Journal Article

Social Work and Advocacy with Young People: Rights and Care in Practice

Vivienne Barnes

in The British Journal of Social Work

Published on behalf of British Association of Social Workers

Volume 42, issue 7, pages 1275-1292
Published in print October 2012 | ISSN: 0045-3102
Published online October 2011 | e-ISSN: 1468-263X | DOI:
Social Work and Advocacy with Young People: Rights and Care in Practice

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This paper draws on a qualitative study about the work of children's rights workers and social workers with looked after young people in the UK. It highlights some differences in their approach and in their attitudes to young people. Whilst they share many values, in theory, social work is closer ethic of care and interrelationship than rights work, which draws on an ethic of justice and individual autonomy. However, in practice, a more complex picture emerged. The study found that young people wanted professional workers who demonstrated that they cared about them as individuals and who focused on the process of the work. The study suggests that rights workers had a strong care ethic in their individual work with young people but social workers had difficulty in adhering to principles of care in a culture that encouraged them to manage young people's care rather than engage with them individually. There was also strong evidence that it could be detrimental to young people if rights workers adhered rigidly to principles of rights. The paper asks whether consideration of elements of an ethic of care alongside rights in both social work and children's rights work could benefit young people by encouraging a more sophisticated model of advocacy and by emphasising care in social workers' individual work with young people.

Keywords: Children looked after; ethic of care; children's rights; relationship

Journal Article.  7255 words. 

Subjects: Social Work

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