Tag Archives: Social work

The Urgency in a Moment: A Call for Critical Self–Reflection And Action

Social work has often been reluctant to recognise the part we play in the sustaining of societal injustice. We have preferred to address racism and other discrimination at a practice level. Whilst this is important, we also need to address the systemic and institutional pathways within our profession. The responsibility for working to address the harms of racism within social work continues visibly to be held by Black leaders. Yet as Tedam states,

‘If anti-racism is concerned with identifying, challenging and changing the values, structures, and behaviours that perpetuate systemic racism, then It is crucial that all social workers show commitment and are involved in this process’ (2020: 104).

In Shattered Bonds, published in 2002, Professor Dorothy Roberts wrote specifically about black children in ‘care’ in the US and the experiences of their families. Shattered Bonds demonstrates how racism and poverty function to create a ‘child welfare’ system that can is harmful to individuals but moreover causes harm to whole groups. When, for example, every pregnancy in a family is scrutinised by professionals, every child grows up understanding their family, their community, themselves as fundamentally deficient. In this way group-based harms and injuries are sustained.

The analysis Dorothy offers can be seen to apply far beyond the African American experience. Dorothy engages at the end of Shattered Bonds with the Native American experience, and with the way that child removal very deliberately contributed to the piece-by-painful piece dismantling of indigenous Aboriginal communities and culture in Australia. The argument applies to many communities in the UK today. Including Roma and Gypsy communities in the UK who have been met and continue to be met with high levels of supervision, discipline and interference from the state. Black families in the UK have suffered from insensitive and inappropriate social work responses. As Professor Claudia Bernard and Professor Anna Gupta wrote over a decade ago, ‘the complex social circumstances experienced by many African families pose challenges for parents and children, as well as professionals working to safeguard and promote children’s welfare’ (2008: 486).

The catalyst for considering Shattered Bonds as the text for a possible reading group was an exchange on Twitter that evolved into a conversation between Dr Amanda Taylor-Beswick and  Dr Ariane Critchley. This arose from the crossover between Professor Roberts’ work and that of Ruha Benjamin, Professor of African American Studies at Princeton University. Professor Roberts and Professor Benjamin are both critical scholars engaged with the social dimension and foundation of aspects of society. Whereas Professor Benjamin has been lauded for her consideration of technology and AI in relation to race, Professor Roberts’s work has focused on how race is constructed and racism is perpetuated within medicine, reproduction, and child welfare. Both gave a talk for Haymarket Books in July 2020, which was of interest to the team who organised the Shattered Bonds book group, since it brought together all of our different specialisms.

Social Work Book Group was chosen as the most suitable mechanism for an event that would bring social work together to discuss this book, and the issues within it pertinent to UK Social Work Education and Practice. Social Work Book Group is a collective reading group, created and maintained by Queens University Belfast (QUB) Social Work academic Dr Amanda Taylor-Beswick. Amanda notes that the Shattered Bonds event is the largest book group event to date. Social Work Book Group was designed several years ago by Dr Taylor-Beswick to share and consolidate learning between students, practitioners, researchers and academics in social work and related disciplines. Laura Farling a Learning Technologist within QUB’s Faculty of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences (AHSS) provided the digital expertise necessary to host an event of this size and kind. Over 200 people signed up for the event, which was planned to occur simultaneously on an audio-video platform and the Social Work Book Group book Twitter feed. Laura provided book group participants with a virtual tour of QUB, whilst everyone settled into the virtual spaces before setting off on what was an explorative and grounding learning journey.

Shattered Bonds deals with issues of racism within the American child welfare and ‘care’ system. This topic provoked lively debate and discussion before, during and after the event, with social work practitioners, students, academics and people who have life story experience in diverse settings discussing the extent to which Professor Roberts’ analysis holds. You can catch some of the key points by clicking on this link #ShatteredBonds. Essentially what participants were grappling with is the central question: is social work complicit in sustaining racist practices within society? This naturally provoked a follow-up question: if so, what are we going to do about it? This question really is at the heart of this event and this subsequent blog.

Professor Roberts opened book group with a short reading from her opening chapter; a reading that despite our physical distance, created a powerful and emotive atmosphere in the shared space. This space allowed for free discussion of the potential harms created by social work for families who are marginalised.

There are so many moving parts here in the UK, in terms of child poverty, white privilege, the past and ongoing harms of the concept of ‘Empire’ and our difficulties in facing up to these. So, the task we have in addressing the deep-set problems within social work, and especially in the child protection and criminal justice systems, can feel overwhelming. However, it is open to us to acknowledge and build on the work of Black scholars across the world, to better understand how racism, and other inequalities, are creating problems for the families we serve. As Wayne Reid has highlighted, ‘social work must continue to promote anti-racism long after the media focus on Black Lives Matter has gone.

