBN - 1 844445 042 2

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