Effective Advocacy in Social Work

Books

Jane Dalrymple & Jane Boylan

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  • Front Matter
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  • SAGE Social Work in Action Series

    This book forms part of the SAGE Social Work in Action series, edited by Steven M. Shardlow.

    Copyright

    View Copyright Page

    Dedication

    For Rosemary and Pam

    About the Authors

    Jane Boylan is Senior Lecturer in Social Work at the University of Keele, England. Her research interests include advocacy, looked after children and children and young people's rights. She has published widely in the field of children's rights and advocacy, including Understanding Advocacy for Children and Young People (Open University Press, 2009) with Jane Dalrymple.

    Jane Dalrymple is a freelance trainer and consultant. She practiced as a social worker in children and family services for many years and ran a national advocacy service for five years. For the last 16 years she has worked as a senior lecturer on the social work course at the University of the West of England. She has published widely in the field of advocacy including Understanding Advocacy for Children and Young People (Open University Press, 2009) with Jane Boylan. Jane now works as an independent trainer across the UK and in Europe and assesses independent advocates.

    Acknowledgements

    We have been fortunate in undertaking this work to have had the support of colleagues, friends and our families. Special thanks are due to all those who have commented on draft chapters and given thoughtful advice and observations. Particular thanks go to John Pierson, Mo Ray, Pat Woolley, Kate Mercer and Beverley Burke who all read various chapters and gave very helpful feedback. We would also like to thank the students and practitioners for enthusiastically sharing their experiences which contributed to case material, in particular we would like to thank Nicola, Bev, Isobel, Michael and Becky. Special thanks to Emma Milman of SAGE for her patience and support throughout the writing process. Thanks are also due to Steven Shardlow who originally approached us to write the book. Finally, Paul and Ian for their tolerance, support and good food.

    The authors and publisher would like to thank the following for permission to reproduce copyright material in the form of extracts, figures and tables:

    • Figure 1.4 reprinted by kind permission of the Welsh Government.
    • Various extracts in Chapter 2 reprinted by kind permission of Joyce Rimmer.
    • Photo 2.1 reprinted by kind permission of the archive of the Institute of Medical Social Workers, Modern Records Centre, University of Warwick.
    • Photo 2.2 reprinted by kind permission of the National Portrait Gallery, London.
    • Derek's story in Chapter 3 reprinted with kind permission of Derek James and Advocacy Matters.
    • The extract from the research report in Chapter 3, Local authority children's rights services in Scotland, reprinted with kind permission of Susan Elsley.
    • Material in the ‘Motivation to be a social worker’ case study in Chapter 3 reprinted with the kind permission of Guardian News and Media Ltd.

    Introduction

    Advocacy has traditionally been a key element of social work practice (Coulshed and Orme, 1998; Payne, 2000a; Trevithick, 2005, 2012; Boylan and Dalrymple, 2009). It was identified as a central skill by the Central Council for Education and Training in Social Work (CCETSW) in 1995, an essential part of the social work role identified by the British Association of Social Workers (1996), and a key skill for social workers identified in the National Occupational Standards for Social Work (relevant for social workers in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland) where Key Role 3 states that social workers should support individuals to represent their needs, views and circumstances. An aspect of this role is to advocate with, and on behalf of individuals, families, carers, groups and communities (TOPSS UK Partnership, 2002). The Professional Capabilities Framework (TCSW, 2012) for social workers in England requires social workers to recognise and promote individual's rights to autonomy and self-determination (2012: 2) and advance human rights and promote social justice (2012: 4), and therefore we can see that effective social work advocacy is fundamental. However, while social workers recognise advocacy as an important feature of contemporary practice, they may feel less sure about how to translate the concept into action. This partly reflects the nature of social work today, which over recent years has become constrained by bureaucracy and proceduralisation of services and resources.

    The development of independent advocacy, particularly the provision of statutory advocacy, has also developed within the current climate of social work practice, and has contributed to the way social workers now view their advocacy role. Service users have fought vigorously over many years to have a voice in decisions concerning their lives and in how services are provided, and have been a significant force in promoting the development of independent advocacy services. As a consequence, advocacy in social work has been subsumed by independent advocacy, with debates between the independent advocacy sector and health and welfare professionals about what advocacy really is. We believe that independent advocacy has a crucial role to play in maintaining the participation rights of people using services. Service users and carers must have access to independent advocacy support when it is difficult, if not impossible, for social workers to take on an advocacy role. However, we also argue that social workers and other health and welfare professionals have a crucial role to play in promoting rights, participation and service user involvement, and that they should be reclaiming their advocacy role.

