It is an honour to be offered the position of Social Work Professor of Practice at Cumbria University and I am delighted to take up the position.
I have a strong affinity to the north of England since my work with children’s services that was first developed in Western Australia in the 1990’s has found ready acceptance and a home in this part of the world over the past 20 years and I have many close working relationships with colleagues in the region. Also, Carlisle was the first place I presented on the Signs of Safety approach following the publication of my 1999 book. This presentation was the launching pad for colleagues from Gateshead and North Yorkshire to invite me to start working with them. To be connected with the University of Cumbria therefore, seems to me a perfect fit and I hope the University will find me a perfect fit in making a valuable contribution to its social and educational endeavour.
The Professorship of Practice is particularly important and meaningful for me because the Social Work profession has always struggled with its professional identity often allowing our profession to be defined by the knowledge bases of psychology and psychiatry. Social work has trouble believing that what practitioners actually do in practice is important. I believe that our direct work is actually the central location of our professional identity. Sadly, we tend to devalue our practice and practitioners and have struggled to stake a claim for a unique knowledge base that speaks directly to and supports direct practice with families, communities and individuals.
More broadly, I believe this social work problem exactly mirrors the broader social problem all overdeveloped western countries face. The shared social contracts of our late modern cultures are diminished as value is increasingly viewed solely in financial terms. The challenge for social work is to lay a robust claim for our caring work and for working the social within societies that are becoming less caring, unequal and fragmented. So social work’s task is more important than ever.
My work over the past 30 years has focused always on building social work theory from practice with practitioners. I am passionate about bridging the social work theory-practice gap and I am delighted to join with Cumbria University in strengthening the case for social work practice and for the social work profession.