'everyday Bordering' in the UK: An Examination of Social Work Decision Making Processes When Working with Migrant Family Members.

Thursday, 19 July 2018: 09:00
Oral Presentation
Julie WALSH, The University of Sheffield, United Kingdom
The data on which this paper is based, was gathered as part of a broader international study, funded by NORFACE. The paper specially focuses on data from focus groups conducted with social workers in the UK, in four service areas (child welfare, addictions, mental health and migration), and compares how practitioners in each service area approach working with migrant family members. UK policy and media narratives increasingly focus on the need to control immigration, and populist politicians point to the possible illegality of migrants, resulting in all migrants being treated with suspicion (Anderson, 2014). In this paper, we argue that social workers conceptualise migrant family members in terms of their immigration status and their subsequent entitlements. As ‘street level bureaucrats’ (Lipsky, 1980), they reify government policy in their decision making processes. This can be described as ‘everyday bordering’; processes by which state bordering practices extend into everyday life (Yucal-Davis et al., 2017). Whilst the extent to which migrant status impacts on decision making processes differs in specific service areas, families experiencing migration are viewed through a legal lens and the subject of ‘everyday bordering’. As such, this impacts on their access to important services and can be perceived as a socially mediated harm. We conclude by considering how understanding the processes of ‘everyday bordering’, and their consequences, is critical for exploring the ways in which social workers might develop alternative, more productive professional responses when working with migrant families.


Anderson, R. (2014) Illegality, inc. , US:California University Press.

Lipsky, M. (1980) Dilemas of the Individual in Public Services, NY:The Russell Sage Foundation.

Yucal-Davis, N., Wemyss, G., and Cassidy, K. (2016) Changing the racialized ‘common sense’ of everyday bordering, Open Democracy:UK power and liberty in Britain.