Policy and Politics matter: The shaping of contemporary social work in times of neoliberalism.
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AbstractThe commentary draws on a range of work to demonstrate the argument that policy and politics are of central importance in shaping social work in England. I outline the development of my practice wisdom and then examine the contested nature of social work knowledge. Drawing on my practice with people who were poor and marginalised, I came to believe that social work must have a commitment to equality and social justice and that to achieve this social work must engage with policy and politics. My outputs begin by examining the connection between my practice wisdom and the dialectical nature of social work’s enduring tensions, located in a work that underlines the importance of sociology. A further four outputs focus upon aspects of social policy, notably key elements in the rise of neo-liberalism in contemporary social work in a text that argues explicitly that social workers need to develop a politically engaged practice. My other outputs illustrate the impact of politics, neoliberalism and its attendant policies in the early 21st century, gathering evidence from three broad areas. First, the nature of globalisation is examined focusing upon the movement of social workers and ‘cross-national’ social work. Second, there is an explicit exploration of social work under neoliberalism, drawing on the case of Children’s services and learning disability. Third, I examine ‘policy practice’ and the concept of ‘choice’. I argue that social work has always had a concern with politics and policy but that in more recent years this has declined and has been overtaken by a focus upon individualism. My core theoretical themes are the dialectic and an examination of hegemonic structures which impact on social work. I explore the continuing importance of my work in relation to contemporary social work, showing that policies and politics matter more than ever. I conclude by arguing that, as social work is under political attack from the current Government, the ‘radical tradition’ needs to be kept alive.
TypeThesis or dissertation
DescriptionA commentary on previously published work submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements of the University of Wolverhampton for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy.
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Mission impossible? Critical practice in social work.Stepney, Paul M. (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2006)In recent years, the capacity of social work to be a force for progressive policy and social change has been significantly eroded. Social work in the UK has been re-branded and reshaped within New Labour’s modernized welfare state, only to become politically compromised and compliant: ‘the dog that didn’t bark’ even when its soul appeared to be stripped out. This article offers a response to this predicament informed by a structural modernist analysis revitalized by elements of critical postmodernism (Fook, 2002). Without wishing to offer any definitive prescriptions, the concept of critical practice is worthy of consideration, as it offers the potential for combining the role of protection with prevention whilst embodying possibilities for critical reflection and change. This became the focus of a recent conference organized around the theme of celebrating social work (Torfaen, 2002). Further, it offers practitioners a means for critical engagement with the issues that lie at the root of injustice and exclusion, to develop a more emancipatory approach, whilst resisting pressures for more enforcement and control.
Social Work and the Community: a critical context for practice.Popple, Keith; Stepney, Paul M. (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2008)How important is the notion of community to skilled social work? This book explores how the concept relates to policy, theory and professional practice. With analysis of contemporary social problems throughout a variety of community settings, this book demonstrates how important community-based approaches are to all social workers today.
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