From farm training to therapy : a case study in the history of social work from a macro-micro social policy perspective

Johns, Robert Geraint (2002). From farm training to therapy : a case study in the history of social work from a macro-micro social policy perspective. PhD thesis The Open University.



This thesis analyses the development of social work during the twentieth century by examining the life history of one residential establishment, Turners Court, founded in 1911. The objective is to explain how ideals and policies are translated into action, by conducting an historical analysis of an organisation that attained some prominence in its field.

The thesis sets out evidence to demonstrate that once created, institutions attain an identity and set of values and beliefs of their own, verified through their contribution and response to policy developments. The research draws on insights from current thinking about the macro-micro relationship, relating these to social policy by deploying and evaluating Layder's (1993) multi-perspectival approach that urges greater attention to power, history and general social theory.

Turners Court has distinctive features that commend it as a case study. It began as a 'colony' providing men with agricultural training. Its foundations reflected a mix of motives, ranging from the evangelistic to the eugenic. By the 1960s it claimed to be a pioneering institution, yet by the 1980s a substantial contraction in the residential care sector had been set in motion, for reasons analysed in the thesis. In 1991, Turners Court, a 'therapeutic' training establishment for boys aged 14-16, closed.

Based on a systematic analysis of archive material, a model of congruence is devised, indicating areas that need to fit for organisations to be created and to survive. Discongruity in these areas is offered to explain their demise.

The history of Turners Court, as a microcosm of the history of residential social work, indicates a need to review social policy theory in a way that recognises the importance Of the interplay of macro and micro factors. In particular, more attention needs to be paid to the role of values and belief systems.

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