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Case Study: The Durrants - Module 1: What is Social Work? - Diploma in Social Work StudiesThe four components of good practice in social work are: Knowledge, Skills, Values and Process.
These four components will be reviewed in more detail later in the course but for now this section considers these four components by using the social world as a lens through which the understand social work.
The case study will use the Durrant family and their social worker, Dev Sharma. Through the experiences of this family, you will explore the relevance and importance of ‘knowledge’ in social work, as opposed to common sense alone.
Social workers cannot afford to take a simple common sense approach to their work. Their actions in people's lives are taken on behalf of society and can have profound consequences for the individuals concerned.
As paid professionals, social workers have to be able to explain their roles and their interventions in people's lives to service users, their relatives, managers, employers, other agencies and workers and ultimately to policy makers. In other words they are ‘accountable’ as professionals for their practice. In this section, the case study will illustrate the process of social work practice and highlight some of the knowledge, values and skills involved at each stage.
The case study is based on a real-life incident, narrated during two long interviews about her life by the woman we have called Lynne Durrant. However, it is not real but a reconstruction, dramatised to ensure no one can recognise the people or the places named, and some details have been changed.
The drama introduces Lynne Durrant, a single woman in her forties, who lives with Arthur, her father. Arthur is insulin-dependent and he depends on others to meet many of his physical needs. As a child, Lynne was certified as being a ‘mental defective’ in the language of the time and excluded from school on those grounds. Although she now has a job, she is still known to social services as a person with a learning disability.
This case study gets to the core of what the main tasks of social work are:
• identifying need
• providing support services to people who may be vulnerable
• intervening to protect service users from the risk of harm by the provision of services.
Arthur's needs are assessed by his social worker, Dev Sharma, and the care service he receives enables him to stay in his own home. Lynne receives some support from her disability employment worker, Rita. Lynne and Arthur are also dependent upon each other, despite the fact that they could both be defined as being ‘vulnerable’ or having ‘needs’. Without the informal care they provide for each other, they would be likely to need a higher level of care and support from social services.
Questions to ask yourself:
Do you think that people like Lynne and Arthur have a right to the services they receive free or do you think they should pay for them? By ‘free’ we mean services funded by the government from taxation.
Do you think that the informal care provided by both Lynne and Arthur is a natural part of family responsibilities or do you wonder whether Dev is allowing Arthur or Lynne to live in a risky situation, maybe influenced by the fact that any alternative would be more expensive? A safer, but possibly more expensive, option might be residential care for Arthur and sheltered accommodation for Lynne.
There are no clear answers to these questions.
Responses are influenced by the government's interpretation of the values and wishes of society which are translated into legislation and then into policy and procedural guidance for social workers. Legislation forms the basis for the funding and provision of services and sets out the areas where social workers may intervene in people's lives. Changes in either the political party in power or indeed in the beliefs of the same political party while in government can lead to changes in legislation and policy.
Social work exists because there is a broad consensus in society that we have a responsibility to offer support and protection to the most vulnerable members of the community, and that it is important to combat social disadvantages and improve the life chances of the most underprivileged people in society.
We are willing to pay for this service through taxation for various reasons: social conviction, caring attitudes about the disadvantaged or because we know that without such actions to address inequality, society can become unstable and crime rates may well increase. Without an acknowledgement that vulnerable groups exist or a willingness to pay for services for them, the social work profession could not operate in its present form.
In the following two pages listen to the Durrant case study in the audio clips. As you listen, think about how the family's local community or society more broadly might feel about providing support funded by the public to Lynne and Arthur. You may want to listen through a couple of times and then write down your ideas.