Best Practice in Social Work: Critical Perspectives by K. Jones, B. Cooper, and H. Ferguson

Best Practice in Social Work: Critical Perspectives sets out to explore best practice in social work across a range of services. A fundamental position of the writing is the critical best practice. The focus is on what are considered the best approaches to ‘real events and cases’ and detailed examples of interventions are explored with the reader.An interesting stand taken by the writers is the focus on the practitioner as a skilled professional who needs to be valued. This is a very different approach to the current language and political position of social work within the modernising agenda. As the writers point out, the social work profession has suffered a longstanding negative and corrosive approach by politicians, academics and professional bodies that has been used by the media to project a poor public image. The messages have also had paternalistic overtones, and the social work profession as the child is reminded that they need to ‘do better’. This book has responded to an urgent need to redress the balance.

The book is divided into three parts with 15 chapters overall covering such areas as – best practice in adult protection to best practice as skilled organisational work. Each area covered explores what constitutes ‘best practice’ using the tools of critical thinking and reflection and challenging the reader to question.

I particularly enjoy the approach that encourages the reader to ask questions and not to accept societal assumptions about norms. This is what social work is about, not accepting at face value but getting under and around the issues. Dare I say that there is a whiff of radicalism which is long overdue in social work writing and in particular in social work practice.

The case studies become real as they live throughout the book and the reader is taken back to specific narratives and thankfully the case studies do not appear in boxes like some stand alone event or something that needs to be confined and/or defined as the ‘other’.

Another feature of the this book is that it takes to task the over-generalised use in social work of the words anti-oppressive practice (AOP) which have become meaningless as without specificity – who is being oppressed? Why and who gains from this? It has led to a reductive approach that does not acknowledge the complexity of service users’ lives and or needs.

Valuable references and an accessible read.

Jones, K. Cooper, B and Ferguson, H. (2007)

Best Practice in Social Work: Critical Perspectives

Palgrave MacMillan, London

ISBN 1-4039-8501-4, 978-1-4039-8501-9

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