Civil society/ ‘Big Society’ and the implications for social work education In England: A Caveat Emptor for other nations

Authors: Parker, J.

Start date: 25 February 2015

This paper explores some of the paradoxes arising from contemporary changes to social work and education in England when set against the context of ‘Big Society’ as promoted by the British Conservative Party. After delineating the development of the concept of ‘Big Society’ and its fate under austerity, we consider some of the implications for social work and social work education in England. This is then critiqued in the light of changes to education which reflect and entrench the policies of ‘Big State’ rather than that of a philanthropically oriented, localized response to social problems. The paper offers two interlinked ways forward for social work and social work education. The first draws on the work of Hall and Smith (2015) concerning minor acts of urban kindness as small ways in which society can be repaired and maintained, the second draws on concepts of isomorphic convergence from organizational sociology exploring these as contingent and offering the potential for dialectic synthesis that localizes changes. The paper ends with a consideration of social work and its education separated from central and local government, professionalized within itself and localized through its interactions with space and place.

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