Social work education and the transformation of welfare
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Social Work Education and the Transformation of Welfare. JSWEC Conference July 10 th 2008 Andrew Cooper [email protected] Social Work Education and the Transformation of Welfare. What is happening to our welfare state?

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Social Work Education and the Transformation of Welfare

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Social work education and the transformation of welfare

Social Work Education and the Transformation of Welfare

JSWEC Conference

July 10th 2008

Andrew Cooper

[email protected]


Social work education and the transformation of welfare1

Social Work Education and the Transformation of Welfare

What is happening to our welfare state?

What does it mean for service users, social workers, and educators?

What are the dilemmas and how do we position ourselves?


Social work as it is

Social work ‘as it is’

There were now three situations taking place, any one of which demanded thoughtful care. Leroy’s ability to contain the anxieties of carers, service users, and staff was a major factor throughout the afternoon. The ability to prioritise accurately and think carefully was essential faced with a hysterical mother, a brain damaged alcohol dependent man, and a destitute mother and child – all needing mindful attention…There was also a sinister undertone to the work. Why had Mr Z refused anyone admission to the house? What was his relationship with his wife? The primitive notion that his heart attack was some sort of retribution crossed my mind. Again, Will was a chronic alcoholic with brain damage. The red alert on his file indicated that he was potentially violent and abusive with it too.


Social work as it is1

Social work ‘as it is’

This team’s service users had difficulty thinking for themselves. They either had a long term condition that affected their cognitive and emotional thinking such as Parkinson’s disease or had brain injury through accident or alcohol. A third group who had trouble in thinking were those with a personality disorder. These service users often had difficulties in establishing and maintaining reciprocal relationships with neighbours, family and agency staff. Many of this group had developed personality disorders due to extremely deprived and abusive childhoods which led to difficulties in forming attachments.


The transformation of welfare

The transformation of welfare

  • Social work educators need to understand the nature of this new welfare ‘settlement’ if they are to locate their training practices meaningfully, and engage with the professional and ethical dilemmas thrown up by these decisive shifts in how welfare is conceived.

  • the personalisation agenda – individual budgets, direct payments – is a very progressive aspect of policy, delivering control over resources to those who need them; but equally it is completely of a piece with a wider trend towards locating total responsibility for ‘welfare’ with the individual citizen, rather than any form of social collective, under the banner of ‘choice and opportunity’


The market state

The Market State

“Bush and Blair, however, are among the first market state political leaders. They appeal to a new standard – whether their policies improve and expand the opportunities offered to the public – because this standard reflects the basis for a new form of the State.” (Bobbitt, 2003: 222)


The governance narrative

The governance narrative

  • Dispersing responsibility for the provision of welfare across all socio-economic sectors of society – the old public sector, the private sector, and the independent or voluntary sector

  • Regulating, monitoring, inspecting and reconstructing professional behaviour in this network of provision in order to safeguard and promote standards, but also achieve compliance with the revised ‘opportunity and efficiency’ goals of the new grand policy narrative


The outcome opportunity narrative

The outcome, opportunity narrative

‘Poor outcomes’, for example, of children in care are explained by the presence of a series of barriers to opportunity. The policy task set out in the green paper and the bill is the removal of these structural barriers and the substitution of new structures, systems and opportunities that will release these children and young people’s obstructed potential, leading to improved outcomes


The opportunity narrative citizenship choice and welfare

The ‘opportunity’ narrative: citizenship, choice and welfare

  • Opportunity to compete successfully in the labour market. The importance of opportunity is an index of government concern about national competitive advantage in a rapidly changing world.

  • ‘Opportunity’ is therefore also about economic ‘capacity’. A central thrust of social policy is to create optimum capacity in individuals and in whole sectors of the population, to compete successfully in the labour market.


The opportunity narrative citizenship choice and welfare1

The ‘opportunity’ narrative: citizenship, choice and welfare

  • The focus on ‘performance’ in social policy becomes understandable. The connecting thread of many dimensions of policy is the end of ‘fitness for labour’.

  • new labour has enacted this agenda via an ideology of ‘responsibilisation’ of the individual to make use of opportunity.


The opportunity narrative citizenship choice and welfare2

The ‘opportunity’ narrative: citizenship, choice and welfare

  • A transformation of professional identities that is the necessary counterpart of the transformation of citizen identities in the direction of rational choice market consumers

  • The transition to the professional as broker of choice and opportunity rather than provider of expert service


Dilemmas for social work training

Dilemmas for social work training

  • Social justice, relationship based practice, empowerment…

  • Servants of the state or responsive partners with users, communities, marginalised populations?

  • In and against the market state?

  • We have to be capable of holding two positions in mind at once. Just as the trends themselves are paradoxical and contradictory, so our response must be capable of handling this tension.


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