Ethics of Care in the Policy and Practice of Intensive Family Intervention Services

Bond-Taylor, Sue (2018) Ethics of Care in the Policy and Practice of Intensive Family Intervention Services. PhD thesis, University of Lincoln.

Ethics of Care in the Policy and Practice of Intensive Family Intervention Services

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Item Type:Thesis (PhD)
Item Status:Live Archive


The high profile Troubled Families Programme introduced in 2010 by the Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition government combines social policy and criminal justice concerns about families who are both ‘troubled’ and ‘troublesome’. It advocates the provision of intensive family interventions by a dedicated keyworker, a model developed by New Labour as part of their wider assault on anti-social behaviour. Critical academics have raised concerns about intensive family intervention strategies as being oppressive, discriminatory and stigmatising, widening the net of social control and further penalising vulnerable groups. Yet contrary evidence from service evaluations suggests that this approach offers a more effective model in supporting excluded families, which families appreciate.
This thesis therefore explores the practice of family intervention services, families’ experiences of the problems they face and the impact of the support they receive. It draws upon interview data generated within a commissioned evaluation of Families Working Together, Lincolnshire County Council’s service for delivery of the Troubled Families Programme. Interviews were conducted with all 14 key workers and their two line managers, and with individuals from 12 of the families supported by the service. Follow up interviews were conducted with the 10 key workers, one line manager and nine families who were available when contacted. Following a process of inductive coding and analysis for the service evaluation, initial themes emerged about the importance of care and relationships.
It is argued that an intersectional ethics of care perspective provides a valuable conceptual, methodological and epistemological framework for evaluating the policies and practices of family intervention services. Care ethicists have articulated the core values by which we can judge the adequacy and integrity of ‘care’ and these are applied here as a strategy for evaluating ‘troubled families’ interventions. By integrating an explicitly intersectional perspective within care ethics, which builds upon its political, feminist orientations, the uneven distribution of access to social relations of care is highlighted.
The reconceptualisation of ‘troubled’ families as families experiencing a matrix of multiple intersecting social relations of disadvantage and exclusion reveals the unique experience of each family, which is emotional traumatic and renders change difficult. Integrating care ethics into family support necessitates attentiveness to the complexity of families’ needs, and the provision of advocacy services and material resources to mitigate the impact of intersecting disadvantages.
Families who experience family interventions delivered within the principles of care are more receptive to the support provided whilst care-less interventions seem to entrench rather than address their needs. Underlying neoliberal tendencies in the Troubled Families Programme and threaten the care-full relationships and contextualised responses to family problems underpinning best practice in family interventions. Care ethics must therefore also inform policy agendas in order to generate social justice for disadvantaged families.

Keywords:Family Interventions, Troubled Families, Ethics of Care, Intersectionality, Feminism, Social policy, Neoliberalism
Subjects:L Social studies > L216 Feminism
L Social studies > L500 Social Work
L Social studies > L410 UK Social Policy
Divisions:College of Social Science > School of Social & Political Sciences
ID Code:35336
Deposited On:08 Apr 2019 11:59

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