7 thoughts on “A Lament for Lost Genericism in Social Work

  1. I agree with virtually everything you’ve said. I have worked with people of all ages and conditions/circumstances. I work better with older people (and with teams that work with older people) because I’ve worked and still work with children (and teams that work with children), and vice versa. I’ve experienced working in the old children’s departments and welfare departments (adults), with social services departments and generic social workers, and now with these divisive and bureaucratic separate departments. And I know that generic social work/social care was best for people. It didn’t suit the suits, and it was changed to protect the suits (stop them getting soiled).
    The “specialism” of outfits like Castlebeck (Winterbourne View) are purely to do with money. The same applies to dementia. The same applies to children’s homes and children who have been sexually abused.
    I don’t think it’s too late. Keep fighting. The true professionalism of social work/social care is our skills and knowledge and relationships with PEOPLE.

  2. I was at JSWEC yesterday and more than one researcher had found that social work students identified a “hierarchy” of practice settings – with child protection as the most prestiguous and older people as the least. I agree that the emphasis on professionalism has negative as well as positive connotations for the future of social work. I was struck by the writing of Pease (2000) that the professional knowledge claims of social work lead to power in defining the social world of service users and can become a means of ideological domination and oppression.

  3. I
    I agree with much of this – I think that basic social work values apply in all contexts and with all client groups, and people who don’t think that they should be doing a placement with Older Adults, let’s say, because they “know” they want to work with families and children are completely missing the point. However, I think that developing specialised expertise post qualification is no bad thing – if I were suddenly plonked into a hospital social work department and were asked to deal with non-accidental injuries to children, I would both want and need help and guidance initially to do this! Doctors routinely specialise – we don’t expect psychiatrists to perform operations, or pathologists to deal with psychosis… (a pathologist might panic, indeed, at the very thought of a live patient, let alone a psychotic one!) So why should it be different in social work?

  4. Do you not think that one positive thing going for a Chief Social Worker would be the right to speak? Usually after any incident which has an association with social work the profession is utterly voiceless due to confidentiality or, more insidiously, the fear of repercussions from an employer for speaking out loud. Even if we say something quite obvious, uncritical or anodyne the fact that we have spoken out loud without permission would be enough to get us disciplined. Maybe it would be a good thing to start to be able to hear us being represented.

  5. Thanks for the comments and sorry i’ve been slow getting back to them – sometimes I need days away from the computer!
    Lisa – that sounds like the same kind of hierarchy that exists in nursing and medicine. It’s interesting and it’s always been there – one of the reasons I think genericism is so important.
    BluePompidou – I agree that postqualification specialisation is important but I think it is too prescriptive at the moment – I work with older adults who have mental health problems but I have to choose one PQ path OR the other and can’t pick and choose – so I have to go down the Mental Health pathway as I’m in a mental health team but that means I miss the modules on safeguarding and personalisation which are in the ‘adults’ pathway.
    It makes no sense to me as surely those issues would be equally important to me – that’s what I meant!

    Tim – thanks for your comment. I just feel that having a chief gives one of the same people who seem to rise to the ‘top’ of social work having bypassed front line practice for decades, another ‘level’ to reach. I don’t like hierarchies and I think they are unhelpful in social work. My hope would be that employers allow employees to speak out more openly and to trust our professionalism rather than have to rely on a ‘chief’ who has the government’s ear.

  6. Having a chief will give you the ability fire someone when something goes wrong and they can’t find an individual front-line worker to fire.

  7. I consider myself very lucky to work at an agency that has adopted a “no wrong door” policy. We have a variety of our own programs as well as community partner agencies who share the goal of helping clients to gain access and get support where ever they fit best at the time. Especially important is the fact that they will not be denied service at a “mental health” program if they also have addictions, developmental disorders etc and vice versa.
    This has meant greater access for clients who historically would have been shuttled around as too “complex” and also greater recognition of clients as whole people.

    Unfortunately, I can’t say that this is the norm yet in Canada, but it seems to be the trend in my area at least!

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