Journal Article

Social Work and the Shift from ‘Welfare’ to ‘Justice’

Lieve Bradt and Maria Bouverne-De Bie

in The British Journal of Social Work

Published on behalf of British Association of Social Workers

Volume 39, issue 1, pages 113-127
Published in print January 2009 | ISSN: 0045-3102
Published online July 2007 | e-ISSN: 1468-263X | DOI:
Social Work and the Shift from ‘Welfare’ to ‘Justice’

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It has become increasingly clear that the emancipatory capacity of social work has been eroded. Several scholars link this to the influence of neo-liberal and ‘Third Way’ thinking. However, it has recently been argued that social work was not only a victim of these new influences, but that it is also very adaptable to the influence of such new ideas (Jordan, 2004) and not very critical about its own role in these changes (Lorenz, 2005). In this article, we will further develop this criticism, by focusing on the debate surrounding youth delinquency. According to Sharland (2006), youth delinquency has become someone else’s problem. By analysing the role of social work within the youth justice system, the article shows that (i) social work has not only been the victim of recent changes, but that it has also withdrawn from the debate on youth justice, and (ii) that this process is related to how social work is defined as a methodical answer to the problem of youth delinquency.

Keywords: ‘tough love’ social work; youth justice reform; welfare–justice debate; critical social work

Journal Article.  7034 words. 

Subjects: Social Work

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