Journal Article

Learning Lessons from the Past or Re-Visiting Old Mistakes: Social Work and Community Development in Northern Ireland

Deirdre Heenan

in The British Journal of Social Work

Published on behalf of British Association of Social Workers

Volume 34, issue 6, pages 793-809
Published in print September 2004 | ISSN: 0045-3102
Published online September 2004 | e-ISSN: 1468-263X | DOI:
Learning Lessons from the Past or Re-Visiting Old Mistakes: Social Work and Community Development in Northern Ireland

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In recent years there has been a re-emphasis on community development approaches in health and social work in Northern Ireland. Underpinning these approaches is the belief that local communities can be organized to address health and social needs and to work with government agencies, voluntary bodies and local authorities in delivering services and local solutions to problems. These methods of working challenge the traditional social work focus on individual and family casework interventions. Government in Northern Ireland has stressed that community development should no longer simply be an afterthought in key aspects of Health and Social Services, but should instead be at the core of their work. It is now officially recognized that community development has the potential to make a significant impact on a broad spectrum of policies and programmes, which are delivered through agencies in both the statutory and voluntary sectors. This commitment to community development has been outlined in a number of key documents and reports. This paper assesses the relationship between social work and community development in Northern Ireland. The first section looks briefly at the history of community development and social work and then sets out the context in which this move towards the promotion of a community social work approach is occurring. Against this backdrop, a case study of a Family Support Team, which provides a range of services in a community setting, is used to illustrate how the strategy has already been adopted and the lessons of this experience are explored and discussed. It is concluded that while this approach has a lot to offer it is not without its difficulties. Far from being a new philosophy, community development is being reinvented and reapplied. It is therefore crucial that old mistakes are not revisited and old prejudices rekindled. It is hoped that this article will provide a useful contribution to the current important and necessary debate.

Keywords: community development; partnerships; training; mainstreaming

Journal Article.  0 words. 

Subjects: Social Work

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