We Do the Best We Can: Accounting Practices in Social Work Discourses of Asylum Seekers

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  1. Shepard Masocha*

  1. Dr Shepard Masocha is a Lecturer in Social Work in the School of Social Policy, Sociology and Social Research at the University
    of Kent. He is a qualified social worker with experience of working in children and families teams in Scotland, England and
    Wales. He is interested in exploring the role of language as a vehicle for social work practice. His current research explores
    how social workers enact their discourses in everyday practice through language use taking into account that these local meanings
    are situated in wider socio-political discourses.
  1. *Correspondence to Dr Shepard Masocha, School of Sociology, Social Policy and Social Research, University of Kent, Medway Campus,
    Gillingham Building, Chatham Maritime, Kent, ME4 4AG, UK. E-mail: s.masocha{at}kent.ac.uk
  • Accepted February 2013.


This study explores linguistic strategies that are deployed by social workers in their attempts to justify and defend their
practice with asylum seekers. Using discursive social psychology, social workers’ accounts are examined for the action orientation
of their accounts; what are the respondents doing in their accounts? This involves exploring the various ways in which the social workers’ accounts achieve specific actions
such as blaming, justifying and excusing. A key concern of the study is highlighting veracity or factual status as a concern
for the social workers who were interviewed for this study. As such, the interest is in how such accounts of practice are
constructed by social workers in their attempts to render their versions credible and difficult to undermine. The study provides
an insight into some of the ways which social workers use to produce accounts of competent social work practice and how this
is an integral part of a defensive social work discourse.

Key words

  • Asylum seekers
  • discourse analysis
  • accounting practices
  • language

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