Advocacy ideas in social work

Authored by: Tom Wilks

The Routledge Handbook of Social Work Theory

Print publication date:  July  2019
Online publication date:  June  2019

Print ISBN: 9780415793438
eBook ISBN: 9781315211053
Adobe ISBN:


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Advocacy is a diverse and growing area of social work practice. It is highly pragmatic, providing a straightforward response to service user need and challenging powerful vested interests. At the same time, it draws upon quite a complex and eclectic theory base. One of the most striking things about advocacy is the diversity of different approaches it encompasses, ranging in scope from addressing individual need to working with groups around collective concerns, and in purpose from quasi-legal representation to emotional support within citizen advocacy. There are, however, common threads running through advocacy binding these disparate approaches together. The first is a common value base and commitment to empowerment. A shared concern with and commitment to principled negotiation is also something many advocates have in common. Another important feature of advocacy is that it shares common ground with other approaches to social work, something we will explore in discussing cause advocacy’s relationship to radical social work and to international development. Advocacy is also a contested area of practice, and there are important debates around the place of advocacy in statutory services and around promotional as against enabling advocacy.

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