The Toxic Duo: The neglected practitioner and a parent who fails to meet the needs of their child

  • Horwath J
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Practitioners, irrespective of the service users they work with, have educational, emotional and supervisory needs. In addition, they require appropriate physical space and a safe work environment. Social workers are most likely to develop effective relationships with families if these needs are met. Therefore, it is important that managers create an organisational culture that not only recognises, but also meets, practitioners' needs. In this paper, the various needs of social workers are considered in detail with a particular focus on those of child and family practitioners. Agency responses to meeting these various needs are also explored. An argument is made that the agency approach to work environment, staff development, supervision and managing the emotional demands of the job all influence practitioners' commitment and ability to engage with families and improve outcomes for children. Drawing on a framework of different types of practitioner engagement with carers, the negative effects on practitioners of working in a ‘neglectful organisation’ are considered. An argument is made that the neglected practitioner, working with a parent who is not meeting the needs of their child, leads to an unhealthy alliance and in effect a ‘Toxic Duo’ is created. The paper concludes by considering the work culture and climate that promote meaningful engagement and questions are raised as to how managers can create this culture when services are subject to year-on-year cuts, marketisation and increased service demand.

Author-supplied keywords

  • Child and family social work
  • Emotional labour
  • Management
  • Organizational culture
  • Relationships

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  • Jan Horwath

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