The Meandering Social Worker

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Archive for the tag “book review”

Book Review: The Secure Base Model

Bringing together currently available material and resources, since the development of the Model by the authors in 2000, “The Secure Base Model” begins with an introduction to the underpinning theoretical concepts of attachment and resilience. The five dimensions of the model itself: availability, sensitivity, acceptance, co-operation and family membership, are each explored from the perspective of the needs of the child and the approach of the carer, as a ‘positive framework for therapeutic caregiving’.

The authors go on to show how the model can be used in working with applicant foster carers and adopters, assessing the capacity of existing carers, including an interview format for use with carers to assess their capacity to provide a secure base for a child in their care, and more general guidelines on using the secure base model in guiding and supporting carers. A final chapter on assessing and reviewing the progress of children in placement includes a valuable, well laid out, checklist of how a secure base looks throughout childhood, from birth to 18.

The accompanying guide for foster carers and adopters (Promoting Attachment and Resilience) comprises the three introductory chapters on the background to the model and the chapter on assessing and reviewing the development of the children in placement, together with a format for a suggested progress record carers can use for children in placement.

Both books come with a DVD that illustrates the different aspects of the model through interviews with carers about issues they faced and how these were dealt with.

Although rooted in established theory these are primarily workbooks rather than textbooks, as suggested by their A4 format, with clear layouts and written in easily accessible language. Published by BAAF and central to the new BAAF Form F, The Secure Base Model’s place in the toolkit of the fostering social worker is already secured, however anyone involved in children’s social work will find this a useful reference and tool. Fostering and adoption departments/agencies may well want to have copies available of the shorter version intended for foster carers.

The Secure Base Model: Promoting attachment and resilience in foster care and adoption, Gillian Schofield & Mary Beek, BAAF Adoption & Fostering, A4 size Paperback £16.95, ISBN 9 781907 585838

Promoting Attachment and Resilience: a guide for foster carers and adopters on using the Secure Base Model, Gillian Schofield & Mary Beek, BAAF Adoption & Fostering, A4 size Paperback £12.95, ISBN 9 781910 039021


Book Review: Political and Social Construction of Poverty: Central and Eastern European Countries in Transition

Serena Romano’s book is predominantly an academic history of the economies of five of the former communist countries of Central and Eastern Europe: Czech Republic, Estonia, Slovenia, Poland and Hungary.

Although each country has its own unique story there are some consistent themes. During the Communist era poverty was less denied than ignored though the use of euphemistic language: the deprived stratum, disadvantaged, limited consumption, etc, with a strong focus on the deserving and undeserving poor through terms such as parasitic behaviour and ‘dysfunctional’. What welfare support existed was only accessible via employment schemes and, with the collapse of the Soviet economic model, the rapid rise in unemployment led to the loss of access to welfare for the already poorest in society. Current welfare systems, devised under EU and World Bank guidance, were developed to enable them to gain EU membership in the early part of this century, just before the international economic crisis that still grips us.

There is no real attempt at an analysis for what this means for the wider EU community today, particularly in attitudes to work and work migration. An annotated map and/or chronology would also be a useful addition. However, published in 2014 the book coincides with the 25th anniversary of the destruction of the Berlin Wall and the 10th anniversary of Central and Eastern Europe countries beginning their membership of the EU, and serves as a timely reminder of just how recent these events have been, and should be of particular interest to leaders, policy makers and those with a need to understand current trends in these countries.


Serena Romano, Political and Social Construction of Poverty: Central and Eastern European Countries in Transition (2014), Policy Press, Bristol,, ISBN 978-1-44731-271-0 (Hardback £70)

Resilience – book review

As social workers we often talk about resilience from the perspective of developing it in others.  This book is not about telling us how to do that.  It’s not an academic social work book.  Because sometimes (frequently), working in the caring professions takes its toll and its worth checking out how we are doing in the resilience stakes for ourselves.

Resilience: How to cope when everything around you keeps changing, by Liggy Webb, 2013, published by Capstone, Chichester, £10.99, ISBN 978-0-857-08387-6

In response to the burgeoning market in self-help books, eight years ago (in 2006) Steve Salerno published S.H.A.M.: How the Self Help Movement Made America Helpless. A lone voice crying in the wilderness. Since then not a lot has changed. Go into any bookstore and you will still find shelf upon shelf dedicated to self-help and personal development books. The problem, as Salerno pointed out, is the books themselves don’t solve our problems. So we keep going back for more. We’ve not got the message and we’re not passing it down the generations, otherwise our perceived need for these books would not keep their writers in production.

