You never arrive at a place where you can put your feet up or put your foot down. A study of conscious and unconscious processes in assessments of black and ethnic minority families

Thakrar, Rukhsana Farooqi (2017) You never arrive at a place where you can put your feet up or put your foot down. A study of conscious and unconscious processes in assessments of black and ethnic minority families. Professional Doctorate thesis, Tavistock and Portman NHS Foundation Trust / University of Essex. Full text available

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This psychosocial study examines some processes at work when commissioners outsource to independent social worker experts (from a black and ethnic minority background social work), assessments involving black and ethnic minority children and families in cases where there are serious child protection issues. Eight participants, (three commissioners, four independent social workers and one parent). were interviewed using the Free Associative Narrative Interview method (FANI). The psycho-social research method used values the subjectivity of the researcher, and the FANI method is consistent with this. (Holloway and Jefferson 2000). Data was analysed using a blend of thematic and narrative approaches, supported by reflections on the researcher’s own emotional experience of the interviews. The findings of this study centre on assessments of parents from black and ethnic minority backgrounds who had experienced structural inequalities, discrimination and in some cases racism. The independent social work experts have used a particular framework to undertake the assessments and this has assisted them in formulating recommendations. Anxiety and conflict have featured heavily in the assessments. These anxieties are interwoven with the impact of racism on families, independent social work experts and commissioners working in modern social work organisations. Alongside this the importance of anti-racist social work is considered. Anti-racist social work recognises that racism exists within social work and offers a framework to tackle racism within social work. However, currently anti-racist social work appears to have slipped off the professional agenda and has been replaced by more ‘neutral’ discourses such as ‘diversity’. This allows one not to think about race and racism. It is a study of how anxieties are delegated to independent social work experts. My interest in this study stems from being a black, female, ethnic minority researcher and independent social work expert. The key research findings are firstly, there are conscious and unconscious processes that have influenced the independent social work expert’s approach, which included being motivated and affected by their personal experiences with their own parents and families of origin. Secondly, the way an assessment was presented by the independent social work expert was influenced by unresolved issues from their background. Thirdly, the independent social work expert’s biographical material is significant both in shaping their capacity to do the work sensitively and in depth, but also in creating blind spots for them. There are significant implications for social work practice. There is a need for a different model and approach to supervision in social work, which is informed by a recognition of the impact of conscious and especially unconscious influences of a practitioner’s biographical material. The importance of intersectionality is considered. This is thinking about how family/emotional/biographical factors are interacting with the dynamics of race/ethnicity, and how anxieties about all these in commissioners and practitioners produce a complex psycho-social knot that has to be understood and worked with if we are to do justice to these cases. This deep and complex biographical investment in this work is both a source of strength and vulnerability. It is evident that there is something professionally and personally reparative for the independent social work experts, and myself as the researcher, in engaging in the discussions and reflections that make up the data and the findings of this research.

Item Type: Thesis (Professional Doctorate)
Additional Information: Thesis is submitted in partial fulfilment of a Professional Doctorate in Social Work and Emotional Wellbeing awarded by the University of East London, in collaboration with the Tavistock and Portman NHS Foundation Trust
Uncontrolled Keywords: Professional Doctorate in Social Work and Emotional Wellbeing, D60
Subjects: Race and Culture > Race and Culture- Social Welfare
Social Welfare > Social Work
Department/People: Children, Young Adult and Family Services

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