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The childcatchers: An exploration of the representations and discourses of social work in UK film and television drama from the 1960s to the present day

Edmondson, D and King, MS (2016) The childcatchers: An exploration of the representations and discourses of social work in UK film and television drama from the 1960s to the present day. Journal of Social Work. ISSN 1468-0173

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Abstract

Summary This article reports on research undertaken to critically examine portrayals, representations and discourses of social work and social workers in UK film and television drama from the 1960s to the present day. The research analysed four film and television dramas where social work and social workers were featured: Cathy Come Home (1966), Ladybird Ladybird (1994), Happy Go Lucky (2008) and Oranges and Sunshine (2010). The research aimed to examine portrayals and representations of social work and social workers in UK film and television drama; inform and develop an understanding of contemporary narratives and discourses about social work and contribute to debates about the purpose and future of social work. Findings Portrayals and representations of social work in UK film and television drama often encourage and reinforce an overly simplistic, hostile and negative impression of the profession, work which is presented as predominantly focused on child protection and the removal of children from families. Social workers are typically characterised as incompetent, bureaucratic, well-meaning but misguided. This potentially endorses neo-liberal ideologies and discourses about welfare, welfare recipients, welfare provision and social service. Applications This approach to the topic offers an accessible and interesting platform for research, teaching and policy development, which has the potential to critically inform debates about the future and purpose of social work and welfare in the United Kingdom.

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