Belonging and detachment 1

“So I am found on Ingpen Beacon or on Wylle Neck to the west,

Or else on homely Bulbarrow, or little Pilsdon Crest,

Where men have never cared to haunt, nor women have walked with me,

And ghosts keep their distance; and I know some liberty.” (T. Hardy)

The social work task takes us into intimate and private areas of the lives of our clients, without the protection of visible or measurable disorders that can shelter the medical profession from too close involvement with the whole person of patients. The intensity and confusion of this experience is such that social work has to be preoccupied with issues about closeness and separateness. The struggles are reflected in the fashions in social work e.g. community involvement and neighbourhood work as against a more clinical task centred model, or debates about decentralised or centralised social work offices etc. A constant preoccupation concerns the implication of a middle class, often university trained profession helping a largely working class or pauper class clientele. When I was trained, there was a good deal of discussion about whether social workers should live in the areas they serve in order to understand and indeed to some extent share the social context of their clients’ lives.


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