This paper develops Professor Eileen Munro’s coverage of ‘emotional dimensions’ in her Review of Child Protection in England. It argues that managerialism has failed to recognise the importance of the emotional life of human beings and the importance of the relationships we build in social work and that this failure seriously hinders the quality and effectiveness of social work. The article begins with an account of what an ‘emotional dimension’ might encompass and drawing on conceptualisations mainly from neuroscience looks at what is meant by the words emotions and feelings, affect, attunement and empathy. A second section looks at the skewed representation of logical thinking as innately superior to emotional and intuitive reasoning and the part played by conscious and unconscious elements within judicial decision-making. It then analyses the dangers evident in the more extreme and rigid forms of managerialism that can be found in some areas of social work and a final section argues that for managerialism to be humanised calls
for an emotionally responsive relationship-based practice to be located at the heart of social work.
I started in social work in 1976 and over the years have had a variety of roles – as a residential worker, field social worker, family centre manager and academic. I’m currently retired but regularly present at conferences and lecture in the UK, Europe and Australia on themes covered in my writing or that trouble social workers.
I enjoy writing and am the author of the best-selling 3rd edition text Social Work Skills and Knowledge: A Practice Handbook (2012). In this book, and in other articles I’ve written, I highlight – and attempt to rectify – the superficial coverage given to social work skills in some areas of UK teaching and practice