Making sense of the ‘Big Society’: Social work and the moral order

From Journal of Social Work

The practice of social work has always been strongly influenced by political ideology, and its organization shaped by public policy. This article examines social work in the UK during the New Labour administrations and outlines how the idea put forward by the subsequent Coalition of the ‘Big Society’ evolved as a response to New Labour failings with consideration of possible future influence on the profession. It argues that two sides of the program are relevant for social work, the first focused on the public spending cuts and the second on increased empowered communities and collective action.  This agenda poses challenges and opportunities for a practice which is less individualistic, formal and desk-bound; but it also raises issues about the wider solidarities upon which equality and social justice depend.

 

Abstract

Summary: This article analyses the ‘Big Society’ agenda of the UK coalition government as a response to New Labour’s regulation of society through incentives, contracts, targets and micro-management.

Findings: It argues that two sides of the programme are relevant for social work. Initially, most attention has understandably focused on the public spending cuts – rolling back the state and transferring responsibilities to voluntary organizations. But in the longer term, of equal significance will be its emphasis on increased citizen participation, empowered communities and collective action.

Applications: This agenda poses challenges and opportunities for a practice which is less individualistic, formal and desk-bound; but it also raises issues about the wider solidarities upon which equality and social justice depend.

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Article details
Jordan, B. (2011). Making sense of the ‘Big Society’: Social work and the moral order Journal of Social Work, 12 (6), 630-646 DOI: 10.1177/1468017310394241

     
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