Can social work education meet the neoliberal challenge head on?

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    This article considers a specific finding from a wider study examining factors that contribute to ethical stress, generated by value–behaviour conflict, in a sample of 100 criminal justice social workers in Scotland. Variables were demonstrably congruent with neoliberal ideology, and were therefore expected to cause social workers considerable ethical stress. This article focuses on the finding that younger, less experienced workers object significantly less to the neoliberal-informed changes in criminal justice social work and suffer significantly less ethical stress as a result. This finding has implications for social work more widely and the article considers reasons for the difference between younger, less experienced and older, more experienced workers, including the influence of three decades of neoliberalism and the difficulty that social work programme providers might have in promoting or ensuring a social justice alignment in students’ practice.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)321-355
    Number of pages35
    JournalCritical and Radical Social Work
    Issue number3
    Early online date2 Sept 2014
    Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2014


    • Age
    • Experience
    • Neoliberal
    • Social Justice
    • Social Work


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