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From Thatcherism to Austerity
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In this enlightening study, Ian Cummins traces changing attitudes to penal and welfare systems.

From Margaret Thatcher’s first cabinet, to austerity politics via New Labour, the book reveals the ideological shifts that have led successive governments to reinforce their penal powers. It shows how ‘tough on crime’ messages have spread to other areas of social policy, fostering the neoliberal political economy, encouraging hostile approaches to the social state and creating stigma for those living in poverty.

This is an important addition to the debate around the complex and interconnected issues of welfare and punishment.

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The Impact of Neo-Liberalism and Austerity Politics on Welfare Provision
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This book offers a critical, sociological analysis of the domino effect of neoliberalism and austerity politics on the role of social work and wider welfare provision.

It argues that social work should move away from the resultant emphasis on risk management and bureaucracy, and return to a focus on relational and community approaches as the cornerstone of practice.

Applying theoretical frameworks to practice, including those of Bourdieu and the recent work of Wacquant, the book examines the development of neoliberal ideas and their impact on social welfare. It explores the implications of this across a range of areas of social work practice, including work with children and families, working with asylum seekers and refugees and mental health social work.

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Key Themes and Perspectives
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Police officers deal with mental illness-related incidents on an almost daily basis. Ian Cummins explores how factors such as deinstitutionalisation, community care failings and, more recently, welfare retrenchment policies have led to this situation. He then considers how police officers should be supported by community mental health agencies to make confident and correct decisions, and to ensure that the individuals they encounter receive support from the most appropriate services.

Of interest to police researchers and students of criminology and the social sciences, the book examines police officers’ views on mental health work and includes a chapter by a service user.

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A Critical History
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This critical interdisciplinary study charts the modern history of mental health services, reflects upon the evolution of care in communities, and considers the most effective policies and practices for the future.

Starting with the development of community care in the 1960s, Cummins explores the political, economic, and bureaucratic factors behind the changes and crises in mental health social care, returning to those roots to identify progressive principles that can pave a sustainable pathway forward.

This is a groundbreaking contribution to debates about the role, values, and future of community care, and is vital reading for students, teachers, and researchers in the field of social work and mental health.

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Taking a critical and radical approach, this book calls for a return to mental health social work that has personal relationships and an emotional connection between workers and those experiencing distress at its core.

The optimism that underpinned the development of community care policies has dissipated to be replaced by a form of bleak managerialism. Neoliberalism has added stress to services already under great pressure and created a danger that we could revert to institutional forms of care.

This much-needed book argues that the original progressive values of community care policies need to be rediscovered, updated and reinvigorated to provide a basis for a mental health social work that returns to fundamental notions of dignity and citizenship.

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This article will discuss the work of the late cultural and political theorist Professor Stuart Hall (1932–2014). Hall made hugely significant contributions in cultural studies. In addition, he was one of the first thinkers on the Left to recognise the huge seismic shift that the electoral success of Margaret Thatcher in 1979 represented. Hall made a huge contribution to the development of progressive politics. His analysis of the centrality of race, empire and colonialism to the formation of modern Britain and its ongoing significance was a key element in the anti-racist politics of the 1970s and 1980s. These developments were very influential in the development of critical and radical social work perspectives. This article will argue that Hall’s work provides a theoretical and conceptual toolkit for a radical analysis of contemporary politics and culture. Social workers, academics and other practitioners can use this toolkit to develop critical perspectives on social work practice and other aspects of social and welfare policies.

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This article will argue that Nancy Fraser’s (, ) notion of ‘progressive neoliberalism’ provides a conceptual lens that can be effective in the development of a critical analysis of mental health policy in England and Wales during the period of deinstitutionalisation and community care. Mental health policies that came steeped in an originally progressive discourse of choice, empowerment and wider service user rights were introduced by governments largely committed to the free market. In the UK and US, this produced a contradictory position where moves towards a community-oriented vision of mental health service provision were overseen by administrations that were committed to a small state and fiscal conservatism. There were similar developments in other areas. Fraser (, ) terms this mixture of socially progressive rhetoric and market economics ‘progressive neoliberalism’. Fraser’s model of progressive neoliberalism argues that neoliberalism has colonised progressive discourses. The article outlines this theoretical model and then applies it to the development of community care. It argues that policy responses to the perceived failings of community care focused on increased powers of surveillance, including the introduction of legislation that allows for compulsory treatment in the community. This focus on legislation was at the expense of social investment. The article concludes that the introduction of austerity in the UK has strengthened these trends. For example, The Coalition government (2010–15) introduced new mental health policies such as ‘No decision about me without me’, which emphasised inclusive approaches to service organisation and delivery. At the same time, it followed social and economic policies that increased inequality, reduced welfare payments and entitlements, and cut services. These are all factors that contribute to higher levels of mental distress across society.

