Social Work Essay Sample

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This essay will look at the Smith family case study and a genogram to represent the family structure. Issues of children and families will be discussed, applying social policy and law in the framework of interventions used by social workers. The first part of this essay will identify the legal options available to Paul and the legal considerations taken into account by the court before making any decisions. The essay will look at the local authority’s general and specific duties towards the Smith’s family, consider professionals and agencies that could play a part in the social welfare of the family and show differences between powers and duties of the local authority with examples from case study. The second and largest part of the essay will outline how differing ideological perspectives could influence the assessment of the family’s needs and the provision of services. This essay will conclude revealing the common grounds of ideological differences over welfare (Baldock 2007 p80). Part A

As Paul contacts a solicitor, he will be advised to apply to the courts for parental responsibility (PR) under s.4(1)(b). PR is defined as all the rights, duties, powers, responsibilities and authority which by law a parent of a child has in relation to the child and his property s.3(1) (Brammer 2007 p.217). S.4(1)(a) of the Children Act 1989 allows Paul to acquire parental responsibility even when he is not married to Joan due to children’s jointly registered birth certificates. Paul may apply for s.8(1) orders such as a ‘contact order’, he may also apply for a residence order under s.11(4) hence acquiring (PR) (Brammer 2007 p.220). Upon receiving Paul’s petition, the court’s paramount consideration will be the children’s welfare s.1(1) (Hardy 1997 p.225). The court will consider s.1(5) ‘no-order’ principle and s.1(2) ‘non-delay’ principle and all parts of s.1(3) of the welfare checklist before making any legal decisions (White et al 2007 p.39). The ascertainable wishes and feelings of the child concerned are also considered in light of his or her gillick competency (Brammer 2007 p.192). Hence the court will consider key legislation under the Adoption and Children Act 2002 or the same principle under Children Act 1989 (Laird 2010 p233). The Local Authority (LA) has general duties with respect to children in need under s. 17(1)(a) of the Children Act 1989, to safeguard and promote their welfare, assessing and reviewing their needs (Fishwick 1996 p.61).

Also as general duties towards the family the (LA) must promote wherever possible the children’s upbringing by their families s.17 (1)(b), and must provide services to a child in need such as accommodation under s.17(3) (White et al 2007 p.45). The (LA) may offer a range of services listed in schedule. 2 para 8 (a-e) such as advice, guidance and counselling, home help, help with travel to enable families to use services, arrangement for holidays under sched 2 para 8, placement in family centres under sched 2 para 9, day care provision under s.18, and accommodation under s.20(1) (Fishwick 1996 p.62-65). The (LA) can also provide occupational, cultural and recreational activities and in exceptional circumstances help with cash under s.17(6) (White et al 2007 p.45). A (LA) is not under any absolute duty to meet the assessed needs of children. However they must act reasonably as a total failure to meet an assessed need, absent rational justification is likely to be challenged. Professionals such as the health visitor who has already had contact with the family, social workers, teachers, GPs and youth workers are all helpful in gathering information necessary for assessment of children’s needs.

The necessity to work together gained clear recognition in guidance such as Working Together to Safeguard Children (DoH, 1999e, 2006c) and No Secrets (DoH, 2000f). The Children Act 2004 develops partnerships between professionals and agencies further, with a view to improve children’s well being. Children’s services authorities and their relevant partners, which include district councils, police, probation boards, Youth Offending Teams, health authorities and Connexions are all needed for gathering information for an assessment of the family and children’s needs. As part of the Local Authority’s (LA) specific duties it shall carry out an assessment for community care services under s. 47 of the National Health Service and Community Care Act 1990 or s.12A of the Social Work (Scotland) Act (Wilson et al 2008 p199). The Local Authority’s specific duties are as follows: a) they must identify children in need who are in the area under Sched. 2 para 1(1) and b) publish the information about services available to them Sched. 2 para 1(2)(a)(i), c) they must arrange day care provision for children aged 5 and under s.18(2) and d) the (LA) must not discriminate different racial/ cultural groups (Fishwick 1996 p.18).