Black families, minority ethnic communities, and the individuals within them need and deserve safety and freedom in our society and are simply not experiencing those basic rights in relation to child welfare and criminal justice in particular, but also in relation to their access to culturally sensitive social care support when needed. No amount of anti-oppressive training of White social workers who benefit from White privilege will address this unless we are also prepared to begin to dismantle the manifestations of that privilege at a structural level. Responsibilising individual practitioners and Black leaders covers up the continuing harms of the system, and also harms them.

Given that White leadership and influence continue to dominate in social work, despite the diversity of our profession at the ‘frontline’ level, and naturally the diversity of the communities we serve, we believe this requires us to stand together. It requires us to be willing to analyse and change racist aspects of our institutions, systems, services and training. It is important to emphasise that Social Work Book Group has no political or activist agenda, beyond upholding the social work values and social justice aims defined by the International Federation of Social Workers.

Following the main Social Work Book Group event, and Dorothy’s readings, three small discussion groups were hosted to allow for reflection. The following is a snapshot of the views that emerged – which highlighted a number of significant issues and gaps research data. The argument for action is as follows:

  1. There is sufficient data to demonstrate clear inequalities in the UK system, and researchers in this field, most prominently the research group led by Professor Paul Bywaters are continuing to make the most of the aggregate data available to demonstrate trends in social work intervention.
  2. Useful comparisons are possible with the US, Canada, Australia and New Zealand where further good quality research has shown inequalities in social work intervention, decision-making, and differential outcomes. Calls for change have been evident in all these contexts.
  3. A body of work by Black scholars, including Professor Claudia Bernard, has demonstrated how race and social class intersect in the UK social work context, showing how the structures of power operate within systems.
  4. Links between poverty and inequality are well established by research. In the UK we are facing major recession and the impact of this on poor families is already being felt.
  5. Alternative ways of approaching social work that engage with and recognise the problem of poverty and inequality have already been offered in the UK, for example within child welfare the ‘Social Model’ advocated for by a group of academics including Professor Anna Gupta and Professor Brid Featherstone is well-known within the field.
  6. Research funding is itself highly politicised and continues to operate in ways that side-line Black and minority academics and their work. Furthermore, much research knowledge created within the academy continues to sit behind a paywall, and is under-democratised. The research we do need is co-created research from the perspective of people experiencing social work services.
  7. There continue to be tangible harms involved in growing up and being Black in the UK; the harms of racism and also the harms of dealing with racism. Research into these harms is much less audible in the current practice and policy landscape.

Whilst Social Work Book Group offered a hugely valuable opportunity to connect and join together in reflection, we also shared our collective responsibility to act. Our perspective is that we have sufficient evidence to demonstrate a need for change and to provide directions for change. Certainly, we need better data, but waiting for more data only allows the problems we know exist to be sustained. We need change.

Please make a start by purchasing Professor Roberts’ book Shattered Bonds.

Social Work Academics it seems remiss of us not to have Professor Roberts’ book on every reading list across the five nations of the UK & Ireland.

We are interested to continue the conversation and welcome ideas about how we might. We are also keen to think about how as a collective we can work together better towards the changes we need to make.

Dr Ariane Critchley, Dr Amanda Taylor-Beswick, and Beverly Barnett-Jones, MBE.


Here, There and Everywhere: The Arrival of the Digital Professionalism ‘Interactive’ Mapping Tool for Social Work Students, Practitioners and Academics

* Please note that this blog was updated (Jan 12th 2020) by a social work student colleague, and again by me on April 19th, 2021 – with updates to the Digital Professionalism Mapping Tool and the CoActEd Learner Personal Learning Network Mapping Tool

Please scroll below to read a well considered reflection on the use / usefulness of the mapping tool by Cheryl 

This short blog outlines an update to the Digital Professionalism Mapping Tool for Social Work, previously discussed here, here and here.

Those who have already read the blogs and publication (highlighted above) will know that I developed the Digital Professionalism Mapping Tool (based on the work of David White) to enable social work students, practitioners and educators to review their technology usage and presence online; as related to the professional standards and ethics of the profession. The tool has been received positively across the profession, and indeed by other professional groupings as they think about what Turner describes as the ‘brave new world’ (2015). Regardless of the enthusiasm expressed about the usefulness of the tool, I had never been quite satisfied with how it was or could be accessed. I had always been niggled by the fact that it was predominantly a paper-based activity that ironically reviews presence and activity online. And whilst that has been ‘ok’, I wanted to offer a more accessible alternative.  Something that I had never got around to sorting out until now.

