Understanding relationship based social work its challenges and opportunities

understanding relationship based social work its challenges and opportunities

someone with no prior knowledge of social work would clearly understand how The book then hints at being able to address the challenges that this change has make the most of supervision opportunities, to become comfortable with self-. A final section looks briefly at how the service user-social worker relationship is .. environment at strategic points to improve the opportunities available to the individual . In terms of social work education, these challenges to psychosocial understanding—friendliness, reliability, regularity of contact, attention to detail . In this special issue, using our understanding of practitioner-service In our view , relationship underpins social work practice in all its forms. They also grapple with the tensions and opportunities relationship-based These reflective observations on the challenges facing relationship-based practice.

Concerning intervention, this can overlap the issue of "why do" something over that of "how to do" something.

Edward R. Canda, Ph.D. - Spiritual Diversity in Social Work: The Heart of Helping

With the deepening of the investigation about the relationship between social policy and Social Work at the bases of critical social theory 3knowledge can be advanced in the direction of "doing for what reason". The proposals that stem from this constitute the bases of a professional project for Brazilian social workers, which is collectively constructed and known as the Professional Ethical-Political Project MIOTO,p.

This project postulated "positioning in favor of social justice and equity, which assured the universality of access to goods and services related to social policies and programs, and their democratic administration," in addition to a "commitment to the quality of services provided to the population and to intellectual improvement from a perspective of professional competency" CFESS,on-line.

Nevertheless, two situations provoked the rupture between this virtuous relationship, leading to a serious divergence that deserves to be debated. The first was the reversal that took place in the s in the essential proposals of Brazilian social welfare policy, breaking the expectations of part of society that there would be an expansion of social rights.

The second is the complex form of demands, in quantitative and qualitative terms, which went beyond the design and manner of the institutionalization of social programs, influenced by the regulatory guidelines of the multilateral financing and development agencies, which required evaluations of a quantitative nature and intense administrative-bureaucratic control over the actions undertaken and the results obtained.

These two situations, in addition to producing significant impacts on the interventional processes of social assistants, reveal the existence of issues related to the handling of intervention in social policies in the realm of the profession that must be considered.

It is precisely the question of professional intervention in the field of social policy that this article addresses. By doing so, it seeks to deepen the debate about the particularities of professional actions in the realm of social policy, especially the issues of autonomy and specificity related to the insertion of social assistants in traditional spaces of public policies, linked to the direct provision of services to the population.

The presentation is organized in two topics. The first concerns the relationship between Brazilian social policy and professional intervention and provides a brief historic retrospective, which looks at professional values, the space of intervention and its convergence or divergence with public policies in the social field.

The second particularizes the debate about intervention and its relationship with social policy, an understanding favored by the framing of the first topic, which concerns the expansion and complexity of the demands and the responses offered in terms of the institutional principles and designs.

Social policy as a privileged field for professional intervention Although this text proposes to analyze the relationship between social policy and the professional intervention of social workers since the s, a brief historic incursion is necessary, considering that the professional alterations are inherited from past elements and the new functionalities contain traces of what came before them, which may be denied or consolidated. A review of the trajectory of the profession in Brazil since its institutionalization in the country to the time period that will be analyzed locates the professional intervention at the margin of the debate about the confrontation of social demands by Brazilian society, although with the presence of Social Work professionals among the ranks of State employees, especially at the federal level 4in addition to their insertion in systems 5 and organizations of a religious and confessional nature 6.

The functions performed by social workers since the s reveal a concern for the integration of individuals and the normalization of their conduct. There was no discussion of the relation of this with social policies, which were also not analyzed, either by Social Work or by other fields of knowledge. More serious issues with more complex theoretical explanations were not part of the common professional activity. The intervention of social workers converged on the institutional objectives of social integration and the reduction of "behavioral deviations".

The particular moment of Social Work should be considered, seeking its consolidation as a profession in a field that is supposedly considered as a worthy cause and one that undertakes actions aimed at organizing the demand for services and benefits offered by the public and private institutional apparatus. Debating the meaning of the functions in the handling of social issues, and of these along with structural and topical issues, was not a professional concern of social workers.

Until the mids, these functions were focused quite endogenously at the interior of Social Work, on the processes and methods of intervention, autonomously from institutional instances.

Internationally, they were related to issues concerning development and social progress as a natural trajectory to be followed by countries that at the time were considered underdeveloped. Since the second half of the s, in an environment of great expectations, due to the post-war development philosophy and the first development plans underway, while Social Work incorporated the philosophy, it also recognized a need to review its theory, posture and methods, as a condition for better integrating this process JUNQUEIRA,p.

