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Friday, December 6 • 9:00am - 11:00am

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Chair: Neil Ballantyne

Stephen Parker: Mapping the counter-intuitive: the social work/social justice divide

A core aim of social work is to improve the lives of families in need of help and support during difficult times. When outcomes do not reflect this aim, legitimate questions about whether interventions are socially just must be asked. However, social work interventions operate within a framework of law and policy and this arguably constrains the ability of social workers to carry out therapeutic work with families rather than focus on a swift outcome for a child. This paper presents findings from UK research which considers the impact of important but diverse statutory and policy changes to child protection case management. Key, relevant policy developments are discussed which include a statutory move towards mandatory reporting, a judicial change to more rigorous case management protocol in the courts, a social work review of child protection processes completed for the government and revised statutory guidance.
All these changes have been implemented since 2004 across three UK Governments and a backdrop of austerity. However, they did not lead to the expected fall in the number of cases where children were removed from their families. The paper ‘tells the story’ of how these changes draw social work away from socially just outcomes.

Michelle Newcomb: By the people for the people: Challenging social work practice using Dorothy E. Smith’s sociology

Social work processes and organisations can replicate institutional power and privilege, despite the professions aim of social justice. The work of Canadian sociologist Dorothy E. Smith provides a lens for examining unjust institutional practices but has received limited attention within social work. A Marxist, feminist Smith developed a form of sociology which examined people’s day to day activities and how they relate to wider regimes of institutional power. Smith (2005) is renowned for her development of feminist, standpoint theory but also institutional ethnography; a method of inquiry that examines how dominant ideologies are exercised within institutional practices. This presentation with explore how current neoliberal ideology and manageralist processes which dominate social work organisations can be challenged and resisted using Smith’s sociology. By engaging with Smith’s work, it is hoped social workers, can engage in transformative social change which is in Smith’s (2005, p.10) words: “by the people for the people.”

Ashleigh Price & Stephanie Kelly: Between the Hammer and the Anvil: Non-government Social Work

This thesis is concerned with the impact of government policy on social work in non-government organisations in Aotearoa New Zealand. It aims to increase understanding of how NGO social workers remain dedicated to the pursuit of social justice and social change in their day to day practice. This is key to understanding the future of ethical and principled social work practice in the NGO sector in Aotearoa New Zealand.
The findings of this research are informed by interviews with five experienced social work practitioners currently practicing in NGOs in Aotearoa New Zealand. Thematic analysis of the research data found that an overarching theme to emerge characterised contemporary NGO social work as a practice manifested by a sense of powerlessness. Five sub-themes emerged from the findings; freedom and powerlessness; the application of the principle of social justice at a macro level; professional dissonance; issues of funding and resourcing as a result of neoliberal economic policy; and policy, realities and ‘othering’. Overall this study seeks to build understanding of the impacts of government policy on social work practice in the NGO sector and how this can be enhanced for better outcomes for practitioners and service users.

Neil Ballantyne: Theorising the algorithmic state

Modern states have been early adopters of information technologies as tools to enable the governance of their populations. Citizen users of the services provided by the state – health, education, housing, corrections, child protection and income maintenance – routinely submit personal data in order to gain access to services. In neoliberal states with highly stratified populations, it is the poor and the disadvantaged who are the primary users of social services and the objects of state sponsored data collection. In the age of big data, data linkage and machine learning, neoliberal state actors are increasingly applying calculative practices on linked databases to measure, monitor and predict the risks presented by population groups. This paper will review the literature to trace the ways in which social theory is responding to the rise of the phenomena of algorithmic regulation and the challenges these practices present for human rights, social justice and social equity.

Each presentation will be allocated 20 minutes. Additional time for questions and discussion will be available in each stream.


Michelle Newcomb

Lecturer, Griffith University
avatar for Neil Ballantyne

Neil Ballantyne

Senior Lecturer, The Open Polytechnic
avatar for Stephen Parker

Stephen Parker

Senior Lecturer, University of the West of England
I am a Senior Lecturer at the University of the West of England researching the role of risk prediction and decision making in public law interference in private life with a focus primarily on families, child protection and safeguarding. I teach law cross discipline to forensics undergraduates... Read More →

Friday December 6, 2019 9:00am - 11:00am NZDT
206-201 - Lecture Theatre 1