Drawing on Raymond Williams’ approach, the article examines ‘welfare dependency’ as one of the most pernicious ‘keywords’ in neoliberal discourse and encourages those located within the field of social work to be sceptical about its uncritical usage. Bolstered by conservative scholarship, the forging of a new ‘common sense’ on welfare may have contributed to the harsh public perceptions referred to in a significant British Social Attitudes (BSA) survey. Problematising the widespread usage of ‘welfare dependency’, the article provides a critical resource for social work educators, practitioners, students and users of services.
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