The military dictatorship that took power in not only suffocated the debate about the directions of Social Work initiated in the s, but isolated the professional category from the movement of critical review experienced in Latin America. In terms of the relationship of the military dictatorship with the field of social protection, the state organization was used to expand the base of support for the military government through the provision of some social security benefits, and there was an expansion of national social programs.

The later expanded its range of action both geographically and in the scope of its protective activities. The provision of social welfare services and benefits, or the "handling of poverty", was restricted to civil society organizations usually of a confessional nature.

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With the rapid urbanization of the s, and the impoverishment of the population, demands for actions in the field of social protection reached state and municipal governments. The offer of services expanded, consolidating the public-private network, especially for the protection of children and adolescents. The number of professionals increased, and their action was polarized among initiatives for community development, attention to well-defined population segments and in government and non-governmental agencies.

The first state and municipal secretariats were created at this time to handle the new demands 7. The discourse of well-being was developed, echoing the international debate. There was an aggiornamento 8 of the profession, which came to assume a better defined function in terms of its legal-administrative position, and one that was apparently better qualified and in a better hierarchical position with the recently created institutions.

At the end of this period, isolated experiences brought a critical perspective to the activity of social workers, separating it from the dominant "technicist" discourse that stemmed both from U. The logic of the social programs and projects appears at the heart of the technical rational adopted at the time, and shaped the emergence of a planning process as a form of guiding and controlling the social changes.

Nevertheless, the method for formulation and accompaniment of state planning, at either the federal, state or municipal levels, was conducted in an isolated and non-systematic manner, always in terms of large objectives.

understanding relationship based social work its challenges and opportunities

This favored the autonomy of professional action, even when it diverged from the official dominant position, because the instances for control did not grasp the local and particular interventionist processes. It is interesting to note the beginning of the debate about social policy and its relation with professional conduct in the realm of the professional category. It raised a debate about the issue of social rights, taking strong positions on issues such as democracy and the exercise of liberty, social domination and practice and social rights.

The article identified a vanguard position that revealed criticisms of the process of professional education made by professionals. The criticisms were aimed at the execution of services on one hand, and on the other, the administration of social programs. At this time, social policy was being understood in its relation with the social question, and the creation of graduate programs favored a more critical reading of the Brazilian reality, while a Marxian perspective was gradually inscribed in the theoretical production of segments of the professional category.

The return to the state of law in brought new life to the profession, mainly with the approval of the Constitution inwhich incorporated the ideals of social rights, defining a perspective of ethical values that are dear to social workers, as well as a guarantee of universal social protection under the responsibility of the state, especially in the field of health care and social assistance.

Social Policy and Social Work: the challenges of professional intervention

Professional intervention was aimed at the implementation of national policies. First, soon after the end of the dictatorship, there was an identification between professional values and the constitutional measures related to social rights.

There was an asymmetry, however, between the practice of social workers, which continued to be that of previous times, and the new values, such as equality in the fruition of rights, democratic participation and universal protection, under the aegis of the state in some social policies. The convergence between the principles and values of Social Work and government policies did not last long.

The virtuous cycle was broken, in at least two senses — in the professional field and in the realm of national social protection policies. In the professional realm, the time needed was not found to reorder the practices from a perspective in keeping with the opportunities for the sedimentation of the social rights offered by the new moment. One of the possible explanations for this was the form of appropriation of the new curriculum at schools of Social Work, which was based on critical theory, which on the ethical plane, took a radical position on the side of the working class.

This minimum curriculum, approved by the Ministry of Education and Culture for the Schools of Social Work in to be implemented bywas incorporated in quite a heterogeneous manner by the universities, with adjustments that replaced the former practices with a new argumentative focus, as analyzed by Carvalho For this reason, the educational process reduced the changes in terms of professional intervention, which, combined with the expansion in the number of schools of Social Work, contributed to the maintenance of reiterative practices, although with a theoretical-methodological discourse that was apparently critical and conducive to the new Brazilian social protection paradigm.

Another great transformation in this field was related to the demands that were placed on social workers. These became complex, multifaceted, and expanded both qualitatively and quantitatively New socio-occupational spaces arose with two implications for the interventions of social workers. The first was the requirement for contextualization and to grasp the meaning of the new requirements, which because of their complexity, constituted fields of knowledge shared with various professional areas.

