Journal Article

‘A Friend and an Equal’: Do Young People in Care Seek the Impossible from their Social Workers?

Alison McLeod

in The British Journal of Social Work

Published on behalf of British Association of Social Workers

Volume 40, issue 3, pages 772-788
Published in print April 2010 | ISSN: 0045-3102
Published online November 2008 | e-ISSN: 1468-263X | DOI:
‘A Friend and an Equal’: Do Young People in Care Seek the Impossible from their Social Workers?

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Recent policy initiatives have begun to recognize something that has long been indicated by research findings and by studies of young people's views: that, for children in local authority care, having a positive and sustained personal relationship with their social worker promotes their well-being. This article presents findings from a research study in which the views of young people in care were elicited on the role of the social worker. Their response, that a good social worker is like a ‘friend’ and an ‘equal’, appears to challenge notions of the professional social work role. However, attention to the detail of what the young people meant by these terms demonstrates that, in fact, they are compatible with social work values and best practice. It is argued that, in order to accord with these young people's wishes and with research findings on what promotes best outcomes for looked after young people, social workers must be enabled to give more time to sustained direct work with children in care. Implications for policy and practice are discussed.

Keywords: Social work with children and young people; looked after children; state as parent; listening to children; direct work; child-care policy

Journal Article.  6657 words. 

Subjects: Social Work

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