Examining communication during home visits: A Discourse Analytic approach

Wednesday 3 October 2012, 2.00PM to 4.15pm

Speaker(s): Dr Chris Hall, School of Medicine, Pharmacy and Health, Durham University

Social work has long been associated with the home:visiting it, scrutinizing it, constructing it as assessable and reportable. Theorigins of social work were “friendly visiting” dating back to the 1880s, and socialwork history has been marked by completing versions of whether its gaze is usedas a basis to promote scientific assessment or social reform. The private worldof the home visit is not seen by the public, rarely by the social work manager.What happens in such encounters is usually only available through the socialwork report or the service user’s complaint.

Whilst we know little about what happens during thehome visit, it is clear that sensitive and purposeful communication in thesesometimes highly charged encounters can have positive outcomes. Difficultissues can be more successfully addressed if the social worker is aware of andattends to key communication dilemmas. However, textbooks on communicationskills in social work rarely consider examples of actual social workinteraction, concentrating instead on hypothetical scenarios usually discussedin terms of general principles: showing respect, offering reflection,displaying empathy.

This research project provides access to the homevisit by engaging in detailed turn-by-turn analysis of communication betweensocial worker and service user in actual social work encounters. Working on acorpus of audio recordings of home visits in both children’s and adult socialcare services, concepts from discourse analysis are deployed to discover howsocial workers and service users manage communication dilemmas. Detail study ofhow agreements are made, advice is resisted or boundaries are negotiatedprovides insights into how social work is done on a daily basis.

This session will enable examples of transcripts to beexamined and the opportunities for staff development and promoting reflectivepractice considered. New technologies make audio recording much easier, eventhough data protection protocols impose new constraints.

Location: University of York

Admission: FREE to subscribing agencies

Email: jp42@york.ac.uk

Telephone: 01904 321237