Joe Smeeton - ‘In search of meanings within child protection social work in the UK’

Season five of our podcast continues with another presentation from our 2020 annual conference: ‘Engaged Phenomenology’ Online. This episode features Joe Smeeton, University of Sheffield.


ABSTRACT: Social work theory often tears itself between sociological and psychological ways to understand the human condition and, as I will argue, is always therefore left missing important ways to think about what is happening for people. This paper will draw upon phenomenology to make the case that social work should focus first of all on the lived experience of the people who use its services and to prioritise the meanings they make of their experiences prior to applying external theoretical 'professional' meanings. Theorists such as Merleau-Ponty offer a theoretical framework that sees the human condition as embodied in the social world and therefore consisting of plural accounts of experience that don't easily lend themselves to oversimplified ontical descriptions of the social or psychological realms that claim to explain the commonalities of 'humanity'. Social work is therefore able to work within a more ethical mode of practice and Levinas adds a richness to current ethical frameworks to support a questioning about social work practice.


BIO: Joe Smeeton has practiced, taught and researched social work within the UK for the last 30 years. He has focused much of this work within child protection social work and with looked after children. He is particularly interested in the knowledge bases that inform social worker's decision-making and especially how the risk paradigm has impacted upon organisational and individual decisions. More recently Joe is exploring the use of phenomenology as a way of understanding and theorising about social work. Joe has taught at the Universities of Sheffield, Salford, East Anglia and Nottingham Trent. He has developed qualifying and post-qualifying programmes and has also acted as external examiner at a number of other programmes.


This recording is taken from the BSP Annual Conference 2020 Online: 'Engaged Phenomenology'. Organised with the University of Exeter and sponsored by Egenis and the Wellcome Centre for Cultures and Environments of Health. BSP2020AC was held online this year due to global concerns about the Coronavirus pandemic. For the conference our speakers recorded videos, our keynotes presented live over Zoom, and we also recorded some interviews online as well. Podcast episodes from BSP2020AC are soundtracks of those videos where we and the presenters feel the audio works as a standalone:


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The British Society for Phenomenology is a not-for-profit organisation set up with the intention of promoting research and awareness in the field of Phenomenology and other cognate arms of philosophical thought. Currently, the society accomplishes these aims through its journal, events, and podcast. Why not find out more, join the society, and subscribe to our journal the JBSP?

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