Empowering Practice: A Critical Appraisal of the Family by Carol Lupton;Paul Nixon

By Carol Lupton;Paul Nixon

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Limitations of time and resources, the pressures of organisational resistance and inertia and the proliferation of ‘compulsory guidance’ may all conspire to frustrate even the most committed of professionals. Add to this the only limited impact of most forms of professional intervention on the lives of those it is designed to help, and the broader disempowerment of the profession itself, and it seems clear that the expectations surrounding empowerment work may significantly exceed the capacity of social work professionals to deliver.

It is clear, moreover, that empowerment as professional practice will involve choices about which people/groups are/deserve to be empowered and will operationalise value judgements about the nature and extent of their empowerment. In the context of the contemporary welfare state, with its 29 Empowering practice? New Right and, under Labour, new Puritan emphasis on self-reliance and responsibility, the process of empowerment may contain “regulatory as well as liberatory potential” (Baistow, 1994/95, p 35).

These studies revealed that the reasons for children coming into the care system often related as much to material deprivation, poverty and lack of family support as they did to wilful abuse and neglect by parents (Holman, 1993; DHSS, 1985a; Packman et al, 1986; Bebbington and Miles, 1989). The greater readiness to remove children or instigate compulsory measures, however, was making it less likely that families would receive the support they needed to keep their children with them. The research revealed that many parents felt they were not getting the necessary help they needed and were distressed when foster carers appeared to receive more material assistance than they did.

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