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Social work for ‘liquid old age’: some insights from an ethnographic study of a hospital social work team

Burrows, Daniel 2021. Social work for ‘liquid old age’: some insights from an ethnographic study of a hospital social work team. Ethics and Social Welfare 10.1080/17496535.2021.1996619
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Abstract

This article explores the values enacted by social workers involved in care planning for older people and their implications. The data are derived from an ethnographic study of a hospital social work team responsible for planning and arranging packages of care, almost exclusively for older patients (aged 80+), prior to their discharge, in a large general hospital in the UK. The study set out to explore the nature of statutory hospital social work, how hospital social workers do their work, and how social work fits into the hospital context. The primary methods of data collection were participant observation and semi-structured interviews with social workers, clinicians, patients and carers. Where patients’ mental capacity was not in doubt, social workers were found to be strong advocates of patients’ choices as free individuals. It is argued that the individualistic focus of the social workers’ practices facilitates the production of a precarious existence that can be characterised in Bauman’s terms as ‘liquid old age’, which involves coping with the physical, emotional and social challenges of ageing alone or with little assistance. Depending on an individual’s circumstances, the social workers’ advocacy of personal choice can either be liberating or detrimental.

Item Type: Article
Date Type: Published Online
Status: In Press
Schools: Social Sciences (Includes Criminology and Education)
Publisher: Routledge
ISSN: 1749-6535
Date of First Compliant Deposit: 3 November 2021
Date of Acceptance: 17 October 2021
Last Modified: 05 Nov 2021 09:29
URI: https://orca.cardiff.ac.uk/id/eprint/145163

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