15 May 2009

Inaugural lecture will call for more respect for social workers

Professor Monica Dowling will focus on social work and policy in her inaugural lecture at The Open University in Milton Keynes on Monday May 18.

During her lecture – which is free and open to the public – Professor Dowling, the OU’s Head of Social Work, will explore themes which contribute to our understanding of social work and social policy. Looking back at her qualitative studies over the last 20 years – which involve over 500 hundred individuals in the UK, Eastern Europe and China and have contributed to local, national and international policy debates – she will ask: how do people who receive social care services evaluate them? The answer to this question will be explored in depth in the lecture, but Professor Dowling will assert that one key issue for both those on the receiving end of services and social workers themselves is the issue of respect.

“Recipients of social services wanted their views understood and listened to but they also wanted action - respect for many is also about doing something practical to help them - whether that's providing a Home from Hospital scheme or providing a halfway house for disabled children that were previously institutionalised,” says Professor Dowling. “Social workers also need respect not just from recipients of services but from the general public and policy makers. These are 'the good guys'. They believe in Social Justice and supporting and protecting those in need.”

This theme is especially current following ongoing and extensive media coverage focusing on the social work industry. To provide a first-hand demonstration of the issues facing social workers in child protection, Professor Dowling will show a piece of footage from the BBC documentary, Someone to Watch Over Me (which is used as course material for the OU's social work degree on the Critical Practice in Social Work module K315) and captures the moment a social worker is faced with the task of informing her team that one of their cases, a young baby, has died. It’s a heart-wrenching video to watch, and will present the audience with the reality faced by today’s social workers.

Moving to a wider international agenda, Professor Dowling will be showing an iTunesU clip on international adoption from China to the UK, posing the question: how does globalisation affect our thinking about welfare? In answer to this, she will explore how ideas and practices undreamt of 50 years ago are now contributing to current procedures and welfare policies around the world.

Notes to editors
Lecture details
Title: From Barnsley to Guangzhou: Key Themes for Social Work in Social Policy in National and International Contexts
Time/date: 4:00pm Monday, May 18, 2009 (tea and coffee will be served in the Berrill Café Bar from 3:30pm).
Venue: Berrill Lecture Theatre, The Open University, Walton Hall, Milton Keynes MK7 6AA

About Professor Monica Dowling
Monica Dowling has held academic posts at the Universities of Sheffield and Manchester and Royal Holloway, University of London before she joined the Open University in 2005. She has published extensively in the areas of; poverty, social exclusion and social work; the measurement of quality of care from user and carer perspectives and globalisation and international adoption. As Head of the Department of Social Work, she is responsible for the work of the OU’s Social Work team.

The Open University Health and Social Care Faculty
The OU is the largest provider of part-time social work training. It trains 11.5 per cent of all social workers in the UK.

The University’s provision in health and social care extends from ‘openings’ courses for people returning to learning; professional programmes such as social work and nursing; continuing professional development; and a new post-graduate programme in advancing healthcare practice. It has four main teaching programmes: nursing, social work, health and social care, and foundation degrees.

Of the 51 institutions teaching social work in the UK, The OU came top in student satisfaction across a range of criteria in The National Student Survey ( 2007 and third in 2008.

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