The White Paper for Vulnerable Children and the Munro Review of Child Protection in England: a comparative critique

Ian Hyslop


The apparent understandings of knowledge for child protection social work practice which inform the New Zealand White Paper for Vulnerable Children are contrasted with the views expressed in the Munro Review of Child Protection in England. It is argued that the rational-technical view of child protection practice knowledge critiqued in the Munro Review is the driving influence in the White Paper. It is further suggested that the White Paper is underpinned by neoliberal conceptions of individuated responsibility which conflict with the socially situated and relational understandings which are native to the theory and practice of social work. Consequently, the socio-technical social work practice knowledge form recognised and promoted in the Munro Review is marginalised in the White Paper. It is also argued that the failings of the child protection system in Aotearoa New Zealand are more appropriately associated with political and managerial misapprehension of knowledge for competent practice than with the shortcomings of social work as a vehicle for effective child protection. It is suggested that it is high time for the social work voice to be rediscovered and reasserted if effective, relationally engaged, practice with high needs children and their families is to be developed and promoted in politically challenging times.


child protection; social work practice; white paper for vulnerable children; munro review of child protection; neoliberalism; individuated responsibility;

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