Pruned, policed and privatised: the knowledge base for children and families social work in England and Wales in 2019


  • Jane Tunstill



The focus of this chapter is on the knowledge base for social work practice with children and families and its relationship to current social work policy development in England and Wales for the foreseeable future. It is argued that over the last ten years, the nature of the knowledge base for children and family social work, including the way it is generated, accessed and applied, has been increasingly subject to politically initiated change. This article argues that over the previous ten years of ‘austerity’, knowledge for social work has been purposely, and increasingly, ‘weaponised’ as a component of the same political system which introduced and now sustains neo-liberalism and austerity.  Deliberate decisions have been taken by government in order to initiate- through a variety of inter-linked and mutually reinforcing strategies- the reframing and repackaging of the role of knowledge in social work practice with children and families. Following a review of current approaches to understanding social work knowledge, the article identifies five key inter-linked projects , which have been established by the Conservative government . It argues that these are intended to deliver a far-reaching political colonisation of the existing knowledge base for social work, which should be resisted by all social work stakeholders.

Author Biography

Jane Tunstill

Emeritus Professor of Social Work, Royal Holloway, London University


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How to Cite

Tunstill, J. (2019). Pruned, policed and privatised: the knowledge base for children and families social work in England and Wales in 2019. Social Work and Social Sciences Review, 20(2), 57-76.