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Welcome to the nightmare: Social work, child protection and the punishment of the poor

Nigel Parton’s (2014) recent study of the political context surrounding the ‘reform’ of child protection practice and policy in England contends that the state is pursuing an increasingly authoritarian agenda in relation to a particular section of the population, England’s poorest and most vulnerable families. The neoliberal project involves a shift in responsibility for social outcomes from the state to families.

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Detect and rescue or genuine engagement with families? Which way does the wind blow for child protection?

The Ministerial appointment of an ‘expert panel’ to oversee the development of a ‘future CYF operating model’ supported by a ‘Detailed Business Case’ is a deeply disturbing turn for those concerned with the future of social work practice in Aotearoa / New Zealand. Statutory child protection is carried out by social workers. I am concerned by the panel composition which features no child protection social work practice expertise or experience. Most of all I am uneasy about the intent which lies behind the rhetoric of modernisation, efficiency, and the emotive panacea of a child-centred approach to practice. This intent remains obscure but as Bob Dylan once suggested, “you don’t need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows”.