Caring for rights : social work and advocacy with looked after\ud children and young people
Barnes, K. Vivienne (Kathryn Vivienne)
This thesis concerns young people in the Midlands area of the United Kingdom and the\ud services they receive from children’s rights workers and social workers. Previous\ud research has highlighted difficulties in the implementation of local advocacy for young\ud people in the ‘care system’ but has not explored in detail the impact of relationships\ud between these young people and their professional workers and of differing approaches to\ud the work.\ud This is a qualitative study, based primarily on semi-structured interviews with twenty\ud young people, their rights workers and their social workers. The young people ranged in\ud age from twelve to twenty and most had been in residential or foster care. The study\ud aimed to explore the participants’ views and experiences of social work and advocacy\ud with young people, the professionals’ approaches to the work and their attitudes to, and\ud relationships with, young people. Relational theory, particularly from ethics of care\ud feminist scholarship, has been used to examine the concepts of care and rights in the\ud principles and practice of the professional workers.\ud The study found that young people wanted professional workers who cared about them as\ud individuals and who focused on the process of the work, but they were also concerned\ud about the consequences of rights work. The study suggests that rights workers had a\ud strong care ethic in their individual work with young people, whilst social workers were\ud concerned about managing young people’s care rather than engaging with them\ud individually. The rights workers faced a number of dilemmas in upholding rights\ud principles in practice.\ud The study concludes that polarised principles of rights and care in practice could be\ud unhelpful to work with young people. Consideration of elements of a care ethic alongside\ud rights in both social work and children’s rights work could lead to a more unified\ud discourse that would benefit practice with young people. This would entail a more\ud sophisticated understanding of advocacy and bring care back into social workers’\ud individual work with young people.
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