Spotlight – How to Survive in Social Work

Social work by its very nature is challenging and demanding work. But, in the current social, economic and political climate, it can prove extraordinarily difficult to keep your head above water. Written by two highly experienced social work professionals, this important book explores the significance of that context, offers guidance on how to survive despite it and even to aim for thriving within it. There are no easy answers, but there is much we can do to make sure that we are able to fulfil the potential and value of social work as a force for making our society a humane one without sacrificing our own health and well-being.

Available for purchase here or here

It’s all about people: visit Neil Thompson’s humansolutions website

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Neil Thompson’s Lessons for Living – Respect cultural differences

The idea of cultural sensitivity is now a well-established one, but my experience has taught me that many people do not fully understand the implications of that. For example, many times I have come across people who assume that it applies only when dealing with somebody whose skin colour is different from one’s own. In reality, it is much more complex than this, as there will generally be cultural differences that relate to class, region, profession or vocation, linguistic group and so on. Culture is a much broader and more inclusive concept than it is generally given credit for. Our own cultural backgrounds and experiences will have been a profound influence on who we are (our identity), our sense of where we fit in the world and where we are going (our spirituality). So often breakdowns of communication and other problems have their roots in one person seeing the situation from their own cultural standpoint, while one or more others see it from different cultural standpoints.

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A Career in Social Work: Part biography, part overview of social work careers

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Preventing poverty to secure the future for children and families

Only by greatly strengthening the prevention of poverty can we start to achieve the wider and stable state of
social security required to provide a secure future for children and families. Yet prevention has been so neglected
that it has dropped down the list of policy priorities – or market-focused policymakers have pushed it down as
part of their rejection of planning. This paper sets out the case for preventing poverty with some specific proposals and then discusses where the money to pay for them might come from. It draws on the ‘wider aims’ of “Into the twenty-first century: the
development of social security”, one of the best reports ever produced by the International Labour Office (1984).

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LinkedIn: Connect online & join Neil Thompson’s HUMANSOLUTIONS discussion group

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100 groups demand safe and legal Channel crossing routes

100 civil society groups, Windrush survivors and religious organisations have come together to demand safe and legal routes now, in response to the government’s dangerous rhetoric surrounding recent Channel crossings. The fact is that people seeking protection in the UK can only do so once they reach UK soil. The lack of safe and legal routes by which to reach the UK means that people are pushed into the hands of people smugglers and forced to take dangerous journeys to claim asylum here. In its response to Channel crossings, the government has so far sought to abdicate all responsibility. We’ve been here before – if the Home Office is truly serious about learning the lessons of Windrush, they need to listen to expert advice from people who have been through the immigration system, and those who work with them. If they don’t, further tragedy at the UK’s borders seems unavoidable.

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A fresh look at social work theory and methods

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Spotlight – How to Survive in Social Work

Social work by its very nature is challenging and demanding work. But, in the current social, economic and political climate, it can prove extraordinarily difficult to keep your head above water. Written by two highly experienced social work professionals, this important book explores the significance of that context, offers guidance on how to survive despite it and even to aim for thriving within it. There are no easy answers, but there is much we can do to make sure that we are able to fulfil the potential and value of social work as a force for making our society a humane one without sacrificing our own health and well-being.

Available for purchase here or here

If you’re a social worker come join us in the Social Work Focus Facebook group!

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Neil Thompson’s Lessons for Living – Acknowledge problems, but focus on solutions

There tends to be a strong emphasis these days on ‘positive thinking’ and optimism. While there is much to be said for the benefits of such an approach, we also need to be aware of some of the dangers associated with it. One is for problems to be swept under the carpet in our desire to focus on the positive elements of a situation and thereby de-emphasize the negative or problematic aspects. What can be much more fruitful is to ensure that we acknowledge the problems we come across, but then adopt a positive approach by focusing on solutions. This is a matter of finding a constructive balance. On the one hand, it is dangerous to ignore problems in some misguided sense of positivity, but on the other it can make problems worse if people allow concerns about such problems to predominate – that is, if they wallow in the negativity problems can produce. Being positive about problem solving can give us the best of both worlds: we are not naively ignoring problems, but nor are we allowing their negativity to undermine us. Indeed, such a positive approach to problem solving is an important basis for empowerment, for supporting other people in resolving their own difficulties.

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Effective Teamwork: The importance of working together

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Belfast Met’s Gerry Skelton – Interview on Spirituality (video)

Warmest greetings to One and All. I just wanted to share a few words of gratitude and introduce what I hope will be a helpful resource to your thinking, feeling and practice about the centrality of spirituality in our individual and collective lives. As many of you are aware, I have been championing the inclusion of spirituality in the social work (and related) professions, and challenging the education, training and practice arenas to embrace this legitimate, nascent but often neglected and ‘tabooised’ theme. Indeed, I passionately contend that spirituality represents something of a zeitgeist for the 21st Century! So a BIG thank you to all who have helped me in a myriad of ways; through your personal and professional encouragement, enthusiasm, challenge, and ‘believing’ in the value of this work and the contribution I have tried to make.

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Learn with Neil Thompson: Sign up to Neil’s YouTube channel

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Hubbub – Inspiring practical actions for change

If you’re looking for inspiration and practical actions that are good for you and the environment, you’ve come to the right place. We believe that to create positive environmental change at the scale and speed needed, we need to get everyone on board. That’s why since 2014, we’ve been designing campaigns that inspire ways of living that are good for the environment. We disrupt the status quo to raise awareness, nudge behaviours and shape systems. We do this with knowledge and playfulness, and we won’t make you feel bad.

