In this talk we give an overview of the development of conversation analytic research of social work over the last three decades – from scattered studies in the 1990s to the forming of a viable subfield that can inform professional practice. We map which areas that have received the most attention so far and point to what remains unchartered terrain for conversation analysts.
Reflective supervision is promoted in social work as a way to support social workers to think critically about their work. One way to do this is to imagine the perspectives of the child and their parents, but how is this managed in practice? In this presentation, we consider occasions when supervisors ask about the perspectives of family members and show how the efforts to do reflective supervision can be undermined by concerns about professional accountability.
It is widely assumed that supervision is a key decision-making space for social work. But is it? In this presentation, we will look at the types of decisions that are made in supervision, and the ways in which supervisors and social workers come to an agreement about what they should do next. A tentative model of decision-making in supervision is proposed, in which i) supervisors make a suggestion, ii) a discussion follows in which the social worker is recruited into justifying the suggestion and iii) the supervisor draws the discussion to an end and sets out the next steps. This model, based on an analysis of actual supervision case-discussions, is unlike some of the more common theoretical models of what supervision should be.
Research and theory has shown that the development of a new identity plays an important role in people moving away from offending behaviour. But where do these identities come from? This presentation draws on research on groupwork programmes for addressing offending behaviour in Scotland to explore how criminal justice social workers help shape pro-social identities.
Supervision is an opportunity for social workers and team leaders to discuss and reflect on the people they work with, their lives, their issues and how best to help/support them. However, of course, these people are not present to talk for themselves, and one can only guess how they may think or feel. So how do social workers and team managers go about exploring this uncertain space in supervision? One strategy that has been observed is to not only report what the service users have said, but go further and speak as if they were the service user(s), and what they may be thinking or feeling. It is worth noting that they have not been told to do this, and both parties never refer to this practice. This presentation will explore why they do this, what occasions talking as service users, and what bringing other voices into the room accomplishes in this context.
When people are in contact with organisations who have a remit to provide assistance, sometimes they are asked to disclose personal information (e.g., health concerns, addictions) in order for appropriate support to be provided. However, sometimes these sensitive topics are observably problematic to discuss (e.g., speech disfluency, tentative turn design), which may have consequences for the help offered. Drawing on a corpus of recorded telephone calls to a UK housing charity helpline, I focus on the points in calls where call-takers endeavour to establish the caller’s ‘vulnerability’ through asking a series of specific questions (e.g., “do you have any medical issues at all?”). I will show how the design of topic initiating turns by call-takers can have interactional (and potentially institutional) consequences for callers. Significantly, I will demonstrate how these findings are relevant for professionals across the social care sector.
Peer support helplines can provide safe social contacts and help break older people’s isolation during the pandemic. In such volunteer-based social work, the anonymity of callers and call-takers is a key feature. Anonymity enables conversations about difficult topics, but can also be a hurdle to establishing a connection with the caller. We will talk about how call participants in a Swedish helpline for older people navigate situations where anonymity becomes a problem, and how call-takers work to offer good company and personal support while limiting disclosure of private details.
This presentation entails a meeting between teachers and treatment assistants at a Swedish detention home for boys and young men (age 12-20). It was drawn from a 30h corpus of video- and audio-recordings of school activities, recess time and staff meetings. During signing over, the teachers report to the treatment assistants how the school day proceeded for the students. The discussion analysed here concerns an isolation event that had taken place earlier in the day, whereby a student was placed in solitary confinement under The Care of Young Persons (Special Provisions) Act (1990:52 15§). This is an extraordinary measure, only meant to be executed in those circumstances when a young person is considered a danger to her/himself or others. The presentation details how staff discuss the events leading up to the isolation decision, its realisation, and the legal anchoring of the decision, as well as its moral and educational consequences.
In conversation people are generally treated as having the rights to hold and articulate knowledge about their own experiences and as being more knowledgeable about their relatives, friends, job, etc. relative to others. In that regard parents are generally treated as having the right and responsibility to know more about their own children than non-family members. However, when children are placed in out-of-home care, this epistemic authority is challenged since the access to everyday life experiences with the child is limited and shared with professional carers or foster parents. In this presentation I explore the ways in which professionals and parents to children placed in out-of-home care engage in negotiations about the rights and responsibilities to claim knowledge about the child. The focus is on relational implications of the way epistemic authority is managed in the conversation and the consequences of the management of such rights and responsibilities for the accomplishment of conversational activities and institutional goals.
Presenting papers to clients provides social workers with a crucial opportunity for promoting their bureaucratic literacy, ensuring their understanding of important information and encouraging active participation in the management of their own case. Still, this task presents practical challenges to all the participants, given not only their asymmetric knowledge of the text and information contained therein but also how, sitting around the office table, they have different opportunities to visually access and read the document. Based on a large collection of video recordings of encounters between social workers and clients in Portugal, this presentation will take a close look at the interactional organization of social workers’ presentation of paper documents to clients, showing some of the practical problems emerging within the moment-by-moment unfolding of this task and how they are skilfully managed by professionals and clients through talk and bodily conduct, and reflecting on the implications of this task for appreciating Social Work practice from an interactional and ecological perspective.