What is professional social work? What is it that social workers actually do? Addressing these fundamental questions in breadth and depth, this concise and helpful text will inform its readers and encourage reflection. The key themes of the introduction - locating contemporary practice in its social and historical context, and giving prominence to the themes of social justice and the voice of the user - are built on by a final chapter that considers what is most likely to influence the future development of social work as a profession. This broad discussion is illustrated by chapters in between that explore in more depth contemporary policy and practice in social work's major areas: care for older people; work with children and families; work with offenders and juvenile justice; disability; mental illness. Written by acknowledged experts from both teaching and practice, these chapters describe and analyse the relevant forms, structures and methods of practice; and will help you to: discover the specific social, political and economic contexts; identify the legislation which guides practice; consider the way services are organised; begin to think about the issues which challenge practitioners in their everyday work. Together they provide a depth and breadth of knowledge with an immediacy and freshness of recent practice, which will speak directly to those who want to learn and those who strive to teach.