Social work is a complex undertaking. Besides familiar practice dilemmas (Braye and Preston-Shoot 1992a) such as care versus control; rights versus
risks; and needs versus resources, it can present conflicts between professional judgement and agency policy. It can involve conflicting views within a family or group, or between them and practitioners. Disagreements between users and workers about targets for change and/or how to achieve them can originate in workers’ assumptions about needs, class, poverty, gender and problemsolving; or from users experiencing ‘clienthood’ as a state while workers perceive it as a transition (Phillimore 1982). Social work frequently involves anxiety in the face of chaotic situations, together with choices about where to intervene, how, when and with whom. Many users are victims of oppression and inequalities, yet services frequently individualize users’ problems rather than challenge the social attitudes and structures in which discrimination is rooted.