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Social work, social policy and administration

This page explains what the subjects of social work, social policy and administration covers, gives an overview of the material the British Library holds for this subject, and advice on how you can find and use it. It also gives details of current activities for developing the collections for this subject.

Covers all forms of social work and social policy administration, including theory, methodology, ethics and values and pedagogy, comparative research and research into international institutions, policy-making processes and practice, governance and management, service design, delivery and use, and inter-professional relationships.

Collection overview

The British Library has extensive holdings of books, reports and academic journals on all aspects of social policy and welfare worldwide, with particular strengths in the UK, North America, Eastern and central Europe, and in English-language works published in Asia and Australasia. Most of these are kept in closed stores in London and Yorkshire and have to be ordered in advance for delivery to the reading room.

A selection of current UK books and journals are available on the shelves in the Social Science Reading Room:

  • Books published in the past three years in subject order
  • One-year runs of core journals, filed in alphabetical order of title
  • Five-year runs of official and non-official series of social statistics.

The Library has growing access to full text electronic journals in the field, including:

  • More than 135 social welfare journals in ESTAR, the Library’s own in-house store
  • compilations such as Informit (Australian and New Zealand academic journals), Sabinet (South African journals), CAIRN (French and Belgian peer-reviewed academic journals), JSTOR (digitised backfiles of scholarly journals) and SwetsWise
  • publishers' collections such as OUP Journals Online, Wiley InterScience (including Blackwell journals), Taylor & Francis, and SpringerLink.

Please note that these collections can only be accessed from the Library’s reading rooms due to licensing restrictions and are not available remotely. If you are interested in consulting a particular journal, remember to check our new finding service, which you can search by subject, title and ISSN.

The Library has extensive holdings of UK research and practice reports issued by government bodies, think tanks, research institutes and campaigning charities. Printed copies are mainly held at the Yorkshire site, but the Library is working to reach voluntary agreements with publishers for the deposit of electronic versions.

Finding aids

  • Explore the British Library to find details of books, reports, journal titles, newspapers, maps and many more parts of the Library’s collections
  • electronic resources for this subject that are available from our reading rooms
  • searching by subject: to help you find relevant materials, the Library has built up access to a range of relevant indexing and abstracting databases, including Social policy and practice, Childdata, Ageinfo, HMIC (Health Management Information Consortium), Health Directions, Idox (housing and planning), CommunityWise (voluntary sector) and Acompline/Urbaline (urban studies and local government). International sources include ASSIA (Applied Social Sciences Index and Abstracts), Criminal Justice Abstracts, Social Services Abstracts and PolicyFile (US research reports)
  • freely available databases of research resources include Social Care Online and the Third Sector Knowledge Portal
  • current awareness: our flagship service, Welfare Reform on the Web, available free online, will keep you up-to-date with the latest news, comment and research.

Social Sciences Enquiry team

For more help on using the Social Sciences collections, contact the Enquiry team at or telephone +44 (0)20 7412 7894 from 10.00 - 20.00 Mon- Thurs or 10.00 - 17.00 Friday.

Current activities

British Library Content Strategy

We have refined our Content Strategy (i.e what we collect now and in future). Please see the content strategy pages on our website. These pages are organised by subject. Please remember that different aspects of a research theme may be described under more than one subject. A subject will also cover a variety of research themes, so even though your topic may not be specifically listed, it will likely be found under one of our headings.

If you have comments on the Library's content strategy, we would be pleased to hear from you.

In the Content Strategy, you will see descriptions for individual subjects listed in the appendices. Social Work, Social Policy and Administration are described at page 21. Remember that different aspects of a research theme may be described by more than one subject template. If you have comments on the Library’s content strategy for these subjects, please email them to