Diversity Difference and Professional Dilemmas: Developing Skills in Challenging Times

Bhatti-Sinclair, K. and Smethurst, C. (eds.). (2017) Diversity Difference and Professional Dilemmas: Developing Skills in Challenging Times. Social Work Skills in Practice . Open University McGraw Hill, London. ISBN 9780335261826

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This book seeks to explore diversity and difference within the context of recent changes and challenges to the social work profession. Its specific focus is to address themes that are contentious and under-explored, but essential to understanding the complexity of contemporary social work practice.

The themes addressed are intended to be relevant to experienced practitioners, and all those who struggle with the practice dilemmas posed by diversity and difference.

PART 1: ‘Theories and contexts’, provides an overview of key themes and theories which underpin the book.

Chapter 1: Chris Smethurst and Kish Bhatti-Sinclair provide a synopsis of the current political, economic and ideological issues facing the profession. The terms ‘diversity’ and ‘difference’ will be defined.

Chapter 2: Vida Douglas and Jan Fook explore cultural competence, social difference and ‘othering’ which relate to reflexive practice, and examine bias in types of behaviour which push people into places which make them different. They suggest that social workers are engaged in complex human relationships and that the process of ‘othering’ hinders active engagement, rooted in ethical principles such as openness, empathy and acceptance.

Chapter 3: Bridget Ng’andu explores ‘whiteness’ and being white, and argues that social workers need to develop a deeper understanding of white identity and identification – particularly, when working with Black Minority and Ethnic (BME) families.

Chapter 4: Jon Old proposes that professional power, alongside a mismatch between behaviour and ethical principles, is likely to lead to a high level of cognitive dissonance for social workers. He argues that the human capacity to express thoughts may lead to poor judgements and decision-making and suggests that theoretical ideas, rooted in social psychology, can enable social workers to understand themselves in a societal context which is diverse and socially different.


‘Themes from contemporary practice’, further develops the themes in Part 1 by considering aspects of practice that are comparatively neglected in social work literature, yet have a significance that transcends their specific focus.

The messages in Part 2 are about the professional dilemmas inherent in day-to-day working with groups marginalized and disempowered by societal antipathy. In essence, the authors are sharing knowledge which can be applied more broadly. We call on the reader to look for parallels with their own experience and areas of practice, even if these would, from a brief reading of their titles, appear to be significantly different from the focus of the chapters.

Chapter 5: Chris Smethurst examines the influence of contemporary class politics upon social justice and inequality. The chapter builds on the themes introduced in Chapters 2 and 4 and asks social workers to consider how class difference impacts on everyday engagement, including assessment and intervention processes.

Chapter 6: Kish Bhatti-Sinclair develops the themes of ‘othering’ in relation to the developments in Islamophobic thinking rooted in ideas of dangerousness which appear to be increasingly linked to followers of Islam and Muslim traditions. Professional debates on race, religion and the fear of being called racist are related to professional laws on diversity and difference.

Chapter 7: Dan Allen introduces cultural determinism, evolutionary psychology and memetics in relation to social work practice with Roma people. Theoretical understandings of biological determinism, human growth and the epigenetic impact are particularly useful with any group deemed to be different, diverse and disadvantaged. Social workers are urged to consider discrimination as a situational social construct which can act as a contagion, passed from one person to another.

Chapter 8: Gerry Skelton questions the merging of spirituality with religion and argues that spirituality, as a discrete subject, should be critiqued and embedded in social work education, training and practice.

Chapters 9 and 10 make compelling arguments for greater involvement of service users and carers in social work education, and better understanding of specialist need in practice.

Chapter 9: Lisa Armstrong and Angela Etherington argue that the first-hand, story-based experience offered by service users and carers is an invaluable source of knowledge. They suggest that service users and carer educators enable students to examine ethical dilemmas in detail and support solution-based practice based on respect, choice and self-determination.

Chapter 10: Lucy Jacques and Rebecca Long introduce an area which is rarely considered in specialist practice – deaf-blind services for people with dual or combined sensory loss. They argue for greater inclusion in the hearing world and the deaf-signing world within all relevant services, and provide a pertinent discussion of social work responsibilities under the 2014 Care Act.

Publication Type: Books
Subjects: H Social Sciences > H Social Sciences (General)
H Social Sciences > HN Social history and conditions. Social problems. Social reform
Divisions: Academic Areas > Institute of Education, Social and Life Sciences > Social Work and Social Care
Related URLs:
Depositing User: Kish Bhatti-Sinclair
Date Deposited: 15 Mar 2019 13:57
Last Modified: 07 Oct 2021 08:22
URI: https://eprints.chi.ac.uk/id/eprint/4129

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