In response to the current global crisis of capitalism, the Conservative/Liberal Democrat coalition government in the United Kingdom has imposed a policy of ‘austerity’, which seeks to shift the costs of that crisis onto the poorest sections of the population while seeking also to undermine the post-war welfare settlement. This article will explore the implications of that restructuring of welfare for social work. Even before the onset of the crisis, however, there was considerable dissatisfaction, both governmental and professional, with the forms of social work that had developed since the market-led reforms of the early 1990s. The article will critically assess official responses to that dissatisfaction before exploring more radical responses, including the need for a new collectivism in social work theory and practice.
Iain FergusonSchool of Social Sciences, University of the West of Scotland, Paisley, UK