The Conceptual Practices of Children and Family Social Work: Protection, Risk and Partnership

Radcliffe, Polly. 2001. The Conceptual Practices of Children and Family Social Work: Protection, Risk and Partnership. Doctoral thesis, Goldsmiths, University of London [Thesis]

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Abstract or Description

In this thesis I examine the contemporary social work gaze and social work knowledge as a practice of government. The data for this thesis is derived from qualitative analysis of interviews with children and social workers from two local authority social services departments in which they described their practices. In addition I have carried out analyses of social work guidance and regulation.

The professionalisation of social work, and legislation to mandate its activities coincided with, and was intimately linked with a post-war politics of consensus. It was part of a more general governmental strategy of alleviating problems, which were understood as social in character by supporting the family through a blend of welfarist measures and a therapeutics of the family. Analysis of policy and legislation over the last five decades reveals that the conceptual currency of social work, the focus and subject of its gaze have been transformed. It is the priority of protection, which dominates contemporary social work practices.

Contemporary social work and its problematisation of intervention into the private space of the family has become characterised by, on one hand, a concern to render visible the `at risk' population through multi-disciplinary strategies of risk management and surveillance, and on the other hand, by discourses of `partnership', in which parents are enjoined to work with social workers in the interests of the welfare of their children. I argue that partnership represents a new imagining of the social worker in terms of a reflexivity vis a vis his/her power and a tentativeness vis a vis the legitimacy of her intervention in the family. Attempts to scientise and systematise the social work gaze do not recognise the extent to which social workers' techniques of knowing both make possible at the same time as they limit the subject of social work practices.

Item Type:

Thesis (Doctoral)

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social work, gaze, children, family life

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Date Deposited:

18 Jun 2020 14:50

Last Modified:

08 Sep 2022 12:42


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