Labour History

Neoliberalism and Child Protection: A Deadly Mix

Labour History (2010), 98, (1), 121–141.


The impact of neoliberal policies in a department charged with protecting the most vulnerable members of our society, and those who are most at risk of slipping into poverty is examined. The consequences of the outsourcing of public welfare to the charitable sector and associated reductions in public welfare expenditure are explored in detail. The Department of Community Services (DoCS) is an illustration of the manner in which the negative effects of neoliberal policies persist through familial poverty and increased child abuse notifications——long after these policies have been softened and funding has been restored. This arises in part from the State Government having responsibility for operational delivery of Government Services, whilst the Federal Government has charge of macro-economic policies. Even though state funding for services increases under the Carr Labor Government, the demand for welfare services continues to escalate a consequence of Federal policies which dramatically increase the number of Australian households living below the poverty line. Comparisons are drawn between the “hard neoliberalism” practiced by the NSW Coalition Governments and the “soft neoliberalism/social conservatism” of the NSW Labor Governments. It is argued that the Carr Government engaged in soft neoliberalism, as it retained a contracted senior executive service, supported accommodation programs remained outsourced to the private sector and managerial systems of individually focused investigative processes were applied to DoCs staff.

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Author details

Haly, Martha Knox