I was recently introduced to Laura Ridings, a new appointment to the University of Central Lancashire, located within the TELT team. Laura is a graphic designer and a former teacher, turned e-learning developer. A wonderful combination of creativity, pedagogy and technological skill; and the most pragmatic ‘nerd’ (her word not mine) that I have ever met. Within hours of me sharing my ‘wants’ she had produced a more realistic version of my ‘needs’; in other words taken the Digital Professionalism Mapping Tool online and turned it into an interactive tool.

I am sharing the updated version of the tool here … in the hope that it will remain useful as social work education and practice continue to navigate the issues and possibilities of the digital shift.

As you can now use the tool here, there and everywhere please let us know what you think in the comments box below or on Twitter @amltaylor66 and @LRidingsUCLan



My name is Cheryl Bardell and I am a student on a BA (hons) Social Work degree apprenticeship, and was introduced to the Digital Professionalism ‘Interactive’ Mapping Tool as part of my Introduction to Social Work Practice module. Having worked with Children’s Services for over four years, and worked with children and young people for the last fourteen years, all my previous training around the use of technology was centred on how young people use social media, and heavily biased to it potentially having a negative impact on them by exposing them to possible grooming and exploitation, and poor self-image and mental health. I had never really considered, let alone reflected, on how my use of digital technologies fits in with, and impacts, my practice.

As well as recording ‘what’ I use, I realised that the tool allowed me to think about the ‘size’ of my use and how this is divided between both personal and professional use. I chose to draw a box around each site/application to visualise what my use “looks like” and the breadth of functions each site fulfils for me. The best example of this would be Facebook; I had always thought that my use of Facebook was strictly “personal”: keeping in touch with friends and family, news from my community and the wider world etc.; but a quick scroll through my newsfeed highlighted that I am following a large number of pages directly related to my work including local services and resources, charities, and blogs thus impacting on and informing my practice. Also, considering whether I’m a visitor or a resident enabled me to consider the time spent on the site and how active my participation is. My use of WhatsApp is polarised; I use it as a Professional to communicate with some of the families I work with, particularly young people, but my use of it is limited whereas my personal use of it is far greater, for this reason I chose to plot it on the quadrant twice to clearly differentiate its two functions for me.

Moving forward with my studies and as my practice develops, it would be interesting to repeat this tool to see whether there are any changes. I’d hope that the range of sites and technologies I use grows and evolves in a way that enables me to become a knowledgeable practitioner better equipped and informed to support the people I work with and for.

Thank you Cheryl. I very much appreciate the time you’ve taken to reflect further on your use of the digital professionalism mapping tool. I really like the way you’ve used colour and shape to illustrate usage. It adds an interesting aspect to the visual representation of choices and presence online.

Once you’ve completed your comparative mapping you might like to sole author a blog post on your digital learning and development. I’d be more than happy to host that blog here.

Thank you once again for this very well articulated piece of work 👌

The unintended impacts of I Daniel Blake

I Daniel Blake first came to my attention whilst scrolling through the local theatre listings, on what was a fairly drab Saturday afternoon, set aside for data analysis. Many of you will recognise and maybe even appreciate the avoidant behaviours of this early stage researcher. However, in my defence, I am sure that I’ve heard it argued that it is within these avoidant moments that the most useful unintended happenings arise… and arise they did.  There was little in the brief synopsis of the Ken Loach  film that suggested an epiphany of any kind could occur, or that justified the abandoning of my analysis. In truth I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. I just remember being quite curious and booking tickets for what looked like an interesting watch.

Interesting it was. The opening scene (I Daniel Blake Trailer) included a series of intrusive questions, delivered in a manner that even the most saintly amongst us would struggle to ‘hear’. This set the tone for what was an incredibly challenging watch. The story that unfolded stopped me, literally, in my #digitalbydefault tracks! A term that I had become so familiar with through the writing of The LearningWheel Book.  Indeed on reflection perhaps far too familiar with.

My encounter with Loach’s work forced me to revisit my responsibilities as a social work academic interested in digitalisation, and to reexamine the idea of knowledge impact relating to my current research project. The study outlined, stemmed from anxieties about the preparedness of the profession to contain and respond to the digital shift, and ironically here I was faced with its realities. Cue justification for my doctoral tardiness. As I navigate this study I remain, more now than ever, acutely aware of the speed of digitalisation and the UK Governments drive to default to the digital by 2020.

