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Über dieses Buch

Drawing on Foucault's later work on governmentality, this book traces the effects of 'the rise of risk' on contemporary social work practice. Focusing on two 'domains' of practice – mental health social work and probation work – it analyses the ways in which risk thinking has affected social work's aims and objectives, methods and approaches.

Inhaltsverzeichnis

Frontmatter

Introduction

Abstract
Risk, in one form or another, is arguably the major issue with which contemporary social work is grappling. Not only must social work practitioners work with risk, and assess and intervene to reduce it, but social work agencies must respond to and manage it, while social work research and education must produce and enable development of the knowledge and skills required to do so. My intention in writing this book is to offer a comprehensive overview of, and original contribution to, debates regarding if, how and why this focus on risk is impacting on theory and practice within social work. Whatever their particular practice setting, increasingly practitioners find that assessing and managing risk is at the forefront of their role. However, the occupational groups concerned, and the agencies they represent, have established traditions, cultures and methods, as well as underpinning ideals and values, which are not necessarily straightforwardly compatible with the logic of risk. Tensions have therefore arisen in which unease about the degree of fit between new responsibilities and established skills, knowledge and ways of doing things is evident.
Mark Hardy

1. Enduring Debates in Social Work

Abstract
Social work is a broad church, encompassing a wide variety of specialist domains brought together — at least in principle — by a shared understanding of the broadly defined social roots of social problems and the attendant need to intervene socially to alleviate their impact, whether at the level of the individual or the collective. So far, so straightforward. In this scenesetting chapter, I review a number of enduring debates in the history and development of social work which, to some extent, complicate but also define what social work is and how it should be done. In doing so, two particular themes are highlighted: firstly, the contested nature of social work; and secondly, the potential challenge that the rise of risk poses to the nature and function of practice. I begin by focusing on the nature of the relationship between individual and state, as it applies in social work; how different formulations of this relationship have impacted on the theory/practice dynamic in social work; whether the aims and objectives of social work, and means of achieving these, are best understood as care or control; and finally whether social work ought best to be understood as ‘art’ or ‘science’. These latter two controversies are particularly relevant to my concern with the effects of risk in social work: the former because risk is directly implicated in a shift from care to control as the dominant objective and method of social work; the latter because it is concerned with the extent to which the knowledge upon which social workers act can and should be broadly intuitive, informal and subjective rather than systematic, formal and objective.
Mark Hardy

2. Accounting for the Rise of Risk

Abstract
There are numerous theoretical accounts which relate the rise of risk to broader social transformations. In this chapter, I will briefly review these perspectives. It is worth noting that the literature on risk — what it is, where it comes from, how we can make sense of it, what can be done about it, the various approaches that might be used in doing so — is voluminous. It is beyond the scope of this chapter to do justice to the sheer complexity and diversity of these debates and perspectives. Rather, my intention is to focus on a number of key theoretical frameworks, as they represent a useful contextual backdrop for the analysis which follows.
Mark Hardy

3. Mental Health Social Work — A Case in Point

Abstract
Social work occurs in a variety of settings, disparate agencies and in notably distinct contexts and domains which inform to varying degrees its nature and function. In the next two chapters, I use two specialist areas of practice — mental health social work and work with offenders in the probation service — as exemplars of areas of practice at different positions on the care-control continuum. Here the former is positioned as a generally ‘caring’ form of social work and the latter as a generally controlling approach to practice. This is, of course, an overly simplified distinction which does justice to neither the complexity of social work’s foci nor the diversity of approaches and perspectives within particular domains (see, for example, Burnham 2012, Vanstone 2004). Nevertheless, as we shall see, mental health social work emerged in response to a perceived need within the mental health system for a less coercive and more socially oriented counterpoint to the dominance of medical psychiatry and asylums. The probation service, meanwhile, has always found it difficult to straightforwardly represent its roles and functions as unproblematically ‘caring’, given its clientele. Consequently, these two domains of practice usefully function as loosely comparative counterpoints, albeit mainly for heuristic purposes.
Mark Hardy

