Professor Harry Ferguson

Harry Ferguson is the new Professor of Social Work at the University of Birmingham, having previously been chair of social work at the University of Nottingham. A qualified social worker, he has been conducting empirical studies into social work practice since the early 1990s. His research seeks to illuminate the world of practice, the complex relationships that exist between social workers and service users and the impact of interventions. He has completed studies of social work practice and child protection that involved observation of practitioners as they engaged in face to face work with children and parents, mainly on home visits, with the aim of increasing understandings of how best to protect and promote the well-being of children and help parents and other carers. He is currently half way through a 2 year study that is examining how relationships with children and families are begun, sustained and ended in long-term casework. Out of this he has developed publications and presentations on the lived experience of social work on home visits and complexities of how social workers sometimes do not engage effectively with children and parents and the skilled creative work that is involved when they (frequently) do.

Practice Masterclass

Knocking on the Door: The Home Visit and Social Work Practice. A half-day workshop bringing research, theory and practice to life

Little attention is given to the practice of home visiting and the emotions and challenges of accessing children it gives rise to. Although it is the methodology through which most child protection goes on, the home visit is virtually ignored in the literature and taken for granted in social work practice. In high profile cases where children have died, it was usually in the home that professionals struggled to get close to the children. Good practice requires entering children’s worlds, which means literally going into their most private spaces, like bedrooms. This workshop will seek to redress the neglect of the home visit by placing it at the centre of child protection practice and exploring:
  • the lived experience of delivering practice in people’s most personal spaces
  • negotiating the private areas of a family’s life – their home, bedroom, emotional world
  • the use of movement and the importance of touch
  • working with carers / parents who are resistant, aggressive or deceitful
  • spaces for reflection and organisational support
The Masterclass draws from Harry Ferguson’s extensive research in which he has shadowed practitioners on home visits to children and families. The aim is to provide a stimulating and safe environment in which delegates will have the opportunity to reflect upon some of the key practice challenges involved in protecting children.
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