Journal Article

‘We Don’t See Her as a Social Worker’: A Service User Case Study of the Importance of the Social Worker’s Relationship and Humanity

Peter Beresford, Suzy Croft and Lesley Adshead

in The British Journal of Social Work

Published on behalf of British Association of Social Workers

Volume 38, issue 7, pages 1388-1407
Published in print October 2008 | ISSN: 0045-3102
Published online May 2007 | e-ISSN: 1468-263X | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/bjsw/bcm043
‘We Don’t See Her as a Social Worker’: A Service User Case Study of the Importance of the Social Worker’s Relationship and Humanity

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This article draws on a large-scale UK qualitative research study of what service users want from specialist palliative care social work. The study included a diverse range of people with direct experience of such social work as patients with life-limiting illnesses and conditions and people facing bereavement. Service users included in the study generally valued such social work highly. The article focuses on two aspects of practice which were associated with the high value they placed on specialist palliative care social work. These are the relationships they had with the social worker and the qualities and skills that they saw the social worker as having. Service users highlighted the notion of ‘friendship’ as a key positive in their relationship with the social worker and human qualities associated with warmth, empathy, respect and listening. The article explores the tension between the characteristics of practice valued by service users and the direction of travel of social work influenced by policy and professional considerations. It suggests that it may be necessary to review political and policy judgements of what social work is and should do, if it is to be consistent with what service users value—traditional social work values and an increasing international emphasis on user-centred and individualized support in social care.

Keywords: social work practice; service user views; relationship; profession; user involvement; palliative care

Journal Article.  8512 words. 

Subjects: Social Work

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