Neo-Liberalism, Social Work and Witch Hunts

We are pleased to draw attention to the developing existence of the Social Workers Action Network [SWAN], which¬† “is a loose network of social work practitioners, academics, students and social welfare service users united in their concern that social work activity is being undermined by managerialism and marketisation, by the stigmatisation of service users and by welfare cuts and restrictions.

We believe that good social work is a worthwhile activity that can help people address the problems and difficulties in their lives. Many of these difficulties are rooted in the inequalities and oppressions of the modern world and good social work necessarily involves confronting such structural and public causes of so many private ills.”

At this moment their energies are being taken up with fighting back against the present witch hunt of social workers in the aftermath of the ‘Baby P’ tragedy.

– see their web site at and on-line petition.

– see the Manifesto ‘Social Work and Social Justice: a manifesto for a new and engaged practice’ at

Given our continuing discussion about the impact of neo-liberalism upon youth, community and the voluntary sector the words of the Manifesto from 2004 resonate loudly.

“Instead, our work is shaped by managerialism, by the fragmentation of services, by financial restrictions and lack of resources, by increased bureaucracy and work-loads, by the domination of care-management approaches with their associated performance indicators and by the increased use of the private sector. While these trends have long been present in state social work, they now dominate the day-to-day work of front line social workers and shape the welfare services that are offered to clients. The effect has been to increase the distance between managers and front line workers on the one hand, and between workers and service users on the other. The main concern of too many social work managers today is the control of budgets rather than the welfare of service users, while worker-client relationships are increasingly characterised by control and supervision rather than care.

– see also at

‘Only a matter of time …’ – Amid the review and recriminations following the death of Baby P, an experienced social worker describes a caseload so overwhelming that tragedy is a daily possibility

– and finally at
Peter Beresford, a name fondly remembered by some of us from his writing with Suzy Croft in the early 80’s, notes “strong stirrings of radical activity and self-organisation amongst [social work] practitioners.” In this light and much talk about making alliances I would suggest that National Coalition for Independent Action, The Federation of Detached Youth Work and our Collective need to discuss making an approach to SWAN about, say, the ‘Shared Dilemmas and Contradictions of Inter-Agency Working’. What do you reckon?
Published in: on November 26, 2008 at 1:47 pm  Leave a Comment  
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