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Timeline :: Barclay Report published

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The Barclay Report of 1982 was the end-result of a two year inquiry into the roles and tasks of social workers in England and Wales commissioned by the Secretary of State for Social Services in the first Thatcher government and produced by a working party convened by the National Institute for Social Work (NISW) in 1980, chaired by Sir Peter Barclay.

The report identified three main sets of assumptions about the relationship between the state and its citizens: the 'safety-net approach' (which values informal networks and minimal state provision); the 'welfare state approach' (the post-war idea of comprehensive services and citizens having a right to these); the 'community approach' (which believes that people have the potential to care for each other if power is devolved to them and SW's role is then to support these informal networks and develop them where they were weak). The majority of committee members supported the third approach, highlighting the value of community social work. They called for more emphasis on community engagement, and a new role for social workers as broker of resources, working with informal carers and voluntary organisations to support individual service users as citizens.

The report's recommendations were largely ignored by Margaret Thatcher’s cabinet; a minority report written by Robert Pinker, which stressed social work's statutory role, was more influential at the time; a second minority report, by Brown, Hadley and White, was supportive. Nevertheless, some local authorities did, for a time, introduce 'patch-based' approaches in response to Barclay.


Barclay Report (1982) Social Workers: Their Role and Tasks, London: Bedford Square Press.
Harris, J. (2008) Sate social work: constructing the present from moments in the past, British Journal of Social Work, 38: 662-679.

Pinker, R.A. (1984) ‘Populism and the social services’, Social Policy and Administration, 18(1): 89-98.