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The changing face of social work: social worker perceptions of a neoliberalising profession.

Butler-Warke, Alice; Yuill, Chris; Bolger, Janine


Chris Yuill


This article engages with literature on the neoliberalisation of social work but advances the debate by building an argument based on interviews with social work graduates that reveal the perceived changes to the profession over the last 50 years. Based on lived experiences, we show that social work as a profession has experienced significant changes that have occurred both internally and externally to the profession. These changes form part of a larger ideological shift towards neoliberalism. Beginning with the Thatcher administration, intensifying under New Labour’s Third Way and persisting under the Age of Austerity of Prime Ministers Cameron and May, the neoliberalisation of social work has sought to turn it into an outcome-oriented, information-gathering, surveilling profession that no longer relies on its critical and radical value base. We show, however, that despite the neoliberal assault, social workers remain optimistic about the future and loyal to their core values.


BUTLER-WARKE, A., YUILL, C. and BOLGER, J. 2020. The changing face of social work: social worker perceptions of a neoliberalising profession. Critical and radical social work [online], 8(1), pages 59-75. Available from:

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Jul 17, 2019
Online Publication Date Sep 5, 2019
Publication Date Mar 31, 2020
Deposit Date Sep 24, 2019
Publicly Available Date Sep 6, 2020
Journal Critical and Radical Social Work
Print ISSN 2049-8608
Electronic ISSN 2049-8675
Publisher Policy Press
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 8
Issue 1
Pages 59-75
Keywords Neoliberalisation; Austerity; Thatcher; Training; Education
Public URL


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