This chapter examines what the capability approach can contribute to child protection policy and practice in England as an alternative conceptual framework for social work that challenges the dominance of neoliberal ideology in ways consistent with the promotion of human rights and social justice. After providing an overview of the historical and political contexts of child protection policy in England, the chapter considers the ways poverty and parenting are constructed in the dominant discourses as well as the policies and practices that have developed within this context. It also analyses the impact of interventions on parents and argues that contemporary child protection policy and practice in England is based on a narrow approach to child and family welfare and the role of social work. It concludes with recommendations for policy and practice that aims to promote greater social justice.
Revisiting their seminal text with Sue White and Kate Morris, Protecting Children: A Social Model, the authors extend and critically examine their core arguments in light of the COVID-19 pandemic and arrive at sobering conclusions regarding what the pandemic revealed about the state, its responses and the deepening of patterns of power, wealth, inequality and exploitation in our society. The social model rebuts the highly individualising narratives of responsibility and causation and locates developments in child protection within a broader economic and societal canvas. The pandemic has reinforced the core arguments behind this viewpoint while revealing limitations in the authors’ original thinking, especially around the potential of the state in the context of financialised capitalism: the relationship between the state and private businesses has become even more intimate as the ideological veneer of competition and the market for contracts has been abandoned and the state is refashioning itself as chief enabler of private capital and private power. The chapter points to the proliferation of suggested alternative approaches and ultimately holds out hope for a better future founded in new and emerging possibilities for dialogue.