Social Action with Children and Families: A Community Development Approach to Child and Family Welfare

By Chris Warren; Crescy Cannan | Go to book overview

Chapter 4

Social development with children and families in France

Crescy Cannan

INTRODUCTION

In this chapter I want to describe some of the changes which have been occurring in the social welfare field in France. The significant feature of contemporary French policy is the integration of social planning, around the goals of preventing exclusion and of promoting integration (or insertion), across a wide range of services, agencies, professions and community groups. This means that in the case of families, children and youth we immediately find we are looking at ‘territorialised’ strategies which include not only labour market measures but community development initiatives, usually referred to in France as local, or urban, social development. There have been enormous implications for the social work professions.

France makes an interesting comparison with the UK because in both countries there have been rigorous attempts to confront the issue of the cost of welfare states, and a search for new means of promoting as well as delivering social welfare. In the 1980s France’s social democratic governments tackled issues of welfare dependency with an emphasis on the responsibilities of both state and citizen in the development of personal welfare and social cohesion. The election of a right-wing government in the early 1990s has not fundamentally challenged this; the long tradition of republicanism and Catholicism means that one-nation Gaullism continues to assert the importance of ‘society’ (le social), though it might be more willing to implement cuts in welfare expenditure to reduce budget deficits, and to ignore the social partners in so doing (Silver 1994).

My information comes from observation visits over six years to a departement in north-west France where I have come to know social welfare practitioners, managers, social work trainers and sociologists.

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