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Soft, small, malleable, and slow: Corporeal form and movement in social workers' and police officers' talk about practice in a Multi‐Agency Safeguarding Hub

Child & Family Social Work

Published online on


Child and family social workers in Britain are increasingly working in multidisciplinary settings such as Multi‐Agency Safeguarding Hubs (MASHs). This article uses discourse analysis techniques to examine data from an ethnographic study of children's social workers and police officers working together in a MASH, considering the corporeal forms and movements that practitioners evoked in their talk about practice. Social workers used metaphors of slow movements and soft, small, and malleable bodies, in contrast to the fast movements and firm trajectories alluded to in police officers' talk. The paper draws on this analysis to identify differences in social workers' and police officers' forms of knowledge and ways of valuing practice implicit in their accounts of good practice. It contributes to recent discussions of space, mobility, and embodiment in social work literature and shows how discursive analyses can add to the developing knowledge about these matters. The paper suggests that evaluations of multiagency settings such as MASHs should attend to practitioners' distinctive forms of knowledge and imagination.