The (LA) has the power to assess Joan’s situation to have the children taken into care but they are not obliged to do so, because power allows discretion while duty is imperative (White et al 2007 p.102). The Adoption and Children Act 2002, para.s.4.(2) says (LA) has the power, at the request, to carry out an assessment of a person’s needs for adoption and support services (Wilson et al 2008 p199). Concomitantly it shall be the duty of every (LA) to promote social welfare by making available advice, guidance and assistance on services such as housing. Children Act 1989 s.20 (1) ensures that every (LA) shall, as a duty provide housing for any child in need within their area. Even though Joan has automatic (PR), she is struggling to provide care for her children giving (LA) the duty under s.7 of the (LA) Social Services Act 1970 on safeguarding children to provide her children with accommodation. The (LA) has powers to remove them from Joan their primary carer to attempt to find family placements with relatives or friends before opting for foster care (Laird 2010 p153). Local authorities have the power to provide family support, day care and educational provision for young children (Brammer 2007 p.207).

Part B
An ideology is a composition or collection of ideas and philosophy of the world, human nature, morality, society and politics expressing the interest of a particular social group, providing an agenda within which to examine issues and to recommend future actions with a relationship to politics (Alcock et al 2008 p185). Needs are regarded as the main underlying reason for developing social policies by traditional proponents who have occupied the middle ground between the Left and the Right (Baldock 2007 p.79-80). Need is often described by some scholars as some kinds of problems which people experience with a requirement of a response or solution (Smale et al 2000 p.84). Some scholars say needs are a relationship between poverty and inequality involving study of power due to scarce resources (Blakemore 1998 p.31). The power relationship arises because while clients need resources, the agency has the discretion over their distribution (Davies 1985 p.95).

The centre of debates about welfare provision has been influenced by the ideology of needs as growing demands on policy or public expenditure has also been expressed in terms of increased need (Bryson 1992 p.122). Goals of policy interventions are often aimed at meeting needs and the needs to be met have generally been identified as those that alternative institutions as the market and family have failed to meet (Mead et al 1997 p.47-49). According to Bradshaw there are four types of needs, one of them is the normative need which is usually set by experts and used as a standard to determine benefit criteria (Blakemore 1998 p.31). The comparative need used to match with others who are not in need has been most commonly used in comparing social problems in differing areas in order to figure out the most deprived areas (Alcock et al 2003 p.321). Relative poverty is usually defined when comparing poor people with others in society. The Copenhagen Declaration defines absolute poverty as a severe deprivation of basic human needs such as safe drinking water, food, sanitation facilities, health, shelter, education and information (Bryson 1992 p.57).

Peter Townsend’s description of poverty is the absence or inadequacy of diets, amenities, standards, services and activities which are common or customary in society (Alcock et al 2008 p.15). There are scholars who believe that ideological perspectives are influenced by politics of welfare, with need being difficult to determine due to cultural relativities which sway judgement (Robert et al 1998 p.82). People with a lack of income and access to social services, that is ‘without the essentials of life’ fall under the definition of absolute poverty or subsistence poverty (Alcock et al 2008 p.132). Seebohm Rowntree’s research identified a poverty line on the basis of minimum needs (Robert et al 1998 p.215). Political views on welfare are often divided into left and right wing views. The left wing favours welfare, public provision, collectivist and institutional welfare while the right wing is against welfare and public provision as it supports residual welfare and is individualist (Baldock et al 2007 p.75). The main political positions which influence welfare ideas are Marxism, Conservatism, Liberal individualism, Socialism, Social democracy and fascism (Robert et al 1998 p.45).

Part of the grounds for the electoral victory of the Labour government in 1945 was its proposal to introduce state provision to meet welfare needs mentioned in Beveridge’s report of 1942 (Baldock et al 2007 p.8). Hence Labour had the intention to tackle the ‘five giant social evils’ termed ignorance, disease, idleness, squalor and want and remove them from British society (Alcock et al 2008 p.6). In 2008 the Department of Health stated that according to the Griffiths Report, basic principles for the provision of community care were set out in 1989 in the Government’s White Paper ‘Caring for People’ indicating that anyone needing health or social care because of problems associated with old age, mental illness or learning, physical or sensory disabilities, must be able to get care and support tailored to their personal needs (McDonald 2006 p.156). The welfare state in principle grants people with needs that are not being met, the right to expect them to be met by the state, or under its jurisdiction financially or legally (Baldock 2007 p81) The Left wing considers rights and obligations as a close part of its social policies, making sure that excluded groups have the rights to equal treatment.