4. The Probation Service — Pragmatism in Practice?

Abstract
This chapter is a genealogical case study which traces the development of social work with offenders in the probation service from its inception to the present day. In what follows I analyse changes in the probation service over time, from its seemingly humanitarian roots to its present day manifestation as part of the National Offender Management Service. I cover its origins as missionary work and trace subsequent developments as the original methods and philosophy of the service underwent a process of modification, including the shift to a statutory service utilising the techniques of social casework, the use of probation as an alternative to custody and as a form of punishment in the community, and the shift to ‘justice’. Both ethos and practice are significant in this analysis, illustrating as they do the centrality of the balance between the individual and society which is so significant in the developing role and identity of the probation service, and social work more generally. The rise of risk and evidence based practice are seen as part of a shift from art to science which is also related to an associated shift from care to control.
Mark Hardy

5. ‘An Analytics of Social Work’

Abstract
In this chapter and the next, I draw upon findings from an empirical research study that I undertook concerning the impact of risk on social work. More specifically, the research concerned if, how and why the rise of risk is impacting on the theory and practice of social work, across a variety of domains. It is not my intention to present primary data in this chapter — space precludes this, and in any case this is, or will be, available elsewhere (e.g. Hardy 2010, 2014). Nor will I labour methodological issues. Suffice to say this was a small scale, interview based study of ‘frontline’ practitioner perspectives in social work (mental health social work, forensic mental health and the probation service) which concerned if and how concerns about risk are impacting on how practitioners understand and undertake their roles and responsibilities.
Mark Hardy

6. A Technical Identity?

Abstract
Following on from the previous chapter, I now provide an account of the findings of my research into the impact of risk in social work as this relate to ‘technologies’ and ‘identities’. It is the intersection of governing practices with thought which comprise governmentality, and so attention must be paid to both elements. I begin by focusing on what Dean refers to as ‘the techne of government’ or the ‘means, mechanisms, procedures, instruments, tactics, technologies and vocabularies’ (1999, p. 31) which are utilised in the pursuit of governing objectives. More broadly these may be referred to as ‘technologies of government’. The significance attached to the technological aspect of government reflects the view that regimes and practices of government are not solely manifestations of dominant ideology and that the realisation of governmental ambitions is dependent upon technologies which ‘are a condition of governing and often impose limits over what it is possible to do’ (1991, p. 31). As Parton puts it, ‘for intervention to take place certain techniques or “technologies” are required which provide the particular mechanisms through which the object of concern can be modified and normalised’ (1994, p. 13). These technologies are not necessarily concerned with risk. Rather, they are the standard means via which practitioners go about seeking to achieve their day-to-day tasks.
Mark Hardy

7. Risk, Uncertainty and Blame in Contemporary Practice

Abstract
In this chapter I discuss the implications of the foregoing analysis for practice, but also for debates regarding practice, including how best to understand the nature of social work and, following on from this, how it should be undertaken. This entails returning to the themes which emerged in Chapter 1 regarding the nature and function of social work and the various enduring debates which characterise them. As we have seen, there is no consensus regarding how best to understand and undertake social work. Instead, there is something of a schism between those who believe that social work is, or should be regarded as, a broadly artistic activity based upon informal knowledge sources and the operation of discretion and those who believe it is, or should be seen as, a more systematic and rigorous endeavour which entails the application of broadly scientific principles and methods. These orientations filter through to the level of paradigmatic affiliations, including ontological and epistemological assumptions, and distinctive approaches to practice, including how best to respond to risk. The foregoing analysis has implications along both of these dimensions, concerning how best to conceptualise the role and function of social work and how it might achieve its aims.
Mark Hardy

8. Conclusion — Doing Justice to Social Work

Abstract
In this final chapter I will revisit the original aims of the book, reviewing key themes and findings from my analysis and highlighting those elements which I regard as useful in contributing to our understanding of the role that risk plays in social work. Following on from my discussion of the implications of the study in the previous chapter, I conclude with some tentative recommendations regarding how social work agencies and practitioners might accommodate the key messages emerging from this analysis so as to enable them to both address their aims and objectives and deal with both contemporary and future challenges in ways which do justice to the actual, rather than idealised, nature and function of social work.
Mark Hardy

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