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Social work on trialThe Colwell Inquiry and the state of welfare$
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Ian Butler

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9781847428684

Published to Policy Press Scholarship Online: March 2012

DOI: 10.1332/policypress/9781847428684.001.0001

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The second week of January 1973 …

The second week of January 1973 …

(p.1) one The second week of January 1973 …
Social work on trial

Ian Butler

Mark Drakeford

Policy Press

Scandals need to be ‘discovered’; they need to be pursued, often with press support. In the case of public policy scandals, they frequently need to be mediated by a public inquiry. Scandals occur at points of unbearable tension within the tectonics of public policy. In the scandal of Maria Colwell, the deeper currents were concerned with ideas of what the welfare state is meant to do about certain, ‘problem’ families or indeed whether such families exist. This case also carries the fate of social work as a form of welfare practice into public debate. This chapter examines the story of Maria Colwell and the public policy scandal that her death created. It looks at the events and processes that took place between that second week of January 1973 and the passing of the Children Act, which received Royal Assent in November 1975. The intention is to provide a detailed and thorough account of a critical moment in the history of social work in the United Kingdom.

Keywords:   United Kingdom, Maria Colwell, scandals, public inquiry, public policy, welfare state, problem families, Children Act, social work

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