The emotional labour of austerity: How social workers reflect and work on their feelings towards reducing support to needy children and families

Ellen Grootegoed (Lead / Corresponding author), Mark Smith

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    19 Citations (Scopus)
    351 Downloads (Pure)

    Abstract

    In a context of austerity, governments are reducing spending on care and welfare. Yet, little is known about how this is experienced and enacted on the ground. In this article, we employ a case study approach in a Scottish local authority children and families social work team to consider how social workers deal with the tensions of working in times of austerity. We draw on the literature on the sociology of emotions to explore the impact on practitioners of working within a context of diminishing services and resources. This is experienced as conflicting with the professional, ‘caring’ values of social work. Such emotional dissonance, though, is dealt with in varied ways, each pointing to different moral pathways. Responses tend to be individual – there is no concerted social work response to austerity. We argue that it is vital to consider the emotional dimensions of austerity, to comprehend variations in individual acceptance or rejection of cuts to social work, but also to explore future ethical directions of social work.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)1929-1947
    Number of pages19
    JournalBritish Journal of Social Work
    Volume48
    Issue number7
    Early online date10 Jan 2018
    DOIs
    Publication statusPublished - Oct 2018

    Keywords

    • austerity measures
    • emotions
    • ethical stress
    • social work
    • Welfare state reform

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