United Kingdom

New College Durham in partnership with Teesside University and Investing in people and Culture are’ mending the gap’ with parents and students.

The parents who are asylum seekers or refugees come from Pakistan, Sierre Leone, Papa New Guinea, Somalia, Togo, Nigeria and Eritrea. The students are in their final years studying social work or  occupational therapy at New College Durham and Teesside university, plus there is a psychology student from Teesside university and a social work, criminology and sociology student from Durham University.

Together the group of 30 have met weekly for the past nine weeks to identify and explore the gaps that exist between parents and professionals. Practitioners have been invited to each session which have been planned on a range of themes which were  identified as key gaps in the experiences of asylum seekers and refugees. This has included the police, housing workers, educational and social service staff who have shared the discussions and taken key issues back to their agencies to identify further how gaps can be mended.

A key focus within the group is to share cultural perspectives and experiences.

An evaluation of the programme will be made available.

For further information about this gap mending programme please contact Helen Casey; helen.casey@newdur.ac.uk


Service user and carer input into the review of the standards of proficiency for social workers in England

Shaping Our Lives recruited a group of service users and carers to reflect on the standards from their experience of interacting with social workers when in receipt of services.

Read the article here >>>



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To read and subscribe to the UK digital newsletter PowerusUK  CLICK HEREThe main goal of PowerusUK is to develop and improve methods and opportunities for service user involvement in Social Work education in the UK. We also hope to make contact with good practices in other European countries.


History of service user organisations

While service user organisations can, of course, be defined more broadly to include other disenfranchised social groups, many disabled people’s organisations in the UK have emerged in the past forty years with the development of the self-organised disabled people’s movement (DPM). Organised around the principles of the social model, developed in the 1970s by the Union of the Physically Impaired against Segregation, disabled people have identified disability as a social issue rather than as a personal problem. They have argued that the response to disability requires addressing the physical, environmental and social barriers which have excluded people with impairments from participating as equals in ordinary community life.This has involved campaigning over issues such as access to public transport, education, employment, housing, leisure and direct payments so that disabled people are able to take control of their own lives. It has involved activity across many different but related areas and between organisations – including the independent living movement, a network of coalitions of disabled people working with local government, the disability arts movement, the direct action network, and disabled academics working in Universities to establish the new discipline of Disability Studies, establishing an emancipatory research paradigm.

Perhaps the most significant victory of the DPM involved the establishment of anti-discrimination legislation in 1995, though it needs to be recognised that the Disability Discrimination Act watered down the movement’s aims. The DPM has brought together disabled people from across impairment groups who have argued collectively that disability is a rights issue rather than a care issue, and who have identified traditional charities (run ‘for’ disabled people by non-disabled people) as being part of the problem rather than part of the solution.

In the current climate of austerity, many disabled people’s organisations are struggling to generate income to carry on working. Many organisations have already disappeared.

By Dr Colin Cameron, Northumbria University


Social work practice in Great Britain

The majority of social work within England is still delivered through local authorities, in what is traditionally termed statutory social work: i.e. working within legal statute. However, this has been a misnomer for a number of years, as ‘statutory social work’ has been undertaken by private companies, charities and third sector organisations in a number of fields; primarily fostering and adoption. This trend is beginning to increase with the ‘spinning out’ of local authority service provision to mutual, community interest companies, social enterprises, not-for-profit and for-profit companies. In both adult and children’s services the Coalition Government have been running pilot ‘social work practice’ schemes; where smaller social work led organisations, independent of local authorities, provide services for vulnerable children and adults.

This movement towards scaling down social work delivery through local government is certainly reflected in the employment opportunities for qualifying social work students. In 2009 students could effectively pick and choose the jobs they wanted. Four years later and the situation have completely reversed, with local authorities recruiting and employing fewer social workers.

Ostensibly, social workers in England still should adhere to the definition of social work from the International Federation of Social Workers and International Association of Schools of Social Work:

“The social work profession promotes social change, problem solving in human relationships and the empowerment and liberation of people to enhance well-being. Utilising theories of human behaviour and social systems, social work intervenes at the points where people interact with their environments. Principles of human rights and social justice are fundamental to social work.”

However, the reality is often that social workers are torn between the expectations and demands of a very process driven system of prioritising case loads, and their commitment to their service users. Social workers can also be expected to provide services to service users through such schemes as the ‘Troubled Families programme; providing an immediate ethical dilemma for many professionals. The issue facing social workers in both children and adults is that of eligibility and the constant raising of thresholds making preventative work very difficult; placing an emphasis on safeguarding and protection.

Social work in England is in a massive time of flux in terms of where and how it is practiced; who guides and regulates practice, and how we prepare students for practice. There is a clear move towards making social work a Masters level qualification; with new Step Up to Social Work and Fast Track programmes; whilst at the same time limiting the widening participation agenda.

By John MacDonough, Senior Lecturer, London South Bank University

Useful links


SWAN is a network of social work practitioners, academics, students and social welfare service users united in their concern that social work activity is being undermined by managerialism and marketisation, by the stigmatisation of service users and by welfare cuts and restrictions.


The Care Quality Commission is the independent regulator of health and social care in England. Their aim is to make sure better care is provided for everyone, whether that’s in hospital, in care homes, in people’s own homes, or elsewhere.


The Social Care Institute for Excellence gathers and publicises knowledge about how to make social care services better. SCIE is an independent organisation created in response to the government drive to improve quality in social care services across England and Wales. It was launched in October 2001, has around 30 permanent staff and a board of 12 trustees who guide its work and ensure its independence.


This website will support Shaping Our Lives’ vision of an equal and fair society where people have the same opportunities, choices, rights and responsibilities. A society where people have choice and control over the way they live and the support services they use.


The National Skills Academy for Social Care is for everyone committed to excellent adult social care in England. They aim to embed leadership at all levels in the sector, and so to transform the quality of care that is provided to service users.



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Articles – United Kingdom

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