In the aftermath of the recent death of Baby P and Victoria Climbié earlier social welfare practice in England finds itself at the crossroads. The practice of social workers, doctors, nurses and health visitors has been the subject of political inquiry and intense media scrutiny and understandably this has led to considerable public criticism. Against a backdrop of globalisation, where creating the conditions for economic growth have been achieved at a significant social cost, involving new forms of exclusion and widening inequalities, practitioners find themselves caught between modernizing policy reform and demanding practice realities. More recently the modernizing discourse has been extended by the introduction of a ‘respect agenda’- a reaction to the loss of community cohesion and the rise in anti-social behavior. In this paper, two alternative paradigmatic ways forward are explored reflecting a debate between evidence-based practice (EBP) and critical practice (CP). These responses to the crisis may be juxtaposed as they offer different visions of what social welfare practice could become in the future, whilst providing two important reference points against which current practice may be judged. While the former has been depicted as a ‘search for certainty’ that largely complements the modernizing discourse, critical practice works with both certainty and uncertainty in the quest for more emancipatory change. In the real world of safeguarding children and protecting vulnerable people, practitioners may manage such contradictions by looking down both roads: adopting elements of EBP to justify their interventions and become more research minded, while embracing aspects of CP to engage with structural issues and balance effectiveness with a commitment to social justice.
|Keywords:||Social Welfare Practice, Evidence-based Practice, Critical Practice, Social Justice, Managing Risk|
Senior Lecturer, Social Work Division, School of Health, University of Wolverhampton, Wolverhampton, UK
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