Paul Michael Garrett offers a powerful indictment of state and Church responses to children and young people in the Republic of Ireland. He also argues persuasively against the ‘spirit of reform’ that characterised New Labour's approach to social work in the UK and is now embraced equally enthusiastically by the Conservative–Liberal Democrat Coalition. Garrett emphasises the relentless nature of the neoliberal advance and the extent to which it has already ‘remade’ society. He is clear about the damage done to social work with children and families (to both workers and service users) and recognises that the onslaught is far from over. Although there is nothing in Paul's article that I disagree with, I would like to raise additional points about poverty, inequality and injustice in relation to children and families policy and practice because, as austerity gains a stronghold across the UK, it is those who are already disadvantaged who stand to lose most. There are oppositional voices in social work – Garrett mentions the Social Work Action Network (www.socialworkfuture. org), an organisation uniting practitioners, academics, service users and students in campaigning for social work as social justice. Social work, however, is often both ‘oppressive and conservative’ (Weiss-Gal et al, 2012) and, for many working-class families especially, it can feel like little more than surveillance and control (Jones, 2009). Where relevant, I want to include a Scottish perspective. Scotland has its own parliament and may yet vote for independence, but how far does the language of ‘social justice’ and ‘solidarity’ (Mooney and Scott, 2012) take us down the road of genuine improvements for children and families?
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