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Unit information: Social Work Studies in 2020/21

Unit name Social Work Studies
Unit code SPOLM5102
Credit points 40
Level of study M/7
Teaching block(s) Academic Year (weeks 1 - 52)
Unit director Ms. Norton
Open unit status Not open




School/department School for Policy Studies
Faculty Faculty of Social Sciences and Law


This unit is intended to provide a comprehensive introduction to social work in the UK. It familiarises students with practice in the contexts of social work, including with children and families; young people; older adults; disabled people; and people experiencing mental health problems, people experiencing domestic violence and those who misuse legal and illegal substances. It introduces students to contemporary services, familiarises them with relevant policy frameworks, and provides a critical analysis of relevant theoretical perspectives. Small group work in Integrative Groups enables them to apply their learning from all units in the context of practice studied in this unit.

The unit aims are: i) To promote critical understanding of the reasons why children and young people, and adults, may come to the attention of social care agencies, and how the particular problems of domestic violence, mental illness and substance misuse may also be relevant to both groups.

ii) To develop a critical understanding of contemporary policy frameworks and service structures for social care and social work services affecting these groups, and how they have evolved.

iii) To examine critically the key theoretical and conceptual models relevant to social work practice in these areas.

iv) To explore and evaluate key theories of change and helping used in social work practice.

v) To develop a critical awareness of and ability to apply core social work values.

vi) To promote skills in integrating theory, research and practice.

Intended learning outcomes

On successful completion of the unit, students will be able to demonstrate:

  1. Critical understanding of the structure and organisation of social work services.
  2. Critical appreciation of relevant policy frameworks in England and Wales.
  3. Understanding of the key features, rationale and skills associated with working with the different social work client groups.
  4. Ability to use theory and research critically to analyse situations and begin to plan interventions with the range of service users, having regard to core social work values and ethics.

Teaching details

Methods of teaching will involve a combination of blended learning that is both synchronous and asynchronous. It will include lectures, group work, and seminars involving case discussion. This unit provides a significant opportunity in year one for experiential group work which will take place both on campus (as the situation allows) and in self-directed study group, much of which is intended to enable students to integrate knowledge across the various units of the programme, rather than being restricted to this particular unit.

Assessment Details

Students will be required to undertake a formative assessment of 4,000 words from a choice of questions based on practice interests. This assessment will require students to integrate theory, legislation and policy, social work values and ethics related to the chosen area of practice/ current issues within social work.

Students participate in weekly meetings of Integrative Groups, which requires them present examples of their learning.

Reading and References

Butler, I. & Hickman, C. (2011), Social Work with Children and Families: Getting into practice. Jessica Kingsley, London, 3rd ed.

Jones K., Cooper B. & Ferguson H.(eds) (2008), Best Practice in Social Work: Critical perspectives. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.

Sheldon B. & Macdonald G. (2009), A Textbook of Social Work. Abingdon: Routledge.

Teater, B 2014 Contemporary Social Work Practice: A Handbook for Students. Maidenhead: Open University Press

Wilson K., Ruch G., Lymbery M. and Cooper A. (2011), Social Work: An introduction to contemporary practice. Harlow, England: Pearson Education, 2nd ed.

Davies M (Ed.) (2012) Social Work with Adults, Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.

Webber, M. (2011) Evidence-Based Policy and Practice in Mental Health Social Work, 2nd edition, Exeter, Learning Matters.