A critical evaluation of contemporary policy for practice
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In response to widespread and persistent concern over the ability of social services to safeguard and promote the wellbeing of the most vulnerable children, UK governments have in recent years introduced some of the most far reaching changes ever encountered in this field.
However, this book argues that - in England especially - despite the best intentions of those driving these changes forward, the approaches to reform have substantially diminished the capability of children's social services to respond effectively to the complex challenges which they face.
In this book, leading authors in the field of social work explore the impact of the reform agenda on key areas of children's services practice, including child safeguarding, youth offending, children in care, family support, ethical practice and child welfare law.
They describe an oppressive, managerialist environment within which:
Key themes include:
Separate sections cover: the policy context; client group issues; and research evidence on services. Chapters include:
This book argues that effective practice requires research-informed, reflective, confident and critically-challenging practitioners supported by management systems which promote rather than undermine their effectiveness.
Leaning on more positive developments elsewhere in the UK, it challenges ministers and senior managers to commit to the significant change of direction, both practical and conceptual, which is required if children's services are to escape from the vicious spiral of declining performance into which they are currently in danger of descending.
Paperback. 144 pages. 9781905541645. Published June 2010. £19.95.
CONTENTS AND CONTRIBUTORS:
Children's services: reversing the vicious spiral
Patrick Ayre, University of Bedfordshire, and Michael Preston-Shoot, University of Bedfordshire
The policy context
Children and young people's policy in Wales
Ian Butler, Bath University, and Mark Drakeford, University of Cardiff
Safeguarding children: the Scottish perspective
Brigid Daniel, Stirling University, and Norma Baldwin, Dundee and Warwick Universities
The understanding systemic caseworker: the (changing) nature and meanings of working with children and families
Harry Ferguson, University of Nottingham
Client group issues
The deprofessionalisation of child protection: regaining our bearings
Patrick Ayre, University of Bedfordshire, and Martin C. Calder, Durham University
New Labour and youth justice: what works or what's counted
John Pitts, University of Bedfordshire, and Tim Bateman, University of Bedfordshire
Children in need: the challenge of prevention for social work
Kate Morris, University of Nottingham
Inadmissible evidence? New Labour and the education of children in care
Isabelle Brodie, University of Bedfordshire
Research evidence on services
Looking after social work practice in its organisational context: neglected and disconcerting questions
Michael Preston-Shoot, University of Bedfordshire
Managerialism: at the tipping point?
Alex Chard, Director of YCTCS Ltd, and Patrick Ayre, University of Bedfordshire
Technology as magic: fetish and folly in the IT-enabled reform of children's services
David Wastell, Nottingham University Business School, and Sue White, University of Lancaster
Playing with fire or rediscovering fire? The perils and potential for evidence-based practice in child and family social work
Donald Forrester, University of Bedfordshire
For my next trick: illusion in children's social policy and practice
Michael Preston-Shoot, University of Bedfordshire, and Patrick Ayre, University of Bedfordshire
ABOUT THE EDITORS
Patrick Ayre is a Senior Lecturer at the University of Bedfordshire where he teaches and researches in the fields of social work and child safeguarding. He has worked in child protection and child welfare for over 30 years and was a social worker and manager of child protection services for some 17 years before taking up his present post. In recent years, he has been heavily engaged in the preparation of Serious Case Reviews, and is active as an expert witness in children's services negligence cases.
Michael Preston-Shoot is Professor of Social Work and Dean of the Faculty of Health and Social Sciences at the University of Bedfordshire. He has worked as a social worker, groupworker, team leader, family therapist and psychotherapist. He was Editor of Social Work Education: The International Journal between 1993 and 2006 and was Managing Editor of the European Journal of Social Work between 2003 and 2007. He is one of the Founding Editors of the journal Ethics and Social Welfare. He is the Independent Chair of a Local Safeguarding Children Board and of a Safeguarding Vulnerable Adults Board.
"This is not the work of academics removed from the reality of practice... this collection offers a timely analysis of the issues facing children's services and the threats and challenges to the practice of social workers. It is clearly set out and includes some practical suggestions to improve support for social workers, make changes to organisational cultures and lead to improvements in the relationships with the individuals and groups who rely on these services." Youth and Policy
"A challenging and thought-provoking read... The message is that practitioners should be released from current bureaucratic constraints and allowed to work creatively with children... Several contributors describe these aspects as an oppressive environment with procedures taking centre stage rather than the child and family. Information technology systems come under fire and serious deficiencies are identified in England... Ayre and Clader set out the stark dilemmas faced by practitioners and propose actions which could 'reverse the descent'... Maybe policy makers at all levels will take note of the strong message that if managerialsim, performance measures and procedures continue to be given priority, it will diminish the valuing of the direct skilled and sensitive social work required by vulnerable children and families." Rostrum
"Both a sustained academic critique... and a cri de coeur on behalf of social work. It covers the period in which evidence-based practice has developed in the UK and presents an indictment of how the evidence base has sometimes been selectively used or ignored. Many of the messages are not new - the assault on managerialism, the preoccupation with measuring process rather than quality, the distorting effect of targets, the sad unintended consequences of implementing the Integrated Children's System, the repeated pattern of using child abuse inquiries to denigrate social workers in general, the turbulent organisational contexts in which public child care has to operate, and a fundamental failure to learn from history. What is different here is the attempt to bring those criticisms into a more coordinated form... the arguments that Ayre, Preston-Shoot and their contributors present need addressing. We need less rhetoric, fewer initiatives, more listening, more focus on doing the job well, more respect and support for those on the child-care front line." Research in Practice
"This book provides a thorough, research-informed critique of Children's Services in England, including an overview of Scottish and Welsh services... The Welsh and Scottish perspectives offer some hopeful indicators of ways forward... A strong case is made for the re-establishment of relationship-based social work, a greater focus on practice and outcomes rather than process and procedures, which will encourage the development of learning environments, and management that is about empowerment and inspiration, rather than chasing targets. There is a wealth of thought-provoking material in this book, underpinned by a detailed historical analysis. It is vital reading for policy makers and senior workers throughout social care. It is also a useful book for senior people of any organisation in thinking about issues related to management culture. It will also useful to students and social workers, in the way it asks important questions about the essence of social work." Well-being
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