Crafting the society of control: Exploring Scottish child welfare policy in a neoliberal context


  • David McKendrick Glasgow Caledonian University



GIRFEC, named persons, neoliberalism, children and families, late modernity


INTRODUCTION: This article explores contemporary Scottish child welfare policy and locates it in a neoliberal context. The existing national practice model known by the acronym GIRFEC (Getting it Right for Every Child) has been a feature of policy and legislation since early 2000. Its latest iteration is notable for two developments, one being the change in the threshold for state intervention in family life to the notion of wellbeing and secondly, the appointment of a state guardian (known as the named person scheme) for every child in Scotland.

METHOD: Drawing from the concept of late modernity (Parton, 2006) I argue that these advances constitute a net widening approach that seeks to universalise state involvement in family life. The concept of the society of control (Deleuze, 1992) is utilised as a method of exploring how the named person scheme can be viewed as a universal surveillance mechanism which seeks to preserve and promote neoliberal hegemony.

CONCLUSION: In the Scottish context the named person scheme is a vehicle for neoliberal state control. The scheme is underpinned by notions of normative compliance resulting in social work practice becoming distanced from its social change agenda, instead working on families rather than with families.



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How to Cite

McKendrick, D. (2016). Crafting the society of control: Exploring Scottish child welfare policy in a neoliberal context. Aotearoa New Zealand Social Work, 28(3), 37–46.



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