The deepening of this understanding unveiled the specificities of the professional areas involved, producing knowledge that must be incorporated to professional knowledge and action. The second was the requirement for institutional apparatuses that had a greater capacity to provide physical and operational support to the new demands, considering their diversification and expansion. In the institutional field, the global crises of Western capitalist economies led to a violent reduction of the emphasis on universalist and egalitarian ideals in the field of social rights, with these ideals substituted by the demand to focus on vulnerable populations and social risk, as preached by global development and finance agencies A divergence appeared between the definitions of social protection found in the Brazilian Constitution of and the operationalization of social policies and professional values.

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The consequence of this for professional intervention, as a result of the forms of operationalization of the social policies, soon become evident. The new nationally institutionalized models, which were quite rigid in terms of control of the implementation of social policies, which previously did not exist, reduced the relative autonomy of social workers. Their action was tied to bureaucratic procedures in the development of social programs and to constant requirements for the quantification of results.

The relative professional independence, resulting from their reading of the real conditions and from the implementation of actions linked to ethical values of the profession, was restricted because it was not possible to program actions, because they had become subject to administrative controls that sought the computerization of the implementation and evaluation phases of the sectorial social policies.

The functionality of the professional intervention in the field of social policies alters and conditions their content according to the possibilities of a given historic moment.

Therefore, the confrontation of the challenges in this field became a fundamental question for the ethical, theoretical and technical legitimacy of the profession. In this regard, the analysis of the results of studies about professional practice in different sectorial policies, and systematic contact with social assistants inserted in these policies has indicated the need to deepen knowledge about professional intervention, contextualizing it in the field of social policy.

This is because, upon introducing themselves to countless socio-occupational spaces, social workers must appropriate the debate about professional intervention in their field of knowledge and the need to place it in action.

This involves activating it in a field that is under extreme pressure from conflicting professional and societal projects in a dynamic that expresses public and private social contradictions and interests in the context of collective labor processes. In these circumstances, social workers face two crucial issues: In thesis, this means confronting the dilemmas that still persist in the debate about professional practice in Social Work 12 and that are revised in the new Brazilian scene.

In terms of professional autonomy, the development of critical social thinking and the postulation that the profession is inserted in the socio-technical division, allows advancing in the debate related to the condition of social workers as salaried workers. This condition imposes limits on the conduct of their work and consequently on the implementation of the professional project, confirming its relative autonomy, which is conditioned by social struggles between different social projects.

understanding relationship based social work its challenges and opportunities

That is, this autonomy can be expanded or compressed, depending on the social bases that sustain the social direction projected by the professional in his or her actions IAMAMOTO, Iamamoto indicates that the tension generated between the professional project, which designates that social workers are dotted with liberty and teleology, and their situation as salaried workers, when understood subjectively, is expressed through complaints about the distancing between the professional project and reality, or about the discrepancy between theory and practice.

In this analysis by Iamamoto, it is important to highlight the attention she gives to questions related to these expressions or to these "denunciations" which are: In recent years the concept of relationship-based practice RBP has become a way of articulating the centrality of the relationship between social workers and service users Ruch, Turney and Ward, ; Hennessey, ; Megele, ; Bryan and colleagues, RBP is not a method or an approach to social work that can be picked from a menu of alternatives; rather, it is at the heart of whatever approach might be adopted across different client groups and domains of practice.

A philosophical basis for relationship-based practice RBP is not technical, instrumental or methodological but confronts central philosophical questions around who we are and how we are with others. Philosophers have grappled with such questions over the years. Since the Enlightenment, that period of scientific and philosophical advance that swept Europe in the 17th and 18th centuries, which signalled the beginning of the modern period in history, human existence and action has been defined by the ability to reason.

This involved a corresponding assumption that human beings could separate off the mind from the body. Such dualism has since been a powerful driver of intellectual belief. It has percolated understandings of professions such as social work, where workers are encouraged to separate their personal from their professional selves.

Other strands of Enlightenment thinking, however, especially those of Scottish philosophers, questioned this turn to reason. David Hume, for instance, proclaimed that reason is but a slave to the passions — individuals acted not merely on reason or self-interest, but were drawn more instinctively by a notion of moral sentiment.

