In a recent article in this journal, Paul Garrett (2007) critiques intensive family support schemes as a ‘retrogressive development’, a ‘sinbin solution’ in-line with long-standing debates on the problem family. Furthermore, Garrett suggests that social policy researchers ‘need to retain a certain wariness and scepticism – a reflexive hesitancy – before providing research ‘‘products’’ which seem to largely endorse policy and practice ‘‘solutions’’ that the State . . . has formulated’ (Garrett, 2007: 204). He does so largely by drawing on two research reports (Dillane et al., 2001; Nixon et al., 2006), the first of which was co-authored by ourselves and consisted of an evaluation of the Dundee Families Project. In response to such ‘critical’ social policy, and having had the advantage of reading Nixon’s eloquent reply to Garrett in this issue, we would like to offer a few observations of our own. Our starting position is as follows. Thought-provoking, critical social policy essays that challenge us to interrogate government agendas are to be encouraged. Indeed, they are the bedrock of the discipline. The power of such ‘critical’ pieces is heightened, however, when their authors engage in a reflexive hesitancy, retaining a certain wariness and scepticism of their own. Ideally, these pieces should also be constructive, offering alternatives.
Research Methods and Criminological Theory