A Critical Review of English Reforms in Support Services for Children, Parents and Families during Austerity

An event in our Oxford Institute of Social Policy Hilary Term seminar series, Austerity and Beyond

This presentation will review key features of national reforms in England related to support services for children, parents and families in the context of austerity measures and policies since 2010. Engaging with children’s services and social policy literatures and debates, it draws on two ways of conceptualising ‘austerity’. Firstly, it conceives of austerity as UK and international fiscal measures and economic conditions provoked by the 2007/8 financial crisis and subsequent economic downturn; and secondly, it conceives of austerity as a policy discourse legitimating policy orientations and decisions. Although these facets of austerity are highly inter-related in practice, they also operate to some extent as distinctive factors and contexts shaping children’s services reform. Drawing on these conceptions of austerity, it will review the following overarching features children’s services reforms since 2010: the cutbacks in spending and provision and their implications; the shift from progressive universalism to targeted services; the re-conception of evidence-based policy and practice; processes of marketisation and outsourcing; and claims of service innovation. It highlights problematic implications of austerity measures and politics for children’s services, its’ workforce and service users; but also recognises several examples of what could be considered national and local innovations. It proposes some alternative evidence-informed and progressive directions for national investment and reforms strategies.  

All are welcome to attend; we do not take advance bookings, so we recommend you arrive early to avoid disappointment.