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Media and political attention relating to people seeking asylum has increased, particularly during the lead up to and now in the aftermath of Brexit. Practitioners are faced with the challenge of providing services to meet the needs of a more culturally plural service user group. This chapter deals with critical practice with children and families seeking refuge or having refugee status in the UK because of major threats to their welfare and lives in their countries of origin. It emphasises anti-oppressive care rather than control and reminds practitioners of the universal needs of children and families, including speaking out against the violation of human rights and thereby staying true to principles of social justice and service to humanity.

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This chapter highlights how practice with children and families, where there might be child welfare/safety concerns, has become more proceduralised and bureaucratised, with monitoring and surveillance often dominating rather than genuine help and support. It is a move from a concern with therapy and welfare to surveillance and control and involves completing bureaucracy speedily rather than relationship building. Such comments equally apply to the recent emergence of contextual safeguarding of children and young people beyond the family home. Nevertheless, critical social work possibilities remain in the form of ‘critical child protection’, a humane practice with children and families which addresses issues such as poverty and inequality which impinge on parenting.

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The precariousness of children and families’ lives associated with the neoliberal world means that practice with children in need and those with mental health issues faces considerable challenges. Practice with the former, in effect preventative social work, is increasingly less in evidence than it once was, while children with mental health issues have and are facing the brunt of austerity cuts to Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services. However, this is precisely why critical social work is much needed in both areas. Such practice involves being continually alert to, and attempting to counteract, the influence of wider socio–economic factors effecting children and families by, for example, utilising empowerment and advocacy strategies.

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Critical social work seeks growth and empowerment as human beings for people, development and social progress for the communities, and social justice and equality in societies. This includes feminist-based ethics of care which can be counter-posed to the work ethic associated with neoliberalism, the latter in turn being questioned by about what is to come after neoliberalism. Such thinking helps provide a basis for the future of critical social work, a practice which emphasises the caring side of the profession and aims for a future based on social justice and equality. This includes a critical/radical social policy and a critical social work with children and families that stresses urgent action to improve the welfare system by listening and responding to the real needs of service users so that people are put before profit.

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This chapter examines the rise of the New Right and neoliberalism in the 1970s and how this changed the welfare state and social work, followed by the ascent and impact of New Labour on such issues. Importantly, the rise and continued domination of managerialism is considered. The coalition and subsequent Conservative governments are then discussed in relation to the welfare state and social work. They have been preoccupied with issues such as austerity and continued with the neoliberal project, the overall changes having led to the speedy completion of bureaucracy, risk assessment and rationing dominating practice rather than genuine help and support. Despite the resultant challenges in pursuing critical social work, possibilities remain.

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This chapter looks at the main theoretical and conceptual issues relating to initially radical and then critical social work. It begins with a comment on the social construction of welfare and social work, prior to consideration of broad social work perspectives and related critical social work practice theory. This includes critical theory itself, feminist and anti-discriminatory/oppressive perspectives together with eco/green and indigenous practice, empowerment and advocacy, and community development. Such perspectives are, of course, linked to factors such as class, ‘race’ and gender but also, and importantly, intersectionality, referring to the ways social and political identities combine and effect discrimination and privilege.

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Theory, Context and Practice
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In dealing with individual problems and difficulties, critical social work (CSW) is an emancipatory practice which seeks to address social injustice. In this book the author draws on almost 40 years’ experience as a social worker to consider CSW in core areas of practice with children and families.

Fully updated to cover the impact of austerity, Brexit, the COVID-19 pandemic and cost of living crisis, this accessible textbook is essential reading for students, educators and practitioners of child and family social work. It features:

• clearly signposted ‘theory’ and ‘practice’ sections;

• over 10 case studies including those drawn from the author’s experience;

• end of chapter ‘Key points’ summaries;

• further reading suggestions.

With expanded coverage of race and intersectionality, contextual safeguarding and critical child protection, the book champions the development of resilient social workers working towards a more just and equal world.

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This chapter discusses disability as a social construct, including the individual and social models of disability, both of which play a role in social work policy and practice as well as in wider societal views of disability. Key practice issues include safeguarding disabled children and personalisation, with the Capability Approach being essential – what the child and family need in order to flourish and how their human rights can be promoted. This is a normative approach to human welfare concentrating on the actual capability of people to achieve lives they value, a focus being on improving access to the things people use to live a fulfilling life. The critical practice called for involves helping and supporting disabled children and families holistically, and accepting and valuing difference and celebrating diversity.

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This chapter emphasises the need for critical social work because of its emphasis on critical analysis and a practice that is person-centred. This entails, wherever possible, focussing on problems and difficulties as defined by service users but also having a vision of a more just and equal world. It draws on some previous work, but rather than having an emphasis on the historical development of the social work profession as a whole, the focus is on the development of critical social work theory and practice from the 1960s and 1970s, including such practice possibilities with children and families in the neoliberal world. Importantly, the structure and organisation of the book are covered.

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Social work with looked-after children and care leavers is a significant aspect of practice with children and families because the vast majority are from deprived backgrounds and their experience of the care system can have lifelong consequences. Rather than a focus on issues such as adoption, or even as seeing them as objects/commodities in the marketisation and privatisation of services, critical practice involves working alongside them and their family on the issues of concern. This includes, for example, addressing deprivation/disadvantage issues and their views of being in care and the resulting concept of interdependence as opposed to independence when ‘leaving’ care

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