Governmental social work (part 1): the tyranny of transformation

John Harris, Makhan Shergill

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


Governmental social work refers to a new ‘settlement’ for social work and social work education. A critical discourse analysis of Putting children first (Department for Education, 2016) ‐ considered the foundational text of governmental social work ‐ is undertaken. The analysis suggests the ways in which the transformative strategy of governmental social work seeks to achieve outcomes or objectives within existing structures and practices, especially by changing them in particular ways. Social workers are called on to become free progressive professionals as long as they comply with the form of professionalism that is legitimated by governmental social work. The reforms are represented as the only morally and professionally right responses for those who care about children. This involves a double shuffle: a process of de-professionalisation and re-professionalisation that involves identity change and subjugation for social workers in a compliant profession that increasingly ‘governs itself’ in the required ways and maintains a silence on the circumstances of children’s lives.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)151-163
Number of pages13
JournalCritical and Radical Social Work
Issue number2
Early online date18 May 2020
Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 2020


  • governmental social work
  • critical discourse analysis
  • Putting children first


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