Being a “culturally competent” social worker: Making sense of a murky concept in practice

Harrison, G and Turner, R (2011) Being a “culturally competent” social worker: Making sense of a murky concept in practice. British Journal of Social Work, 41 2: 333-350. doi:10.1093/bjsw/bcq101

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Author Harrison, G
Turner, R
Title Being a “culturally competent” social worker: Making sense of a murky concept in practice
Journal name British Journal of Social Work   Check publisher's open access policy
ISSN 0045-3102
Publication date 2011-03
Year available 2010
Sub-type Article (original research)
DOI 10.1093/bjsw/bcq101
Open Access Status
Volume 41
Issue 2
Start page 333
End page 350
Total pages 18
Place of publication Oxford, U.K.
Publisher Oxford University Press
Collection year 2011
Language eng
Abstract The idea of cultural competence has been afforded significant importance in the caring professions while also being the subject of considerable debate. It is a prominent discourse in both the health and social work literature as well as being enshrined in organisational policy and human resources training. However, it is a somewhat murky concept in that culture can evoke a multitude of meanings while understandings of competence are context-dependent. Moreover, it is unclear what sense practitioners actually make of such an abstract concept in practice. This article describes an exploratory study conducted with a group of social workers that canvassed their understandings of cultural competence. These practitioners endorsed the idea of cultural competence while also critically engaging with its limitations and ambiguities. In addition, they highlighted organisational and system constraints that thwart their ability to practise in a culturally responsive manner. Although the literature commonly laments the ‘cultural incompetence’ of social workers, the findings from this study suggest that such an individualised focus detracts attention from the broader system and organisational responses needed to respond appropriately to the needs of clients from diverse backgrounds. Copyright © 2011 British Association of Social Workers
Keyword Cultural competence
Social work
Q-Index Code C1
Q-Index Status Confirmed Code
Institutional Status UQ
Additional Notes First published online: September 21, 2010.

Document type: Journal Article
Sub-type: Article (original research)
Collections: Official 2011 Collection
School of Social Science Publications
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Citation counts: TR Web of Science Citation Count  Cited 10 times in Thomson Reuters Web of Science Article | Citations
Scopus Citation Count Cited 14 times in Scopus Article | Citations
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Created: Wed, 02 Mar 2011, 16:18:29 EST by Ms Gai Harrison on behalf of School of Social Work and Human Services