As I travel around England working with Local Authorities at various stages of their digital journeys , I am frequently reminded of the need to provide opportunities and methods through which digital knowledge gaps can be explored. As a result I have developed a Digital Professionalism Mapping Tool for Social Work.

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Click on the link to access and download the tool: Digital Professionalism Mapping Tool.

This mapping tool has been adapted (with permission) from the work of David White  , who is keen for his original method to be used across disciplines for the purposes of reflection – as noted below.

“You can find out about the ‘standard’ V&R mapping process here which is an effective method of making visible individuals’ engagement online. This process has been used by people in various contexts globally with one of my favourites being by Amanda Taylor with Social Work students. This starts from the principle that if we now, at least in part, live online then Social Workers need to be present in online spaces (or at least understand them as somewhere people are present)” White, (nd). 

David provides this example of mapping digital usage and presence online  

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As you can see, David’s use of technologies and online presence bridges both the professional and personal, but as an academic this is less likely to be cause for concern. For social work the implications of blurring professional boundaries has always been acutely felt, however how often do we consider how worlds might collide in the online, or the ramifications of this?

Social work as profession is starting to see and feel the impacts of the digital shift. Therefore the social in social work, once again, needs re-thought. We need to think more about how technologies are permeating our lives and therefore the lives of those we serve. I Daniel Blake outlines a set of circumstances that are becoming increasingly familiar in practice.  In addition to this, are issues such as  sexual abuse, bullying or scamming that need considered in past, present and future terms, to enable us think about what has changed due to the involvement of technologies.  Furthermore, to enable us consider what might constitute an appropriate practice response to issues emerging in the networked age.

Practitioners are set to see a steep rise in the use of technologies, both as tools of the trade but also influencing how issues present. Before we can even begin to deal with the practice issues, like and similar to those mentioned above, we need to address the digital capabilities of the profession. The Digital Professionalism Mapping Tool is one viable option. It is designed to assist students, academics and practitioners to chart or as White explains ‘make visible’ (nd) the range of tools and online platforms they use and the various purposes for which they use them. It helps to identify those practices that may maintain or perhaps blur professional boundaries.  The Visitor – Resident axis provides a context in which to define the tools that are being used, with the Professional – Personal axis positioned to consider where the tools, platforms or technologies are being used. Reflecting on their own digital maps, students, academics, and practitioners can then consider if said usage might in any way impact upon perceived professionalism and public trust.

It appears, from the Twitter Hashtag #IDanielBlake, that a significant proportion of the social work profession have now seen the film. If you are a social work practitioner, an academic, a student social worker… indeed linked to social work in any way and haven’t seen, it I would suggest that you do… and you do so as a matter of some urgency. I would also urge students, academics and practitioners to consider their own digital journey as related to the requirements and standards for practice so that attention to digital professionalism can be evidenced as part of ongoing professional development.

Reflective prompts to help populate your map:

  • Which technologies do I use and for what purpose?
  • Which do I use in my personal life?
  • Which do I use in my professional life?
  • Is there any crossover between the professional and personal and if so what are the benefits or ramifications of this?
  • What has this mapping of my online behaviours and practices shown?
  • How might I address any knowledge gaps?

I hope you find this tool as useful as I have. I have found it particularly helpful to thinking out how to make best use of my doctoral studies. Please feel free to share it and to get in touch @amltaylor66 should you have any questions or ideas for developing it further.




Social Work: the stories we tell …

This week in social work there has been many references to ‘story’ and calls for us to continue to rewrite it ‘with’ and for those we work with and for the profession itself.

I was reminded of this through Twitter and a post from @ProfJScourfield who was quoting @Brigid39  at the Child Welfare Inequalities Project @CWIP_Research Conference this week in the UK #cwipconf17 


Jonathan’s tweet struck a chord with me, and prompted me to reflect upon my contribution to the ‘story’ of social work. I pondered how if the story of social work were to be told what it might look like, who might it include and what people might think and feel if they knew it in its fullness. I wondered about where it began and unsurprisingly, amongst many others  Olive Stevenson  sprung to mind. I thought about how little I actually know of this story myself.

Well that was until this morning when this…


kind and unexpected (I had been meaning to order it for a while) gift dropped through the letterbox. The ‘Social Work in 40 Objects (and more)’ book captures the stories of students, practitioners, academics who have contributed to the story of social work thus far. Mark Doel has done an incredible job of collating part of our story in this book (you can purchased it by clicking here Kirwin Maclean Associates ) and through his blog which continues to grow.

Mark explains in his blog how the

“127 objects in the book are a gift to social work from all those who have proposed them. The book is also a gift: when you buy it, be aware that all royalties and profits from sales will go to NGO TARA Homes for Children in Delhi, India, to support work with street children” (2017)

As I leafed through the pages the hope, the compassion, the tenaciousness of my colleagues was palpable.