We concentrate on things you’re passionate about and are relevant day-to-day, like fashion, food, the homes we live in and the spaces around us. We keep things simple, offering practical and realistic solutions that help cut waste, make clothes last longer, save money and create cleaner spaces to live and work in, and more often than not bring people together.

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Emotional Competence Learn to develop your emotional intelligence and resilience

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Storybook dads

In 2002, whilst working as a volunteer in HMP Channings Wood, Sharon Berry began to realise how difficult it was for imprisoned parents to keep in touch with their children. She helped the Writer in Residence develop the Storybook Dads idea. Sharon moved to HMP Dartmoor and introduced the scheme there, recording prisoners on the wings and editing the stories from home.

It proved so popular that the Governor gave her a prison cell to work from and allowed her to employ a couple of prisoners to help with the editing. Other prisons heard about Storybook Dads and wanted to implement the project too. In order to attract some much needed funding, Sharon started the Storybook Dads charity in 2003.

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Not a textbook, a hands-on manual of practice guidance. An essential resource!

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Spotlight – The Values-based Practice Manual

“Where there are people, there will be problems, but there will also be potential” is a key part of Neil’s work. And that is precisely what this manual is all about – equipping practitioners from various professional disciplines to help people address their problems and realise their potential. Part One provides an extended essay on the nature and significance of problem solving to lay solid foundations of understanding. Part Two then offers guidance on using 101 problem-solving tools that can be used in a wide variety of circumstances.

Available to purchase here or here

Dealing with Stress: Important guidance on keeping stress at bay

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Neil Thompson’s Lesson for Living – Try Garfinkeling

Harold Garfinkel made a name for himself as a sociologist by changing certain aspects of a social situation and seeing what the consequences would be. In this way, he was able to identify implicit social rules by breaking them. This process became known as Garfinkeling. An example would be to change the gender of a person in a certain situation (in order to highlight the gender role assumptions being made) and seeing what difference that makes. Changing age group can also be enlightening in terms of highlighting ageist assumptions. For example, I once came across a geriatrician who would challenge ageist statements by saying: ‘Would you have made that comment if this person had been 30 years younger?’. Garfinkeling, then, is a useful tool for highlighting discriminatory assumptions by reversing some aspect of the situation so that previously taken-for-granted assumptions become apparent. Try it. It can be fun as well as enlightening.

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The Avenue Professional Development Programme: Join Neil’s online tutorial group

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World Alzheimer’s Day

World Alzheimer’s Day takes place on 21 September and is part of World Alzheimer’s Month. This year’s focus is stigma, and we need your help to break the stereotypes and myths that surround a dementia diagnosis. Families affected by dementia are facing an illness that’s often frightening and debilitating. They shouldn’t also have to deal with ignorance, thoughtlessness and cruelty from the people around them.

We often hear from carers who’ve had to deal with rude comments or stares while out in public with their loved one. We’ve heard from people with dementia who’ve had to listen to unpleasant jokes or thoughtless comments from people who just don’t understand the realities of their condition. Dementia isn’t a joke – and people affected by it deserve to be treated with understanding and respect.

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Facebook: Connect with Neil Thompson on Facebook

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Managing drug and alcohol misuse at work

The issue of drug and alcohol misuse at work has always existed, adversely effecting employees’ health, work performance, conduct, and safety. The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on working life – and the resulting economic downturn – have heightened many of the wellbeing risk factors, such as increased emotional and financial pressures and social isolation. Employers must ensure they have a clear policy on substance misuse and we recommend that drug and alcohol misuse forms part of their overall wellbeing offering to ensure any need for disciplinary action is coupled with a preventative and supportive approach to help employees get the help they need.

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Sociological insights to help understand people’s lives and their challenges

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Young refugees publish ideas for change

A group of young refugees in Leeds (ST4R) have published a booklet that they hope will improve life for young refugees in this country. Young people involved in the project tell us why they created the booklet and what they hope to achieve.

ST4R group is about bringing young people from different backgrounds together. We meet every fortnight and campaign about different things we want to change…Young people know what it’s like to be young so we are the best people to say what we want to change. It’s beneficial to us and other people. It helps improve our communication and speaking skills and makes us feel comfortable in ourselves. It’s also doing our part. You can’t stand on the side-lines and do nothing, especially when it’s about something you’ve been through yourself.

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Time and Workload Management: An essential guide to managing a heavy workload

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Spotlight – The Values-based Practice Manual

“Where there are people, there will be problems, but there will also be potential” is a key part of Neil’s work. And that is precisely what this manual is all about – equipping practitioners from various professional disciplines to help people address their problems and realise their potential. Part One provides an extended essay on the nature and significance of problem solving to lay solid foundations of understanding. Part Two then offers guidance on using 101 problem-solving tools that can be used in a wide variety of circumstances.

Available to purchase here or here

Connect with Neil Thompson online! For Neil's blog and more resources

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Neil Thompson’s Lesson for Living – Use of self

We live in what seems to be an increasingly consumerist society where helping people seems to be interpreted mainly as giving them some sort of service. We seem to have lost sight of the well-established notion that the best resource we can offer people is ourselves – what textbooks have traditionally referred to as ‘use of self’. By showing concern and interest and forging a meaningful human connection with people we can often be much more helpful to them than by referring them to a service which may or may not be of benefit to them. Some may argue that most people professionals don’t have time to do that these days, but I would argue that, if you have the skills and confidence, it is possible to capitalize on ‘use of self’ in a relatively short period of time. It is in large part a matter of changing our mindset from a service delivery one to a problem-solving, empowerment one.

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The Avenue Learning Centre Learning resources from Neil Thompson and colleagues

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