child protection, children's clothing exchange, community action, Neighbourhood social work, Patch social work, social work, Uncategorized

Community work – protecting children

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

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Aston Hall, child protection investigation, Cleveland Inquiry, East Midlands Survivors, Goddard, Haut de la Garenne, IICSA, Investigative Interviewing, Islington Survivors Network, Kendall House, Morris Fraser, Organized Abuse, Shirley Oaks Survivors, Truth Project, Uncategorized, Working Together to Safeguard Children 2015

‘Goodbye’ Goddard though I never said ‘Hello’

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(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

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Alinsky, George Goetschius, iamsocialwork, Mental Patients Union, resilience, social enterprise, social work awards, social work privatisation, Uncategorized

Iamnotsocialwork

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

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children's rights, Frontline, Organized Abuse, social work education, social work privatisation, Uncategorized

Doublespeak and Frontline

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

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child protection, social work, social work privatisation, Uncategorized

Real social work isn’t about chandeliers

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

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Uncategorized

Not fit to work for social work regulator?

In 1995, the Report of the Inquiry into the Management of Child Care in Islington included a confidential Appendix naming 32 staff who were defined as unsuitable for work with children. My efforts to expose crimes against children in Islington’s care had helped considerably to promote the establishment of a regulatory protocol for social workers managed from 2001 by a new fit for purpose body – the General Social Care Council (GSCC). This Council was responsible for maintaining a compulsory Register of social workers and for enforcing a code of practice which set out the standards of conduct required. The code helped employers, colleagues, people who use social work services, carers, and members of the public know what standards they could expect from a social worker. The Council conduct panels heard evidence against social workers who it was alleged had committed misconduct and where necessary removed social workers from the Register to prevent them practising. Continue reading

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child protection, children's rights, Uncategorized

Lessons Unlearnt -children imprisoned

Following on from my last blog, this week I obtained an original copy of the Home Office ‘Report of the Committee of Enquiry into the Conduct of Standon Farm Approved School and the circumstances connected with the murder of a master at the school on 15th February 1947’. It cost me £22.00 – the original price was just 9D [pence].  It is 69 years since 4 boys were convicted of the murder of a Master at this institution and 5 others pleaded guilty to conspiracy to murder. The Headmaster  was dismissed and the school closed.

The Inquiry concluded that the causes of the murder included;

  • The isolation of the school
  • The prolonged bad weather coupled with the lack of a suitable gymnasium or adequate recreational facilities
  • The prohibition of smoking and the cumulative effect of the long standing regime of limited freedom
  • The collective punishments and threats of collective fines
  • The inadequate system of distributing pocket money
  • The inadequacy of religious guidance
  • The lack of understanding on the part of the Headmaster of his boys as individuals and their belief in his unfairness particularly in respect of the uncertainty as to licensing (permission to leave the institution and be on license in the community)
  • The gross carelessness of the headmaster with regard to the safe custody of fire-arms and ammunition
  • The presence in the school of a boy with a very strong personality and a burning sense of grievance.

The Inquiry led to the establishment of the first secure units for children. Stronger arrangements to imprison children were defined as the solution to the prevention of such crime in the future, instead of analysing the causes of the young people’s behaviour and emphasising the importance of child-centred, therapeutic care systems.

The report makes interesting reading in the context of an inspection report detailing attacks on staff by young people in the Rainsbrook secure training centre, during the first quarter of 2016 when 5 staff  needed hospital treatment.  61 boys and 13 girls, who had a custodial sentence or were on remand, were at this time in jail at Rainsbrook which was run by the private company G4S. Continue reading

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