The Left wing stands for groups such as women, ethnic minorities, future generations, disabled people to have their rights to a level of service proportionate to their needs (Baldock et al 2007 p82). Although under left wing people should not expect help from the state if they are poor, but to take paid work if they can, hence the Left traditionally favours state provision at levels not too far from basic adequacy (Robert et al 1998 p.56). Children could get help through social policy after the development of two major policy strategies namely Every child matters and Opportunity for all, with state provision for education to support learners to reach their full potential ( Alcock et al 2008 p.378). The left also has provision under National Health Service and Community Care Act 1990, where social workers assess individual needs for disabled people and arrange care packages, offering support to carers (Baldock et al 2007 p.191). The ‘welfare to work’ scheme which introduced Jobseeker’s Allowance, removing Unemployment benefit was a new social movement in ideologies of welfare as the government aimed at checking the rising levels of social expenditure (Alcock et al 2008 p.74).

Under the New Labour government, the new welfare contract between the citizen and government was aimed at helping individuals and families to realise their full potential, live a dignified life and have independence through work (Baldock et al 2007 p.366). Also part of the aim was to relieve poverty where it cannot be prevented, building a strong and unified society where rights are matched by responsibilities (DSS 1998 p.80). Free education of children up to age 15 (later 16), a national health service (NHS) free at the point of use, state promise to help people find employment and public housing provision (Alcock et al 2008 p.6). Government’s welfare reform included the New Deal for the young unemployed for six months, older age groups unemployed for longer periods and single mothers (Clark et al 2000 p.25). Classical liberals held the view that the role of the state should be minimised, state to intervene and regulate as little as possible, taking concern in the smallest possible area of social life (Alcock et al 2003 p.62.).

Meeting needs and fulfilling rights where resources are limited raises distribution and rationing questions of whether justice is being met in social distribution, in theory a just provision of welfare means the equal meeting of equal needs (Baldock et al 2007 p83). Territorial injustice is caused by geographical and cultural peculiarities and noticeable when comparing needs for very unlike services therefore relative injustice can be created when figuring out what to devote to education or healthcare (Bryson 1992 p.186-7). In healthcare the relationship between poor health and poverty is apparent and healthcare services are not equally available to all sections of the population (McDonald 2006 p.139). However in an effort to tackle some health inequalities the Department of Health has recently funded research looking at people with dementia assessed by their local social services department (Moriarty and Webb, 2008). Social justice has been associated more strongly with ideologies of the Left and the new social movements, making arguments in favour of equality achieved through positive policy interventions (Blakemore 1998 p.9).

John Rawls’ model of justice suggests that a society could be planned as though people were behind a veil of ignorance then choosing a fairly equal society, without large disparities of wealth and income, hence Rawl’s idea of justice and equality is a popular and democratic approach to the rationing of scarce resources ((Baldock et al 2007 p.84). The right wing feels that justice is more concerned with civil equality under the law, with a laissez-faire approach to social planning, in which inequalities could be allowed to arise spontaneously (Robert et al 1998 p.304). After social policy interventions, if differences between people are less in terms of their welfare, it means equality of outcome (Baldock et al 2007 p.85). On the other hand equality of opportunity arises when everyone gets equal support and help, but afterwards inequalities are allowed to multiply as individuals make what they can out of their opportunities of education, employment, income, housing et cetera(Blakemore 1998 p.70).

The left has had a much undecided stance to the question of equality, supporting equality of outcome in principle, but in practice adopting equality of opportunity in its policies (Baldock et al 2007 p85).The Right has also been inconsistent on issues of equality and merit for example in principle the conservative in the 1980s strongly supported equality of opportunity but not equality of outcome, yet in housing it enabled home ownership to millions of state tenants (Blakemore 1998 p.26). In higher education it engineered a major development of university provision for BA degrees to become widely in reach of working-class children in a more drastic method than ever before (Baldock et al 2007 p86). Neo-liberal ideology causes a considerable challenge for supporters of extensive systems of public welfare because they believe these systems are expensive, inefficient and unnecessary (Ellison 2010 ). Neo-liberalism has its roots in classical liberal thinking and in the writings of Adam Smith, for example they believe that support for single parents should be minimal because there is a trade off between alleviating suffering and encouraging the situation for more distress ( ).

