Social work home visits to children and families in the UK: A Foucauldian perspective

Karen Winter, Viviene Cree

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The home visit is at the heart of social work practice with children and families; it is what children and families' social workers do more than any other single activity (except for recording), and it is through the home visit that assessments are made on a daily basis about risk, protection and welfare of children. And yet it is, more than any other activity, an example of what Pithouse has called an ‘invisible trade’: it happens behind closed doors, in the most secret and intimate spaces of family life. Drawing on conceptual tools associated with the work of Foucault, this article sets out to provide a critical, chronological review of research, policy and practice on home visiting. We aim to explain how and in what ways changing discourses have shaped the emergence, legitimacy, research and practice of the social work home visit to children and families at significant time periods and in a UK context. We end by highlighting the importance for the social work profession of engagement and critical reflection on the identified themes as part of their daily practice.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-16
Number of pages16
JournalBritish Journal of Social Work
Issue number5
Early online date25 Aug 2015
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2016


  • social work theory
  • social work and sociology
  • child protection
  • children and families


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