A recent initiative for the so called ‘Truth’ Project to ask prisoners to share their experiences of child sexual abuse with facilitators from the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA) raises many questions and concerns for me. I say ‘so called’ because the project includes no published criteria or methods for testing the accounts so ‘Listening to Survivors Project’ would be a far more accurate title. Continue reading
In 2002, Prince Charles first gave Camila Batmanghelidjh, CEO of the former charity Kids Company, the idea of considering the impact of child abuse on children’s brain development. He presented her with 25 clinical papers on the topic. From that moment I was suspicious because the idea was so wide as to include the impact of all kinds of trauma making any research very confused in aim. Also, the method of research was to scan the brains of ‘troubled teenagers’ which seemed to be more about a social control agenda. I had already detected mixed messages about the aims of this children’s charity (Evening Standard: 11.09.2009). Continue reading
Some more recently qualified social workers are gaining a strong voice on social media and even in the mainstream press with all kinds of comment about the professional role of social work. In this context, I thought it would be useful to put across to those hungry for knowledge, a model of social work practice which has been around in the past and worked well.
Protecting children from sexual exploitation and abuse cannot be considered in isolation, but is one key element in an integrated approach to supporting children and families within their communities. … Local people show immense commitment to their children, young people and neighbourhoods. They can provide the resources of time, knowledge, imagination and skills to reduce risks of harm and support environments where children flourish.
(Nelson and Baldwin, 2016)
It was the late 80s and I had a plan – A Children’s Clothing Exchange – a swap shop for children’s clothes as a basis for developing a community network on an inner London council estate. My social work colleagues were severely critical. They said this initiative was definitely not Politically Correct. They said what I was doing was degrading for families who were deserving of new clothes and would be ashamed to have their children seen in hand-me-downs. They said I had not appreciated a local working class culture of being proud and that families would not dress themselves or their children in second hand clothes.
This didn’t make sense to me as I had come from a family where most of my clothes came from jumble sales, relatives and friends. Our next door neighbour gave my mother off-cuts from the clothing trade and as I grew out of knitted cardigans they would be unravelled and re-knitted into a bigger size. Jumble sales provided a good source of wool and fabric that could be re-invented. It was a post-war ‘make do and mend’ approach. Nowadays it’s called recycling. Continue reading
(East Midlands Survivors logo)
Following the very sudden, unexpected and unexplained resignation of Justice Lowell Goddard as Chair of the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA) , I have been thinking about comments on social media which have suggested that she refused to address the Islington child abuse scandal in the Inquiry. To put the record straight, she did not refuse because neither I nor the Islington Survivors Network asked her. Continue reading
I am not social work – I am only one voice among 93,962 currently registered social workers in England.
Since 2013, Zoe Betts, a social worker, has been the Director of a social enterprise entitled Iamsocialwork . The title suggests a confident vision of herself as the embodiment of social work. She receives accolades from academics and high ranking professionals and gets into print through Community Care and the Guardian. Professor Harry Ferguson, for instance, commented in a Guardian article on his participation in an Iamsocialwork event for 100 students and new social workers. This is organised by the remarkable Zoe Betts, whose inspirational events develop support networks for early-career social workers and provide solid teaching about theory and practice through practitioner and academic inputs. Her organisational skills, energy, drive, generosity and passion embody the values and capabilities at the heart of how social workers make a difference to vulnerable people’s lives.
– but, for various reasons, I am not as impressed. Continue reading
On 31st January 2013, I attended a promotion meeting for Frontline – a charity providing social work education. By then I had been a senior social work lecturer for over 10 years, was qualified in teaching Undergraduate and Postgraduate students, had written widely on the subject, been external examiner for two University social work programmes and had designed, delivered and evaluated modules in every aspect of children’s social work. In other words, I thought I knew a more than little about the job of teaching social work students to become committed, effective practitioners. As I arrived at the event, held at the prestigious building of the Boston Consulting Group in London’s Manchester Square, I thought I was at the wrong venue, a feeling exacerbated by the predominance of young white men in suits contrasting significantly with the typical motley audience of academics like myself. I remember deciding that my task for the morning was to persuade Boston Consulting Group to rethink their investment in this educational project … I could but try and stem the ravaging tide of privatisation of social work education! Continue reading
I sometimes have the good fortune of being invited by various organisations to attend conferences and meetings without having to pay the fee of between £200 and £400 for a morning – let alone a whole day. I say good fortune because there is no way I would gain funding to attend otherwise and these events provide me with a window into a world of opulence to which I would have no access.
In recent months, I have enjoyed the beautiful surroundings of many central London venues belonging to Royal Colleges and Royal Societies as well as exclusive hotels and private clubs. It’s a good life. Chandeliers, luxurious carpets, marble pillars, wine, canapés and a range of top quality soaps and lotions in the toilets. Topics have included a range of subjects concerning child care and child protection. I have heard presentations from Lords, Baronesses and politicians as well as civil servants and academics – the top of the tree in policy formation and promotion. I’ve learnt about the work of All Party Parliamentary Groups and Select Committees and witnessed the launch of the latest reports and inquiries.
Although I have many hundreds of contacts within social work, I rarely recognise anyone at these events. The audience usually consists of representatives from the private sector because these events are where ideas and trends in service provision are marketed and promoted within an explicit political context. The academies, private consultancies and social work education and service delivery companies abound. These events are characterised by language such as ‘transformation’, ‘leadership’ and ‘changing children and families’ (rather than changing the oppressive social structures within which they live) and social work aiming to ‘inspire and persuade’. The language used, and the tone with which it is expressed, commonly exposes an absolute lack of social work knowledge or experience. The same speakers do the rounds of most of these events because they speak for their business interests and are often instrumental in organising the programme. They provide glossy brochures and powerpoints with colourful images to accompany their soundbites and almost always tables of evidence that cannot be read, let alone digested, which are used to impress and obfuscate. There are few opportunities for questions and workshops to allow for small group debate and feedback are concepts quite alien to the organisers. The speakers eulogise about each other and restate the same principles as though a statement spoken with an upper class accent signifies a well-researched and well-evidenced policy development. It is smoke and mirrors. Continue reading