    The changing landscape of social work practice provides new opportunities for social workers to appraise their role as advocates. The introduction of more personalised responsive social care is one mechanism for supporting this approach in adult services. In children's services, more integrated approaches to service delivery mean that social workers are expected to familiarise themselves with the role of independent advocacy within a culture of shared working and joint responsibility. Such changes provide possibilities for independent advocacy services to become ‘partners’ in promoting the rights and voices of service users and carers, while maintaining their independence from service providers. Within this rapidly changing context of practice we argue for a culture of advocacy within social work where practitioners develop a critical awareness of when and how to use their advocacy skills appropriately.

    In this book we will contextualise the concept of advocacy through an examination of the changing social work role alongside legal and policy requirements for service user involvement and advocacy/representation in decision making. We will explore the challenges that social workers face as advocates through consideration of three broad approaches to thinking about advocacy theory and practice: acting as advocates; supporting self-advocacy; and facilitating access to independent advocacy. Theoretical frameworks that inform social work advocacy will be examined, and ways of working with service users in order to ensure that their needs and views are represented will be explored. This will enable social workers to develop a critical awareness of how and when they can intercede as advocates. Through the use of case studies we will also consider issues for social workers in assessing when and how they might work with an independent advocate. The rationale for this book emanates from messages from research about advocacy practice, the need for service users to have access to independent advocacy, and advocacy in social work. The traditional advocacy role of social workers is located alongside discourses of rights, participation and service user involvement. These will be examined alongside policy imperatives that promote independent advocacy.

    We begin in Chapter 1 by considering definitions of advocacy and examine the various approaches to advocacy in order to promote critical awareness about the parameters and limitations of social work advocacy. This will entail discussion about definitions of advocacy, the relationship between advocacy and social justice, and exploration of the way in which social work advocacy can effect change. Readers will be encouraged to consider how they can draw on models of advocacy in order to develop their advocacy role as social workers.

    In Chapter 2 we go on to contextualise social work advocacy, providing a historical backdrop in which to locate social work and advocacy. The traditional role of social workers is examined, and the development of practice from ‘doing on behalf of’ to working alongside service users and carers is considered. The chapter begins with consideration of the historical context of practice and the development of legislation to include service users and carers in decision making and rights to have access to independent advocacy. It includes a timeline which highlights some key developments in social work and advocacy.

    Chapter 3 provides a critique of the reviews of social work roles undertaken in all four nations of the United Kingdom. The chapter explores some of the commonalities and differences between the reviews and the relationship between various discourses within the legal and policy context and how these ideas inform practice. This is followed in Chapter 4 by an examination of advocacy skills. The chapter focuses on the principles of advocacy and how they can be integrated into the process of assessment, planning, intervention and review.

    We move on in Chapter 5 to consider the role of social work advocacy in promoting partnership and participation with service users and carers. The chapter will also consider the challenges of partnership working within inter-disciplinary teams where the professionals involved may have different perspectives about promoting service user voice. Chapter 6 goes on to look at advocacy across the life course. Within the changing context of social care practice various forms of advocacy practice have developed with different service user groups such as young people, vulnerable adults and older people in various situations including transitions, immigration and criminal justice. We will highlight the commonalities in promoting service user voice as well as considering different knowledge and skills needed in particular situations.

    Research indicates that service users and carers have found complaints procedures inaccessible and difficult to use. This is reflected in the statutory right to independent advocacy in relation to representations and complaints procedures. In Chapter 7 we will therefore consider the tensions for social workers and services users when a complaint has been made. This will include discussion about accountability and creating open organisations through using complaints systems for improving practice. The historical use of advocates to support service users making a complaint will be examined as well as the impact this has had on the relationship between independent advocacy and social work practice.

    Chapter 8 looks at legal and policy mandates for independent advocacy and the place of independent advocacy in social work practice. Finally, Chapter 9 draws on the arguments developed through the book to demonstrate that social work advocacy is an essential element of social work practice. Developing a culture of advocacy provides the opportunity for social workers to be activists: dynamic rather than reactive practitioners. Reclaiming advocacy in social work is a step towards ensuring that the experiences of service users and carers are valued, and form the bedrock of social work policy and practice which makes a difference in the lives of the people who need to use them.

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