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This chapter will examine the ideological underpinnings of what came to be known as Thatcherism, before going on to outline the main themes in welfare and penal policy in the period 1979–90. Mrs Thatcher was an unusual British politician in many ways. She was the first female leader of the Conservative Party and subsequently the first female prime minister. In the post-war period, the two major political parties had followed broadly very similar policies when in government. These included a commitment to Keynesian economics, including policies aimed at full employment and investment in public services (Kynaston, 2008).

However, the contradictions of the social-democratic consensus were fatally exposed in the aftermath of the oil crisis from 1973 onwards. Mrs Thatcher presented herself and her policies as a clear break from the post-war period and what she saw as its failings. In doing so, she developed and exploited a narrative that the nation was in crisis and that she embodied the radical action that was required to solve these problems (Sandbrook, 2011; Moore, 2013). Her supporters, particularly those in the tabloid press, contrasted the Iron Lady with the allegedly weak and ineffectual politicians who had gone before. These, particularly her predecessors Heath and Callaghan, were presented as old-fashioned, outdated and without the political courage to tackle the long-standing structural issues that had led to Britain’s relative decline (Gilmour, 1992; Young, 2013). Political rhetoric and image were key elements of Thatcherism. In the areas of welfare and penal policy, much of the Thatcherite project was completed by her successors.

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Welfare and penal policies are inextricably linked and interrelated social and political phenomena, which therefore need to be analysed in unison. The reduction of the social state and the expansion in the rates of imprisonment are joint strategies by governments. The punitive shifts that led to the increase in prison populations from the late 1970s onwards in England and Wales have had a much broader influence than simply in the area of criminal justice, having helped to entrench views about the nature of marginalised groups or populations. This chapter will examine the genealogy of the penal state and the various explanations for its development. Penal policy and social provision are used to provide or give the illusion of social stability. Developments in these areas are often a response to a crisis of legitimacy. This chapter will argue that the crisis in the late 1970s that led to the advent of neoliberalism led not only to new economic policies, but also to linked new social policies that stigmatise marginal groups. The supporters of these policies argued that the retrenchment of the welfare state was necessary because of a state fiscal crisis. The spectacle of punitivism also served to convince voters that social investment was counterproductive as the management of the ‘underclass’ could only be achieved through coercion – in the areas of welfare and penal policy.

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This chapter will explore contemporary narratives of the expansion of the use of imprisonment, with a focus on the experiences of the US and England and Wales. Lloyd and Whitehead (2018) argue that the development and growth of mass incarceration are endogenous features of neoliberalism. The term ‘mass incarceration’ is used here to donate the expansion of the use of imprisonment that has occurred across a number of jurisdictions since the early 1980s (Simon, 2007). The US is the country where the rise in the use of imprisonment has been most dramatic. Lloyd and Whitehead (2018) conclude that there is a distinctive form of neoliberal penality that has developed over the past 40 years. This chapter argues that this approach offers a partial explanation. To begin with, we need to examine the term ‘neoliberalism’, which has become such a dominant one in the analysis of modern social policy. The extensive use of the term generates its own difficulties (Garrett, 2019). For some, the term is used so broadly to describe such a range of social, economic and political policies that it has lost its original, theoretical, conceptual and analytical value.

Venugopal (2015) is particularly critical of the way that term ‘neoliberalism’ has been so widely and loosely used. He notes that ‘There were just 103 Google Scholar entries in English with the term “neoliberal” or “neoliberalism” in the title between 1980 and 1989. This had multiplied to 1,324 for 1990–9, and 7,138 for 2000–9’ (Venugopal, 2015: 165–6).

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