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Research and Policy Updates

Our monthly Research and Policy Updates give you an in-depth digest of the latest research evidence and policy information relating to key themes and sector priorities. You need to be a member of RiPfA to access full RPUs, have a website account and be logged in – if you don’t have an account you can create one here.

Latest Issue:

RPU 126 July 2017

The theme of this month’s Research and Policy Update is assets-based work with communities.

Assets-based approaches seek to identify – and to mobilise – the personal, social and organisational resources within a community. People who use services may be isolated from their communities, and it is a major role for modern social work (especially following the Care Act 2014) to help people build trusting relationships and facilitate social activities.

The evidence suggests that having a diverse social network, based on relationships of trust, is important for health and wellbeing. When combined with strengths and assets-based approaches, which build on people’s individualities and preferences, the ideal is that they empower someone to build their own successes, while ensuring a community looks out for an individual, picking up any developing or worsening needs at an early stage.

It is an enticing theory, speaking to notions of choice, control, and self-sufficiency. However, there are dissenting voices. Berlant (2011) coined the term ‘cruel optimism’; she disputed the idea that people naturally become active participants in welcoming communities. She saw public spaces as ‘precarious’ and argued that communities may not meet everyone’s needs. This issue might be particularly relevant in a climate of austerity and a shrinking public sphere, as the study below into learning disabilities and personalisation highlights.

The research gathered in this RPU is generally positive, suggesting ways for social care to empower people to thrive in their communities. However, there are notes of caution. The strongest question mark is over long-term viability. As the research into dementia-friendly communities attests, it may be difficult for professionals to withdraw their support, since community inclusion projects may not become self-sustaining.

Reference: Berlant (2011) Cruel Optimism. Durham and London: Duke University

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