NO MORE ‘NEEDS’: growing confidence and improving skills around sexuality in social work research, learning and practice Practical Learning: achieving excellence in the human services PEPE conference Edinburgh 2008 Joy Trotter and Trish Hafford-Letchfield University of Teesside - London South Bank University
sexuality in social work
social exclusion & marginalisation
anti-discriminatory and anti-oppressive practices
these imply that social work
embraces equality and diversity
has become ‘culturally competent’
subscribes to moral and ethical standards which include respect for others, regardless of their sexual orientation
sexuality issues continue to be marginalized or excluded altogether (Leech & Trotter, 2005; Fish, 2006)
sexuality in research
Despite the 2002 RAE specifically remarking on sexuality as one of a number of new and emerging areas for social work (Shaw & Norton, 2007) it continues to be under-funded and under-researched.
Others have contributed:
education - focussing on schools & sexual bullying and sex education
sociology and social policy - developing understandings & debates around sexuality
economists and demographers - struggled to capture or predict trends relating to sexual diversity within families
health and psychology – mostly AIDS/HIV, STDs and other ‘problems’
criminology – around sex offenders and child sexual abuse
sexuality in learning
Despite a number of pioneering texts around a decade ago (Logan et al , 1996; Hicks, 1996; Trotter & Gilchrist, 1996; Trotter, 1998; Brown, 1998; Trotter, 2000a, 2000b; Logan, 2001) very little has been transferred to national learning resources, training policies or general educational materials.
Social Work and Sexuality (Brown, 1998) omitted from BASW’s (Macmillan Press) re-launch of Practical Social Work series in 2006 (12 titles) nor was it included in advertisements for ‘ key backlist books’ (10 titles)
Learning Matters – helping social workers to support people in ‘ achieving their sexual rights ’ (Jones & Bywater, 2007, p134)
sexuality in practice
sexuality often confused with sex (behaviour),
sexuality confined to ‘issues’ (problems) and/or
sexuality conflated with sexual (sexiness).
Technicist approaches to assessment and service provision have emerged which seek to identify the particular ‘ needs ’ of ‘minority’ populations (Jeyasingham, 2008) .
These have focussed on non hetero-sexual people, implying
heterosexuals do not have needs
non hetero-sexual people have only ‘needs’
non-heterosexuals can be regarded as one homogenous population and
there are no overlaps or ‘needs’ that are held in common between the ‘two’ populations.
Its also assumed that once these so-called ‘ needs ’ are ‘known’, they will somehow be addressed (Hicks, 2005) .
community of practice
Opening up a dialogue between inside and outside perspectives
Invite different levels of participation
Develop both public and private community spaces
Focus on values
Create a rhythm for the community
a case study
Symposium: Sexuality issues in social work practice, education and research
Began in June 2004
Aims/objectives - To extend and strengthen the knowledge base by:
providing a friendly and safe forum for discussion and dissemination of ideas
sharing and developing ideas;
supporting and sustaining each others’ interests and endeavours;
contributing to and collaborating on research projects and publications.
Membership - Social work and allied academics, researchers, practitioners, students and service users with proven &/or active interests in sexuality issues.
share the data-base of contacts
share information, news and ideas
contribute ‘reading lists’, with recommended favourite(s) & accompanying review
regular meetings, seminars and conferences
Ongoing learning through:
mutual engagement & joint enterprise
personal, educational & professional histories
giving meaning to practice
Virtual and real support network
Campaigning / lobbying
Workshops / conferences
Early days – fluid and informal network
Including and collaborating?
Direction & future?
SIG or Symposium?
Shifting the focus by
pursuing clarity about values
widening participation & perspective
meanings/understandings emerging - no more ‘needs’
Brown, H. C. (1998) Social Work and Sexuality: Working with Lesbians and Gay Men, Basingstoke: Macmillan.
Fish, J. (2006) Heterosexism and Social Care , Basingstoke: Palgrave.
Hicks, S. (1996) ‘The last resort? Lesbian and gay experiences of the social work assessment process in fostering and adoption’, Practice , 8(2), 15-24.
Hicks, S. (2005) ‘Sexuality: social work theories and practice’. In Adams, R., Dominelli, L. & Payne, M. (eds) Social Work Futures: Crossing Boundaries, Transforming Practice , Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.
Jeyasingham, D. (2008) ‘ Knowledge/ignorance and the construction of sexuality in social work education’, Social Work Education, 27(2), 22–35.
Jones, R. & Bywater, J. (2007) Sexuality and Social Work . Exeter: Learning Matters .
Leech, N. and Trotter, J. (2005) ‘”None of them ever asked about sex”: some personal thoughts as to why social workers have difficulty discussing sexuality with young people’, Socio-analysis , 7, 19-36.
Logan, J. (2001) ‘Sexuality, child care and social work education’, Social Work Education , 20(5), 563–575.
Logan, J., Kershaw, S., Karban, K., Mills, S. Trotter, J. & Sinclair, M. (1996) Confronting Prejudice: Lesbian and Gay Issues in Social Work Education , Aldershot: Arena.
Shaw, I. and Norton, M. (2007) The Kinds and Quality of Social Work Research in UK Universities: Using Knowledge In Social Care Report 17, London: Social Care Institute for Excellence.
Trotter, J. (1998) ‘Learning and practising, or just saying the words? Anti-discriminatory issues in social work training’, Journal of Practice Teaching in Health and Social Work , 1(2), 31-47.
Trotter, J. (2000) ‘Speaking out, coming out and being outed: different sexualities and child protection practices’. In Cox, P., Kershaw, S. & Trotter, J. (eds) Child Sexual Assault: Feminist Perspectives , London: Macmillan.
Trotter, J. (2000) ‘Who’s leading whom? Sexuality and young people’. In Harris, J., Froggett, L. & Paylor, I. (eds) Social Work Making a Difference , Birmingham: Venture Press.
Trotter, J. and Gilchrist, J. (1996) ‘Assessing DipSW students: anti-discriminatory practice in relation to lesbian and gay issues’, Social Work Education , 15(1), 75-82.