This assignment is intended to provide you with the opportunity to use Law, social policy, theoretical and empirical knowledge, to explore some of the complexities of professional practice and the legal framework within which social workers operate. It is not sufficient for you to quote the statutory basis of practice without recognising the context of social policy, taking full account of issues related to power, inequality, oppression, and coercion. Within this assignment, you must not only be able to know what legislation and relevant Section applies, you must also substantiate the reasons why professional regulatory standards are needed as you critically examine the potential consequences of applying Law to practice.
In your response to the case study below, you are required to address the following three issues. These are of equal importance in terms of the requirement to demonstrate an understanding, but this does not mean they will be of exactly equal length. The overall word limit for this assignment is 5,000 words.
1. 1. The statutory law and the range of possible options available to the social worker within the legislation.
Select the legislation you consider to be the most appropriate response to the presenting circumstance. This should involve some discussion of the wider context within which this decision has been made. For example, if you are suggesting that the baby should be the subject of compulsory social work intervention, or that the father’s Care Programme approach is reviewed, what does research tell us about the possible outcomes of such an action? Are there issues relating to thresholds or eligibility? How might the mother’s learning difficulties affect her choices and the actions that you make? Based on the information provided, justify why are you making a choice of legislative option.
2. 2. Roles and responsibilities imposed by the legislation and professional regulation
Having selected the legislative option, you should then examine the roles and responsibilities of the social worker and the agencies involved in the process of assessment, planning, implementation, review, and evaluation. There will be combinations of roles and responsibilities imposed by the legislation and professional regulation, theoretical and empirical knowledge, and it is important that you know what these are. There are also social roles involved in the collation of assessments and report writing. How these roles are discharged will be affected by other issues, including the potential for unequal power, inequality, oppression, and coercion.
3. 3. The rights of those involved
In deciding on a course of action, a social worker would have to be alert to the meaning of consent and the rights of service users, their families, and the community. Drawing on primary research, consider then those difficulties that some social workers might encounter when trying to apply rigid statutory frameworks which might not effectively account for the perspective of the child, family, or wider community. As social work intervention is often reported to be characterised by the presence of fear and anxiety, it could be stated that these tensions might not always lead to the best possible outcomes. At times, for example, individuals, families or communities may be afraid and feel the need to hide from, or avoid social work involvement. By critically reviewing theory and empirical knowledge, consider how should social workers might assess and manage this possibility. This detail of analysis will be influenced by internal and external factors, drawn from wider reading.
Principles related to anti-oppressive and anti-coercive perspectives should permeate your work, rather than be ‘tagged on’ at the end. The way to approach the inclusion of such matters is to use research to examine the decisions that you are taking and the options you are choosing from an understanding that different groups, in different situations, experience the legal context differently. For example, how might structural discrimination affect decision making in relation to a young woman with a disability, and an older man with a severe mental health difficulty and a history of an offence against a child? What do we know about the impact of poverty on people’s access to the law and social justice?
To examine the range of issues raised within the case study, you will be well advised to look beyond the basic legal texts. Try to link in with the teaching on other modules to provide a deeper level of critical analysis in your work. Consider matters related to rights and justice and ethical dilemmas too. Would the purpose and function of legislation be different if Chardonnay did not have a disability, if the child was of a different age for example, or if Mo was cooperating with the Care Programme Approach? What does the literature say about these issues? Using primary research, what do parents and children who have experienced social work intervention say about what works for them? Is the human agency of the social worker, and other involved professionals, important? Obviously within the word limit set for this assignment you will not be able to explore everything in detail. Where sacrifices need to be made, try to reduce the description, and retain the rigour of analysis to advance your own critical and independent thought.
Mo (52) and Chardonnay (18) were referred to the social work department by an Occupational Therapist when Chardonnay was eight months pregnant with their first child. The occupational therapist is involved with the family as she is the Care Coordinator for Mo, who is receiving Care Programme Approach support having recently been detained under Section 3 of the 1983 Mental Health Act. The occupational therapist was concerned about Chardonnay’s ability to understand the implications of her pregnancy, and the responsibilities of parenthood, as Chardonnay is living with a mild learning disability.
When the social worker visited the family home, she found the family home sparsely furnished with poor standards of hygiene and no apparent signs of preparation for the baby.
The flat is on the 14th floor of a local authority high-rise block, soon to be renovated but currently damp and draughty. During the home visit Mo was hostile, insisting that they did not need any further ‘interference’ – they had everything under control and would be able to provide adequately for the baby.
Three weeks later the social worker received a telephone call from the hospital expressing concerns about the way in which Chardonnay was handling her baby son, born two days previously. The hospital staff reported that Chardonnay is not feeding or handling the baby appropriately and that she is ignoring the Midwives attempts to help her. It was also reported that Chardonnay had become angry and shook the baby when he cried.
The hospital staff also explained that when Mo had arrived at the hospital, and was told that a referral would be made to the social work department, he became very angry. He stated his intention to remove Chardonnay and the baby from hospital immediately. His behaviour at the hospital had become so difficult to manage that the police were called. The police arrested Mo for assaulting a midwife and took him into custody.
A check of child protection records revealed that Mo had two children from a previous relationship with whom he is denied contact.
The occupational therapist is also concerned that Mo has missed 4 appointments and is now refusing to take his medication. She is worried that his behaviour may become even more aggressive and unpredictable if he continues to refuse medication.
Chardonnay and the baby remain in hospital.
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