Building Effective Social Work Teams  book cover
1st Edition

Building Effective Social Work Teams

ISBN 9781472480828
Published November 10, 2016 by Routledge
152 Pages - 22 B/W Illustrations

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Book Description

How has social work changed over the years? What are some of the best social work teams doing differently to meet the complex practical and emotional needs of service users? What practical tools and approaches can social work managers implement with their teams? Dr. Judy Foster examines good social work practice and the supporting factors that are essential to underpin social work teams – coherent policies; well-qualified and motivated staff; good management support structures; delegated autonomy and discretion for social workers; and mental space to allow reflective and creative problem solving.

She illustrates the dilemmas and rewards of social work relationships through personal stories from her own career as a social worker, manager and teacher - and interviews with social workers and managers. These examples show the relationship between ‘doing’ something for someone and ‘being’ emotionally present to empower a service user to manage better. The book is intended to help social work managers improve the support environment for their teams – and hence their effectiveness – and to inform students and others in related professions interested in learning more about social work. It will also have a wide appeal to an international social work readership.

Table of Contents

List of figures

List of tables




Chapter 1: Social work – The modern era

Why do we need social workers?

Chapter 2: Support for different service users

Empowerment, maintenance, containment

Understanding service users

Chapter 3: Relating to service users and deciding interventions

Chapter 4: Beneath the surface of three teams

The district social work team

The hospital social work team

The mental health social work team

Chapter 5: Methodology used to study the three teams

Chapter 6: The need for a coherent policy framework

Chapter 7: Professional skills and development

Chapter 8: Management structures

Chapter 9: Maximizing autonomy

Chapter 10: Mental space to think reflectively

Chapter 11: Conclusions

Chapter 12: What now?

Appendix 1: Strength of the five factors for the teams

Appendix 2: Record of meetings of the teams

Meetings of the district team

Meetings of the hospital team

Meetings of the mental health team



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Judy Foster is an experienced social worker and manager. She is a visiting lecturer in social work at the Tavistock Clinic, teaching postgraduate students. She trained as a child care officer before becoming a generic social worker, and managing the first referral and assessment team for a large inner city social services department. Subsequently she was head of training and staff development for the department, providing development opportunities for senior managers, social workers and care staff - introducing innovative projects in management, adult care, mental health, and children and families.

She was a national project officer at the Central Council of Education and Training in Social Work developing training standards in mentoring skills and care for children and young people; and at Skills for Care developing national training standards in mental health. She founded the Social Perspectives Network in modern mental health – and was chair of St Michael’s Fellowship, which provides residential parenting assessments to family courts and supportive work with young parents in the inner city. Her doctorate in social work was awarded in 2009. She is married with two children and three grandchildren.


'This lively and engaging book gives us vivid insights into the rewards and challenges of managing  social work teams. Although most social workers operate in teams, there is little material of evidenced practice available to managers to make their teams more effective - a gap that Judy Foster's book helpfully fills.' - Terry Bamford, Chair, Social Work History Network, U.K 

'This is an unusual and original book, blending deep analytical reflection on a long career in social work, training and management with a systematic empirical study of how front line teams survive, flourish, or fail in the context of modern pressures. Lucid, lively and scholarly, this is essential reading for practitioners, leaders and  policy makers with a genuine concern for the state of our services and the mental well-being of our workforce.' - Andrew Cooper, Professor of Social Work, Tavistock and Portman NHS Trust, U.K

'I warmly commend this book to social work practitioners, managers and students, and to other professionals working in allied fields, as it offers a compassionate, reasoned and realistic understanding of the challenges faced on a daily basis by individuals experiencing distress and vulnerability, and those seeking to support and empower them.' - Gillian Ruch, Professor of Social Work, University of Sussex, U.K