Changing agendas: moving beyond fixed identities in anti-oppressive practice
Those endorsing ‘New Right’ philosophies have questioned the relevance of anti-oppressive approaches in social work practice. They have sought to undermine its position by arguing that it leads to politically motivated interventions that disempower the people it aims to serve (Phillips, 1993, 1994). Their critique of anti-oppressive social work has been trenchant and has had far-reaching consequences. Following from their castigation of radical practitioners and academics, British social work has undergone a series of profound changes. The Central Council for Social Work Education and Training (CCETSW) has been significantly restructured, with its Black Perspectives Committee diminished in role, and its academic chief executive replaced with a lawyer whose views of social work education have chimed in more closely with those of government in opposing social work’s concerns about ‘isms’. The ultimate act in this process of restructuring is the abolition of CCETSW itself, with a new body for the training and education of the profession to be established. The attack on anti-oppressive practice has contributed to the shift of social
work education away from the academy and into the workplace. This latter development has transformed the face of probation training in England and Wales where it has been de-coupled from social work education. Now, rather than trainees being provided with a university-based educational experience that equips them with both professional expertise and the capacity to critically appraise practice, probation students are required to undergo an apprenticeship that simply prepares them for ‘the job’. The new probation qualification aims primarily to ensure that trainees meet the employers’ requirements for National Standards of practice (Ward and Spencer, 1994; Sone, 1995). The objective of training is to enable probation officers, for example, to respond to containment objectives rather than to develop a knowledge base which has a focus on meeting offenders’ needs for rehabilitation as full members of society.