Journal Article

New Labour, Social Justice and Children: Political Calculation and the Deserving‐Undeserving Schism

Barry Goldson

in The British Journal of Social Work

Published on behalf of British Association of Social Workers

Volume 32, issue 6, pages 683-695
Published in print September 2002 | ISSN: 0045-3102
Published online September 2002 | e-ISSN: 1468-263X | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/bjsw/32.6.683
New Labour, Social Justice and Children: Political Calculation and the Deserving‐Undeserving Schism

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Within a context of national prosperity and relative economic strength, poverty and inequality is rife in the UK. This paper considers the broad contours of such social injustice, before sharpening the focus to examine the specificities of child poverty. The New Labour government has made an ‘historic pledge’ to end child poverty within a generation. The paper traces the key policy initiatives that are being directed to this end and, by drawing on the latest research evidence, it attempts to assess their early impact. Whilst it is acknowledged that the government's social justice agenda has made some progress in ‘tackling’ child poverty, it is further proposed that a more rigorous redistributive approach is required if substantial and sustainable improvements are to be made. Furthermore, it is argued that the social justice agenda is conditioned by wider political calculations, which limit its scope. In this way the imperative to be seen to be ‘tough on crime’ has meant that policy responses to children in trouble have taken a distinctive and increasingly punitive form. By developing the argument that New Labour's electoral ambitions have led it to re‐engage with a specious ‘deserving’ ‘undeserving’ conceptual dichotomy, the paper assesses the implications for the treatment of child ‘offenders’ in particular, and the broader social justice project more generally.

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Subjects: Social Work

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