Nevertheless, it evokes responses that are relational and instinctive or embodied, rather than abstract and overly intellectual. Moving forward a couple of centuries, John Macmurray resurrected this concern about the relationship between reason and emotion, arguing that excessive rationality acts to marginalise the role of emotions in the human condition Fielding, Personal relations were also at the heart of Scottish psychotherapeutic thinking over the course of the 20th century Sharpe, Tronto draws on Scottish ideas of moral sentiment in her seminal work on care ethics, which has become an important strand in ethical thought across a range of academic and professional disciplines.

understanding relationship based social work its challenges and opportunities

Care ethics Care ethics have become an influential strand of moral philosophy. Gilligan identified two different approaches to moral reasoning: Since then, interest has grown rapidly and the scope of care ethics has extended beyond individual relationships to inform political debate Held, Care ethics entails a shift in focus away from rules and rights towards responsibilities and relationships.

There is, therefore, no one way of doing RBP. Care ethics are proposed by Meagher and Parton as offering an alternative to dominant managerial modes of practice in social work. Relationship-based practice and policy Increasingly, RBP can be found to resonate with the direction of Scottish public policy set out in the report of the Christie Commission Scottish Government, For example, policies such as Getting it right for every child GIRFEC emphasise the need to hear the voice of children and families in a spirit of openness and trust.

However, it is not just in children and families policy that the Christie principles resonate. They are also apparent inter alia in the Carers Strategy, the National Clinical Strategy and Community Justice and Mental Health initiatives, to the extent that they are now spoken of as reflecting a particular Scottish approach to public services.

RBP thus, potentially, becomes a cornerstone of social policy, percolating, not just individual relationships but the ways in which workers across different professional disciplines and wider communities interact and relate with one another.

Features of relationship-based practice RBP draws on psychodynamic ideas, most closely associated with Sigmund Freud and developed by others. These explain human personality and functioning in terms of conscious and unconscious desires and beliefs, feelings and emotions, based on life experiences, including early childhood. While RBP does not require a sophisticated understanding of the psychology behind this, effective social work requires that a worker tune into the emotional world of a client and be able to communicate this understanding within the relationship.

It also moves the concept of relationship beyond the individual to incorporate an awareness of contextual factors such as power, professional role, poverty, social exclusion and political ideology. A sense of purpose To stress the centrality of human relationships in social work is not to say that these are, in themselves, sufficient to ensure good practice.

Relationships are not intrinsically good or bad — they can be either. They exist in a mandated context and are formed for a particular purpose Ingram, — towards a client achieving positive change. But this is a challenge, partly because relationships are complicated and subject to a range of psychodynamic processes, which require that social workers understand and use themselves, centrally, within their work.

Beckett and Horner tell us that change comes about through relationships. Even in situations where programmed interventions are employed, their impact is secondary to the social worker—client relationship Nicholson and Artze, Qualities of hope and expectancy that change will occur are also implicated in successful outcomes.

understanding relationship based social work its challenges and opportunities

What clients want The literature gives clear messages of what clients value. Their conception of friendship identifies qualities of reciprocity of sharing aspects of oneself; of flexibility going the extra mile, perhaps through offering small gifts or maintaining contact out of hoursbut also straight talking.

Kleipoedszus suggests that relationships can be forged through conflict; genuine engagement and negotiation rather than artificial sensitivity make it possible for workers to encourage and nurture change rather than demanding it. Smith and colleagues identify the centrality of effective relationships even in work with involuntary clients.

In all of this, everyday acts of care and recognition are more important than formal standards and procedural requirements. Professionalism and relationships A renewed emphasis on relationships challenges many of the assumptions that have built up over what it is to be a professional. Professionalism is often associated with certainty, expertise and theoretical knowledge Brodie and colleagues, Noddingshowever, distinguishes between professionalism and professionalisation.

She suggests that the latter is the result of a codified and rule-bound conception of professionalism that derives from a quest for status.

There is, however, little connection between such rule-bound professionalisation and positive outcomes. Indeed, it can create a distance between social workers and clients, that a more relational form of professionalism might work to reduce.

understanding relationship based social work its challenges and opportunities

Murphy and colleagueson the other hand, suggest that the professional role significantly compromises the ability to form genuine relationships. Part of the difficulty in reconciling different understandings of professionalism is the tendency in the UK to conceive of separate personal and professional selves.

Practice traditions such as social pedagogy introduce a third element, the private. This poses challenges for workers and for organisations that operate to a narrow understanding of what constitutes acceptable personal and professional boundaries Maidment, It is important to distinguish between boundaries, which are dynamic and can be deployed flexibly, and barriers, which are static and prioritise consistent application.

In practice, individual practitioners act in ways that might be thought to be subversive of practice norms Alexander and Charles, Coadyfor instance, offers examples of the kind of flexibility required in negotiating everyday care practices.