This article considers the concept of risk by exploring the case of a young person, Bruce, 21, with whom I worked on a Through Care After Care (TCAC), social work placement. Bruce and I had developed an effective and caring working relationship. I question if this would have been if I had not demonstrated trust and compassion. I propose that modern-day social work practice falls foul to the relationship being reduced or replaced by a narrow ideological form of professional conduct. In doing so, I draw on concepts of dual relationships/boundary crossing and care ethics, highlighting the susceptibility of these being degraded in a neoliberal climate, which constructs some service users as a risk whilst simultaneously creating social conditions that are inimical to realising social work values. I contest that to affect long-term change, social workers must negotiate both the managerial imperatives of risk assessment processes whilst prioritising the actual needs of service users.
- relationship-based practice
- Social work