Welfare, law and managerialism: Inter-discursivity and inter-professional practice in child care social work

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• Summary: This article examines the relationships between welfare, law and managerialism as key discourses in social work with children and families. It draws on empirical research into the relationships between local authority social workers, social services managers and lawyers in child care work in England.
• Findings: Tensions between social workers and lawyers have, in the past, been seen as symptoms of a wider clash between welfare and law as paradigmatic approaches to the regulation of social life and professional activity. Likewise, the rise of managers and managerialism has widely been portrayed as being in conflict with welfare values. The relationship between law and managerialism, meanwhile, has often been treated as unproblematic — simply two sides of the same coin, the increasing regulation of social work. This study reveals a more complex picture of on-going and unstable overlaps and tensions between the three professional groups and discourses.
• Applications : The study points to a more fluid understanding of the relationships between welfare, law and managerialism in social work, one that recognizes the dynamic nature of the inter-discursive and inter-professional relationships. The character of contemporary child care social work is constructed and constrained through these multi-layered interactions.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)45-64
Number of pages20
JournalJournal of Social Work
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2008

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