A book that seeks to support students to link their university-based teaching and placement learning experience as explicitly as this one does is in my view to be welcomed. The four authors are experienced practitioners with significant academic experience. Included throughout the book are contributions in the form of case studies, commentaries and reflections from eleven other practitioners, thus ensuring the book is based on a wide range of practice experience and current theoretical knowledge. Professional values are firmly identified throughout; from the outset, the authors make clear their vision of social work as an activity that must be ‘underpinned by a commitment to humane, relationship based practice’ (p. 9). This informative, easy-to-use book is aimed at social work students from the start of their qualification into their Assessed and Supported Year in Employment (ASYE). (The ASYE, introduced in 2012, is a twelve-month employer-based programme which supports and assesses newly qualified social workers.) The bright, visually appealing front cover of Developing Skills for Social Work Practice advises us that the book contains ‘Everything you need for your 30 days skills’. The back cover expands this stating that ‘This book will provide you with everything you need to know and more, helping you develop and hone your skills and make the best start in your practice placements and continue to develop your skills as a newly qualified practitioner’. The book is divided into three sections; Part 1 addresses Core Skills including Communication Skills, Emotionally Intelligent Social Work, Reflection and Valuing Difference and Diversity. Part 2 introduces skills for assessment and intervention including chapters on Assessment Skills, Conflict Management, Writing Skills for Practice and Court Skills. Part 3 offers Key Social Work Theories and Methods with chapters on Strength Based and Solution Focused Approaches, Person Centred Social Work and The Social Models of Disability and Distress. The Professional Capabilities Framework (the overarching professional standards framework for England containing nine domains of capability) is integrated into the book, with each chapter identifying relevant domains. The Knowledge and Skills Statements for adults and children (which set out what a social worker should know and be able to do by the end of their ASYE) are mentioned, but are less visible. Given the expansive claims made for the book, it is no surprise that a broad range of topics is covered within it. Invariably this means that some complicated issues can only be addressed briefly, including assessing risk and the impact of the media on social work practice. Another challenge for the authors is the diverse target audience in terms of their pre-existing experience and knowledge base. Students starting their first year on a social work course can be expected to have a very different knowledge and appreciation of the topics compared to an ASYE starting their first job. One way in which the authors have sought to manage both the amount of material needed and this variable level of experience and knowledge is through the use of a companion website. Each chapter has a webpage on the website with journal articles, ‘How to’ guides and links to resources. I found the website easy to navigate and engage with. It offers further reading and exploration of each topic. The emphasis within Section 2 on children and families’ social work at the expense of adults’ social work is disappointing. Several of the chapters focus on children and families, with little mention of the complexity and challenges of adult social work. Examples of this include Chapter 11 on ‘Safeguarding’, which lists several public inquiries following the deaths of children, but no adult deaths or inquiries are mentioned. Chapter 13, ‘Building resilience’, states that it focuses on childhood but offers no explanation as to why this is so, and Chapter 12, ‘Working with service users and carers’, provides discussions on communication with children but not adults. It also contains over two pages considering what young people want from their social workers (pp. 114–16) and just eight lines (p. 117) considering what adult service users value in social workers. This not only reduces the relevance of the book to many students; it may also feed the dominant view of the public, government and policy makers that children’s social work is somehow more valuable and skilful than adult work. Despite this reservation, the book will be a valuable resource within the Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) (universities and colleges) ‘Skills programmes’. The thirty-day skills programme was introduced by the now disbanded Social Work Reform Board (set up to improve social work training and practice) in response to employers’ concerns that students needed to learn practice skills within the HEI setting to better prepare and support them for placement. HEIs use the thirty days in a range of ways and there is little consensus as to what, how and when they should be delivered. This book offers a structure that could be used to build skills programmes around and I certainly recommend it as a key text for Readiness to Practice modules. I also recommend using some of the reflective activities with students on placement recall days back to university; they would also work well in supervision sessions with practice educators and even within placement portfolios. Just bear in mind that additional resources and reading in relation to adult social work will be needed in places. © The Author 2017. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of The British Association of Social Workers. All rights reserved.
The British Journal of Social Work – Oxford University Press
Published: Nov 24, 2017
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