Social Work and the Third Way
Tough Love as Social Policy
- Bill Jordan - University of Exeter, UK
Social Policy (General) | Social Work Practice (General)
`This book is a well-written contribution to both the British Third Way debate and the welfare state literature.... The book will appeal to upper-level undergraduates as well as scholars of British politics and the welfare state' - Political Studies
`Jordan begins by establishing New Labour's suspicion of local government framing its policy on welfare. Fundamentally, there exists a need for social workers to educate themselves as to the nature of this social experiment which New Labour has embarked upon. It challenges social workers to be aware…This is an interesting and at times challenging book, reiterating the history and roots of current ideology within government...The work is grounded in a contemporary context of social services and social work practice, challenging the withdrawal of social work behind a barrier of `managerialism, budget control, form filling…into office based assessment and rationing'… Finally, it offers a satisfying critique to the dominant `hegemonic' of `evidence-based practice', arguing for research at the level of means rather than the technical… Jordan similarly argues in his conclusion that all of the government white papers, guidelines, etc. indicate a lack of clarity of purpose and method social work should retain its belief in 'a human and creative activity… which engages with people's emotions… as well as their rights and obligations' - British Journal of Social Work
The New Labour government in the UK is committed to a programme of reform of the welfare state that will pull away safety nets and replace them by trampolines, to bounce citizens back into active participation. Its regime of 'tough love' will make more demands on those claiming benefits and services, as well as clamping down on dependencey, fraud and crime. This will be done by changing the culture of welfare agencies, towards promoting achievement and independence, as well as meeting 'genuine need'.
In Social Work and the Third Way, Bill Jordan provides an accessible and lively analysis of the tensions between 'toughness' and 'love' in the Third Way's political philosophy, and the problems of implementing New Labour's programme. He looks at the government's reliance on face-to-face methods for activating citizens and changing their behaviour in many of its initiatives. On the one hand, New Labour places a surprising amount of faith in the ability of counsellors and advisers to bring about the changes it requires; yet it is highly suspicious of the public sector in general, and local authorities in particular, as part of the 'forces of conservatism' in the UK. Hence it spawns new agencies and projects, often with a strong enforcement ethos, and regulates the whole implementation process through strict top-down surveillance.
In all this, professional social work, and local authority social services, are relegated to a tightly circumscribed role in social care. The author argues for a new, more generous and expansive approach to practice, which can do justice to the challenges of change under New Labour's regime and in doing so Social Work and the Third Way provides an important and topical contribution to the debate on the future of the Welfare State and will be essential reading for students and researchers in social work, social policy and politics.