Social work, I am humbled by you and the stories you tell.  Often these are difficult, painful and tragic stories… frequently told by those outside of the profession who negate the context in which social work exists. That being said I love the way social media can and does communicate and connect the story. It illustrates the complexity and uncertainty of the story… mirroring, to a greater extent, practice realities. It shines a light on diversity… which makes me even more sure that it is within our differences that our strength lies.

I am honoured to have earned my right to practice as a social work professional. I am going to keep pondering the story, in the hope that I can make a useful contribution to it. I will of course be mindful of ‘how’ I communicate my contributions having carefully read the steely advice of Warren Belcher aka @ermate .







Using Book Groups in Social Work Education – Where we started, where we went and where we are going

Last night saw the last session of the Using Book Groups in Social Work Education Pilot, marking the end of an incredible journey and one that began with a few @UCLanSocialWork students in the library @UCLan.   The final session of @SWBookGroup @UCLanLIS looked slightly different in that we were joined by four Professors of Social Work, @Junethobu,  @Harr_Ferguson who lead the session and @AidanWorsley, @ivornadir, some #socialwork2014 academics, around 14 students, a practitioner and 1344 @SWBookGroup followers, a number of whom connected with us on-line.


We read the Olive Stevenson Book ‘’Reflections on a Life in Social Work: A Personal & Professional Memoir’’  providing us with time to look back on and think about  Olive’s words and works. http://www.olivestevenson.com/  It was a fabulous learning space as you will see if you follow the Book Group hashtag #swbk.  It was nice to hear June talk so fondly about Olive and how she remembered the times when Olive had used literature in her teaching.  We also discovered that June tutored our Executive Dean Aidan Worsley and examined the PhD of Nigel Thomas. So not only was it an evening where we shared thoughts and reflections about social work but also one where we thought about our history and learned more about our connections.


The live streamed meant that we were able to connect with @AngieBartoli leading a group of students in @UniNorthants ; @MartinK55 and @pearsemac with their students at GCU; @katekarban @GeraldineG3 and their students at @BradfordUni and a new group @CCCUSocialWork. Throughout the course of the pilot @ProfJScourfield has worked with groups of students at @CardiffMASW ; @KatharineDill with a group @QUB_DRN and @HannahnagroM with students @SWLancs.  We have had authors’ @Deb_M_Morgan and @_LisaCherry come along and share their work and thoughts with students and we have been incredibly well supported by @APSWUK with @ProfJScourfield, @Brigid39, @ProfSueWhite and @NEStanley all giving their time and energy to the project travelling to @UCLanSocialWork  to facilitate @SWBookGroup events.



So as you can see @SWBookGroup has gone from strength to strength but why you might ask? I think I will leave the tweet feedback #swbk and video links attached to answer that question:

Student Feedback:





A Storify capturing the History of Social Work Book Group:
The Use of Book Groups in Social Work Education






So what now? Book group continues to grow and in many forms within the #socialwork14 world. Here @UCLanSocialWork colleagues have just introduced the model into modules of learning, @CollegeofSW through @AnnieHudsonTCSW are taking this initiative forward as a CPD activity for its members and I am working with Principle Social Workers from across the UK to develop a template that they can use within their organisations with practitioners.  I am also working on another piece of writing further to my thoughts about Book Groups as a practice approach started in the Social Media in Social Work Education text
http://criticalpublishing.com/index.php/browse-by-subject-1/social-work/social-media-in-social-work-education.html Social Media in Social Work Education


@SWBookGroup will continue but this time around each University involved will host an event like we have @UCLanSocialWork.  Information about these events will be posted on the Book Group Twitter feed @SWBookGroup and if you want to get involved please get in touch.


Can I just finish by thanking EVERYONE, in whatever capacity, known to me or not, for any contribution you have made to this project; one that aimed to provide a unique way of teaching and learning but more importantly one that has hopefully gone some way to further connecting the #socialwork profession.


Social Care Curry Club up North

Social Care Curry Club has landed Up North,
27 in numbers who’d a thought.

How did this happen, why are we here,
Well again it’s a result of our digital sphere.

Two tweeting enthusiasts, George and Matt Knew how to nurture social care chat.

And starting from this dynamic two
Their great idea just grew and grew.

Now lovers of curry and social care
Tonight are meeting everywhere.

All major cities in the UK
And as far afield as  Vancouver way.

So make your choice then tuck right in
And tween each mouthful wag your chin

To share your views on social care.
Informed discussion and tasty fayre.