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‘Care is not a dirty word!’ Enacting an ethic of care in social work practice

journal contribution
posted on 2023-05-19, 09:11 authored by Jenny HayJenny Hay
While ‘care’ has been positioned as a core value of the social work profession since its inception, the increasing influence of neoliberal rationalities have placed care on the periphery of social work theory and practice. Social work scholars have promoted the incorporation of ethic of care theory into direct social work practice as a means of countering the effects of a context that is antithetical to caring practice. I present findings from my Australian study, providing an original contribution by presenting concrete understandings of how social workers enact care in everyday direct social work practice. The study was guided by a grounded theory approach. Fifteen social workers were interviewed using a semi-structured interview schedule. The interviews were analysed using constructivist grounded theory techniques. ‘Meeting needs’, ‘just being there for clients’, ‘building relationships with clients’, and ‘going the extra mile’ were some of the ways that participants demonstrated care in their practice. Constraints on care were challenged and resisted by ‘taking a stand’, ‘bending the rules’, ‘picking battles’, ‘justifying care’, and ‘taking risks’.


Publication title

European Journal of Social Work








School of Social Sciences



Place of publication

United Kingdom

Rights statement

Copyright 2017 Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group

Repository Status

  • Restricted

Socio-economic Objectives

Expanding knowledge in human society

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