INTRODUCTION The public, the welfare sector and the social work profession undervalue direct social work practice. The public has negative views of social workers as 'child snatchers, ineffective do-gooders, fuzzy thinking liberals, parasites on the public purse, (or) self serving bureaucrats' (Davenport and Davenport 1997, 1). Direct practice social work positions, the majority of which are filled by women, receive low remuneration with limited career paths, replicating the gendered disadvantage that women face in the public workplace (Warskett 1990). Funding cuts and managerial demands for quickfix outcomes means that the welfare sector no longer values the complexity and quality of direct social work practice. Within the social work profession, longstanding debates about forms of intervention undermine our credibility as a profession and the status of direct practitioners in the community.