Thinking systemically-thinking politically: building strong partnerships with children and families in the context of rising inequality

Featherstone, Brid; Broadhurst, Karen and Holt, Kim (2012). Thinking systemically-thinking politically: building strong partnerships with children and families in the context of rising inequality. British Journal of Social Work, 42(4) pp. 618–633.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1093/bjsw/bcr080

Abstract

Prompted by findings from the Munro Review of Child Protection, this paper provides a critical analysis of the combination of changes that appear to have undermined social workers' ability to develop strong partnerships with children and their families. Here, we engage with a number of now familiar lines of critique that have exposed the negative consequences of aspects of New Labour's modernisation agenda (such as excessive standardisation). However, we challenge our readers to think more broadly about the political foundations of the New Labour project and, in particular, to consider how neo-liberal policies have in the past and are likely in the future to lead to the intensification of inequalities, thus undermining effective family work. Efforts to deal with excessive rules and procedures, or the revision of performance targets, as suggested in the Munro Review, will not mitigate the corrosive effects of rising social inequality. If we are to think systemically, as Munro suggests, then we must consider the likely regressive impact of impending public sector and welfare cuts and challenge any moves to sideline family support and restrict social work to a narrow focus on child protection.

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