A fraction of these books have become classics: with its intriguing title, Robin Sharma’s (1999) The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari; pared to the bone and with its cartoon simplicity, Paul McGee’s (2005) S.U.M.O. – Shut Up, Move On; and, probably one of the best known, Spenser Johnson’s (1998) Who Moved my Cheese?, being among them.

The worst, the ones that drop off the radar after a few months, are often arduous, demanding the reader stick to a laudable but unachievable regime of activities, or lack an inspirational writing style.

So where does Liggy Webb’s Resilience: How to cope when everything around you keeps changing fit in? I’d give it a seven out of ten. It’s not got the punch to be a classic but it is well designed and simply written enough for the layperson to follow. And what professional doesn’t appreciate a bit of easy reading in between the policies, procedures and academia?

There’s nothing new here. It’s all good common sense based on years of scientific learning about what causes stress and how best to deal with it. Or the psychology of how our minds, our experiences, the problems we face, and more, interact and affect our physical and emotional wellbeing. The title could easily be about coping with stress or developing a lifestyle for success. Resilience, self-confidence, dealing with change and conflict, emotional control, turning problems into opportunities, decision making, healthy lifestyles and more are all covered in separate chapters. Each chapter begins with a relevant inspirational quote, ends with practical exercises, and contains anecdotes and stories that might be called case studies in a more academic work. Teachers, social workers and other care professionals will recognise tools such as Mindfulness, Emotional Freedom Therapy (EFT) and SMART goal setting that can be followed up elsewhere. The book ends with easy to reference resilience materials: a 40 point summary of tips to be more resilient and positive, inspiring songs, books and website resources.

This book won’t change your life. Only you can do that. But it does contain lots of good common sense advice and an introduction to a number of useful tools and ideas in an easy to read style that, once bought, you may want to keep on your bookshelf to refer back to when times get a bit tough, or just to check occasionally that you are keeping on top of your game.

Book Review – Qualitative Research

Qualitative Research Skills for Social Work by Malcolm Carey [2012], Ashgate Publishing, Surrey, ISBN 978-1-4094-4931-7

Written in an accessible style Carey’s comprehensive guide to undertaking qualitative research will be particularly appreciated by social work students undertaking their first piece of research as well as experienced practitioner-students undertaking subsequent research but wanting a quick reference guide or handbook available.

Presented in three sections, part 1 is the background you need before you start and in the early stages of your research, and includes research concepts, undertaking a literature review, the theoretical perspectives and ethical principles.  Part 2 moves on to practical tasks such as designing and carrying out interviews, running focus groups and using case studies while part 3 covers the final stage of analysis, writing up and disseminating your research findings.  Case studies help illustrate aspects of the different stages.

Although the book outlines qualitative research as likely to be the most appropriate research for social work, lending itself to small scale in-depth inquiries based on local needs and service provision, there are many comparisons to quantitative research and much of part 1 and at least some of part 3 are relevant to both disciplines.  The three page list of social work related websites that are also relevant for social research towards the end of part 2 is a valuable resource in itself.

A Life Lost in Thought

The Man Who Couldn’t Stop: OCD, and the true story of a life lost in thought by David Adam, 2014, published by Picador

David Adam is not an ‘academic’ writer.  However he is an established British writer, mainly on the subjects of science and nature, which make him well placed to write this well researched book even without the autobiographical element.  The book is written for the lay reader – anyone interested in the subject, perhaps because they think they or a friend or a relative might be ‘a bit OCD’ – but is just as valuable to the social care professional whether working with the young or the old, with or without recognised mental health problems.

Adam explains the difference between an obsession (thought) and compulsion (action), looks at the history of OCD, how the DSM classification has changed in recent years, the role of the brain in OCD, and the eccentric behaviours of people who if they were still alive today may well find themselves diagnosed with OCD.

One of the things that comes out Adam’s writing is the emerging recognition that OCD is another spectrum disorder and that rather than each disorder being distinct in its own right there is some overlapping: some of the behaviours linked to autism may be seen in OCD; whilst there is no known cause for OCD it is often triggered by a single traumatic event that might result in PTSD in someone else; intrusive thoughts, that lead to the compulsive behaviours, can be compared to schizophrenia, although the reactions might be different.

A key point Adam makes clear is OCD is not just about repetitive hand washing or checking ovens are turned off or doors are locked.  There are many other behaviours symptomatic of OCD that are not so visible: some may attract attention such as skin-picking (causing damage and scarring) while others might be almost un-noticable to most people, such as maladaptive daydreaming and endless counting.

Woven through the factual information is Adam’s own story, giving the reader a real insight in to what it is like to live with OCD.


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