Resilience as a weapon against marketisation

Child Development for Child Care and Protection Workers - Community Care, Ideology and Social Policy - The Essential Groupworker
February 25, 2000

Reading these three texts together is rather like being presented with a capsule social work course: the two main strands of practice are represent­ed in the books on child care and community care and there is also a "methods" volume to keep us theoretically engaged. Social­work values of a pleasingly old­fashioned sort are evident, par­ticularly in The Essential Groupworker , and provide a welcome antidote to the talk of marketisation, managerialism, contract culture and purchaser­provider splits that increasingly, as Harry Cowen charts, shapes social work and social welfare discourse more generally.

Child Development for Child Care and Protection Workers offers a good solid account of child development rooted in attachment theory - the current hot topic in childcare social work. Attachment theory provides the main underpinning for the "Framework for the Assessment of Children in Need and their Families" which will be issued shortly by the Depart­ment of Health and is an impor­tant theoretical perspective in the new national post-qualifying award in child care that is being piloted this year. Social workers need to get to grips with this top­ic and its companion themes of resilience and vulnerability, and be able to apply their knowledge to the families they encounter. In this version, attachment theory has shed some of its early, unhelpful mother-blaming aspects and moved into the mainstream of social-work prac­tice. The authors provide a mass of useful material - not always very helpfully arranged - to map what they refer to as "healthy developmental pathways". Chil­dren's attachment needs are con­sidered, using case examples and activities from everyday child­care practice. The authors also explore the impact of abuse or neglect on children at different stages of development and high­light ways in which "normal" progression can be disrupted.

There are minor quibbles. As already noted, the organisation is rather confusing, with chap­ters divided by too many head­ings and sub-headings. Not all the activities are very engaging: they seem mainly to involve the reader reflecting on the application of points from the discus­sion to her own case load. Some examples involve fictional case material, but others seem to refer to and quote from "real" people, and the rationale for this is not explained. But overall this is a sound, practice-focused text that sets out the key develop­mental tasks at each stage of

childhood and adolescence and explores the adverse factors that can knock a child off course as well as the positive factors, the strengths or resiliences, that can offer protection.

The authors of The Essential Groupworker write with enthusiasm about something they like doing and think worth promoting. Their commitment to groupwork is clear and they make a strong case for its contri­bution to the development of anti-oppressive and empowering practice. The reader is taken through each stage of the group-work process: planning, setting up and then running the group, maintaining it through its agreed lifespan and then ending and evaluating the group's work. The authors do a good job of demystifying the experience of working in groups. They offer a number of exercises, short extracts from trainee groupwork­ers' portfolios and a chapter out­lining 14 "interactional tech­niques"; but these will probably not be enough, in themselves, to fully equip the novice group­worker. What the book does sup­ply, though, is a clear statement of the possibilities (as well as pitfalls) of this approach and a thoughtful discussion of the knowledge and skills needed to use groupwork effectively. The authors recognise the creative potential of groupwork, and this book is a welcome reminder that creativity still has a place in dai­ly social-work practice.

The routinisation of much social and healthcare work, by contrast, is emphasised in Community Care, Ideology and Social Policy , which tracks recent changes in health and welfare policy and in the man­agement of welfare services. The ideology behind the policy changes - characterised by a move from institutional to com­munity-based care - is dis­cussed in some detail in the first part of the book. Key themes of marketisation and citizenship are introduced and some of the tensions between these two com­peting ideas are explored. The second part of the book focuses in turn on different user groups and assesses the impact of changes in welfare provision. The book has a clear perspective on issues of power and empow­erment, and highlights the nega­tive impact of much social­welfare policy on women and minority ethnic groups. It also draws attention to changes in the role of health and social workers in the new "marketised" welfare system: care manage­ment is presented as a limited and basically bureaucratic way of responding to need, a long way from the optimistic and humane approach to practice offered by The Essential Groupworker .

Harry Cowen has brought together a large amount of mate­rial and presents a useful and politically sharp analysis of an important policy shift. However, this is a very condensed discus­sion and, as a result, suffers from occasional lapses of clarity. Overall organisation of the ma­terial could be improved. To ensure every topic is addressed, each chapter is organised into small and yet smaller chunks, which make  for a disjointed read. The inclusion of a compar­ative dimension compounds the feeling of "bittiness", with just two or three pages devoted to it in each chapter. The books com­prehensiveness is, perhaps, both a strength and a limitation. Nev­ertheless, there is a lot to help students of social policy under­stand a major shift in the struc­ture and management of health and welfare services and the ide­ological framework supporting care in the community.

Danielle Turney is lecturer in social work, Goldsmiths College, University of London.

 

Child Development for Child Care and Protection Workers

Author - Brigid Daniel, Sally Wassell and Robbie Gilligan
ISBN - 1 85302 633 6
Publisher - Jessica Kingsley
Price - £15.95
Pages - 335

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