Main ideas have changed little over time, neo-liberalism still believes in individual freedom and the free market while late twentieth-century neo-liberalism is closely linked with the work of Milton Friedman and Friedrich von Hayek (Bryson 1992 p.57). Friedrich von Hayek polished ideas of ‘negative liberty’ and the role of the free market to challenge socialist and social democratic conceptions of ‘social justice’ (Blakemore 1998 p.23). Neo-liberals campaign for extensive public welfare systems to be sharply cut back to eliminate bureaucratic waste, reduce taxation, allow better choice through private provision of goods and services and reduce welfare dependency (Ellison2010 p. ).Neo-liberal thinking contains critical flaws, for example, the idea of ‘negative liberty’ is unjustifiably classified and the trust in pure market solutions, particularly where welfare goods and services are concerned, may be misleading (Alcock et al 2008 p.62). Their failure to take into account that the socio-cultural dimension of welfare is important has raised criticisms.

Concurrently the conservative transformed themselves into a party of national unity and social reform by the 1870s ( ). Disraeli’s vision of a ‘One Nation’ Britain was underpinned by policies designed to steer a middle way between the extremes of liberal individualism and socialist collectivism ( ). In 1979 Thatcher and Major governments implemented new policies of privatisation and welfare pluralism ( ). According to Gilmour, Conservatives supported both private enterprise and private property, although it was mainly a party of national unity ( ). Hence the party abjured all forms of ideology as all ideologies support particular class interests. In 2006, the Conservatives launched a programme of policy reappraisal and ‘intellectual renewal’. They campaigned for growth in the economy, public sector, more equitable access to services and more local decision taking as preconditions for social well-being (Pinker 2010)The socialist perspective on social policy argues that capitalism as a social and economic system is naturally hostile to human wellbeing (Dean 2010 p. ).

The welfare state is regarded as an ambiguous phenomenon that benefits advantaged and working class people while also subjecting them to social control in the interests of capitalism ( ). The writings of Karl Max (1818-83) argued that human history has shown struggle between dominant and oppressed classes, he saw socialism as a way in which workers’ control could be exercised 9 Baldock et al 2007 p75). A classless or communist society where human needs could be wholly realised and properly fulfilled was a prediction of the future ( ). While liberalism champions individual freedom, socialism champions social equality. The Third Way perspective is another ideology of welfare best represented by the USA Clinton Democrat (1992-2000) and UK Blair New Labour (1997-2007) administrations (Alcock et al 2008 p.91).The Third way can be examined in terms of dialogue, values, policy goals and policy mechanisms and in practice shows a wide variety of new strategic goals and mechanisms which increasingly seem to draw upon neo-liberalism (Baldock et al 2007 p.701).

Some forms of Third Way policies were predicted to continue into Gordon Brown’s term of office as Prime Minister, and beyond (Powell 2010 p. ).The Third Way is a political dialogue built out of elements from other political discussions although it has created a new political language. Key slogans such as being tough on crime and the causes of crime, a hand up not a hand out, hard working families that play by the rule and work is the best route out of poverty (Robert et al 1988 p.221). In addition to new phrases there is a redefined language where old words have new meaning for example Third Way vocabulary- or’ New LabourSpeak’ has terms such as ‘full employment’ and ‘equality’ but with very different meanings from their traditional usage (Clark et al 2000 p.250). Ideology of wefare also has the feminist perspectives which focus on social policy supporting traditional gender roles and allowing their transformation (Alcock et al 2008 p.99). This ideology calls for gender inequalities which are noticeable in areas of income and resources of all kinds to be analysed in policy making.

The development of social policies is linked to both family and labour market change, and at household level to changes in family form and nature of contributions men and women make to families in respect of income and unpaid care work. Women’s relationship to state welfare tends to be more complicated than that of men as they are regarded as clients, paid and unpaid providers of welfare. Feminists would like men to undertake fatherhood obligations, but are concerned that typical family obligations have meant duties for women rather than men especially that of unpaid social care (Bornat et al 1997 p.126). Feminist ideology calls for setting up of the new Commission on Equality and Human Rights with an agenda to combat gender equality (Lewis 2010).

