Child Welfare: Historical Dimensions, Contemporary Debate

Book Cover: Child WelfareBy Harry Hendrick.
Policy Press
ISBN 1861344775


This book deserves to be read by practitioners and policy makers in any policy era, but its appearance is especially welcome now.

There are two very obvious reasons for this. First, policy in respect of children and their families has been at the very heart of New Labour’s social and economic policy. Second, New Labour has made strenuous efforts to distance itself from the past, either its own or a Conservative one, to the extent that recourse to historical perspectives constitutes a brand of heresy.

Hendrick concludes that the point is “not to think historically about the past but rather to use that history to rethink the present”, and provides a meticulously argued interpretation of 20th century social policy for children.

He uses history to illuminate answers to forbidden questions about government motivation, and its impact on children’s rights. How uncomfortable readers find the answers will depend on their willingness to question the inputs and outcomes in New Labour’s target driven world.

The book amply demonstrates why Hendrick’s child care history is so popular among academics and also how much 21st century social workers can learn from the past.

Jane Tunstill is professor of social work, Royal Holloway, London University.

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