Social Policy, Social Welfare and Scandal

By Ian Butler and Mark Drakeford.
Palgrave MacMillan Publishing
ISBN 0 333 74762 3

This challenging book explores the processes by which everyday
tragedies in social welfare are transformed into the extraordinary
world of scandals. The authors take their case studies from two
fields – services for children and services for adults with mental
health problems or learning difficulties. The scandals they focus
on include the abuse of patients in Ely and Normansfield hospitals,
the death of Maria Colwell, the murder of Jonathan Zito by
Christopher Clunis, and the “pindown” experience in children’s
homes in Staffordshire.

Developments in each of these policy fields are set,
illuminatingly, in their historical contexts. In their analysis of
the case studies, the authors seek to demonstrate what they
describe as the “symbiotic relationship between scandal, the
committee of inquiry” and the remaking of public policy.

A brief review cannot do justice to the care and impartiality
with which the authors have presented their material. Scandals
start inquiries and the search for causes and culprits. Sometimes
they trigger reforms and these reforms are most likely to be
effective when they address both the individual and the collective
causes of social care tragedies.

Robert Pinker is emeritus professor of social
administration, London School of Economics and Political

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