Beveridge has been much criticised by feminists, who have seen his report in agreement with the post war captivity of women to the domestic field, treating them for social security purposes as dependent on men. Beveridge’s report is argued to carry assumptions about male and female roles, with men as workers and earners, women as carers and home-makers (Bryson 1992 p167). However other scholars commend Beveridge for recommending pensions for couples (Bryson 1992 p168). A major piece of legislation was the 1975 Social Security Pension Act, passed by Harold Wison’s Labour administration which came into force in 1978 (Midwinter 1994 p.119).

The green perspectives focuses on the environmental damage produced by the economic system for example oil spills, greenhouse gases, loss of the rainforest, traffic pollution and many other consequences of the industrial way of life (Cahill 2010). The welfare ideology of the green is for polluters to pay for their damage to the environment (Baldock et al 2007 p83). Widespread loss of life is predicted in the coming decades as global warming leads to changed weather patterns. The human cost is already manifesting across the globe, as drought, hurricanes and flooding have produced hundreds of thousands of environmental refugees. Over the last quarter of the twentieth century concern for the environment has moved from the province of small, non-influential pressure groups to the agendas of the world’s leading nations. There are many varieties of green thought, but they are all united in their belief that the environment should take priority in social and political discussion.

Climate change is persuading governments around the world to take environmental issues much more seriously than they have in the past. Postmodernist perspectives describe a disillusionment with traditional social and political theories of society, one which clears away many of their premises and assumptions in order to make room for new approaches and ways of thinking (Fitzpatrick 2010). Post-structuralism shares the need to depart completely from previous philosophies, described as a form of spring cleaning excercise of our pre-held assumptions (Alcock et al 2003 p.131). As postmodernisation and post-structuralism have themselves become established features of the intellectual landscape, some scholars have queried their importance or relevance as they appear distant from the ‘bread-and-butter issues’ of social policy, yet in some ways they articulate the changing social realities with which social policy must get to grips (Alcock et al 2003 p.130). Other social changes include increased attention to the concept of risk and the extent to which the prevention, routing or embracing of risk is central to existing ideas of citizenship and well-being.

The users’s perspective on the debate arising from the disabled people’s social model of disability set in the NHS and Community Care Act 1990, indicates some resistance to the social model of disability noticeably in medical-led community services (Lindow 1990 p24). There is evidence of inequity of service provision geographically and between service user groups, social inclusiveness being inadequately linked to the development of community services (Lindow 1990 p25). “Two major criticisms by service users are of the inequalities of access to services caused by charging, and the fact that only the most impaired people are being offered support due to shortage of resources and rationing imposed through levels of care management and care programming” (Lindow 1990 p25). Mental health service users have the objection that improvements resulting from the legislation and associated guidance are over-ridden by the Government’s various attempts to control people in the community (Lindow 1990 p25).

Although successes have come in the form of supported housing and employment with community support in the form of crisis for mental health service users, there is evidence of lack of tenancy rights and insecure employment (Lindow 1990 p25) A most disappointing sign of continuity in social policy is the failure to reduce poverty in any significant way. One of the weaknesses in state benefit policy is the failure of the benefits agencies to deliver the benefits to everyone entitled to them (Robert et al 1998 p.218). The government’s Green Paper on welfare reform, New Ambitions for Our Country, a New Contract for Welfare (published by the Department of Social Security in March 1998), proposed 30 targets of intent to tackle poverty but did not set out specific policies to tackle poverty (Fulbrook 2003).

By the middle of the next century it is estimated that there will be 500% more people aged over 85 in the United Kingdom’s population, posing an increased pressure on services (Balloch 1990 p18). The experiences of poverty which are linked to housing, health and education have been addressed through state policies (Robert et al 1998 p.215). However current policy interests for ‘social enterprise’ (trading for social purposes) seek to bridge the extremes of profit and non-profit, it is suggested that social goals like responding to the needs of homeless people can be sustained by economic ones (by the income generating activities of ‘Big Issue’ vendors) (Baldock et al 2007 p.310).


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