Anti-oppressive practice

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Anti-oppressive practice is an attempt within social work to acknowledge oppression in societies, economies, cultures, and groups, and to remove or negate the influence of that oppression.

Social work is known to be a 'caring profession' but when providing services what works for one person does not necessarily work for another. Related to this there may be a ‘care versus control’ issue, because where there is care there is responsibility, and therefore control, and power.[citation needed] Practitioners need to be fully aware of the power (im)balance between service users and providers in order to work in an anti-oppressive manner. Otherwise, so-called anti-oppressive practice can be criticised as ‘a gloss to help [social work] to feel better about what it is required to do’ (Humphries, 2004, p105).

Discussing issues in abbreviations and legal terms can be disempowering to clients and considered oppressive. Speaking plainly and clearly is considered good working practice, where the client can not only understand but can become involved in making choices and decisions about their involvement with social services. Anti-oppressive practice is about working with the service user to include them in facilitating a user-led and user-controlled service. Healthy professional relationships will help build the confidence of the service user to enable them to develop their own ideas about their level of involvement.

See also[edit]


Maidment, Jane (2004). Practice Skills in Social Work & Welfare. Crows Nest: Allen & Unwin. 

Strier, Roni (2006). Anti-Oppressive Research in Social Work: A Preliminary Definition. British Journal of Social Work. doi:10.1093/bjsw/bcl062

Jones,R. (1995) ‘Disability, discrimination and local authority social services: the social services context, in G. Zarb (ed), Removing disabling barriers. London: PSI pg 108-115