Alinsky, community action, George Goetschius, Paulo Friere, Social media guidance, social work, social work blogs, social work memes, social work superheroes, social work twitter, Survivors

Social work bloggers and tweeters

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The numbers of social work bloggers and tweeters are increasing daily.  This is both positive and negative. On the one hand there are some who promote ideologies and views which are inconsistent with social work values and it seems that there is little that can be done about it. It’s a free for all out there online and my concern is the impact of this on service users and public opinion. There have always been those wanting to denigrate social work and if this approach seems to come from within the profession then it gives a powerful message. On the other hand there are those who counter these views and the online world becomes a public battlefield no longer confined to social work journals, books and magazines or subject to peer review or measured academic restraints. Anyone can have a voice and anyone can gather followers, and shout loudly. The messages will be picked up and gloated on by unscrupulous media and those who are certainly not our allies – voices which cruelly feed the backlash against social work. There is, of course, some excellent authentic social work input and the challenge is to sort the wheat from the chaff which  involves dedicated research and investigation – online skills largely as yet undeveloped within social work.

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child protection, child protection investigation, Gisburne House, Islington Survivors Network, Organized Abuse, social work, Survivors, Uncategorized

The horrors of Gisburne House

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Gisburne House was built in Watford, Hertfordshire in 1912 as an industrial school for girls. The photo above is from that era and the other photo is from a World in Action (1977) programme . In 2017, Islington Council officials have no knowledge of Gisburne House and no documentation of any kind about it. When we ask them to check names of staff alleged to be abusive, it seems these staff have vanished into thin air.  It is as if all corporate memory of 30 years, and hundreds of childrens lives, has been erased.

Not of course in the minds of the survivors who are coming forward to Islington Survivors Network (ISN) to tell of their experiences during the 70s and 80s. They describe how they still cannot sleep  because of the flashbacks and in the daytime they are traumatised by all kinds of smells, situations and events which trigger memories of sexual crimes, emotional devastation and extreme violence. They show us the physical signs of long-ago beatings, have intense concern about child victims of cruelty which they witnessed and question why seemingly nice social workers did not hear their repeated cries for help.  After years of being on constant high alert,  trying to protect themselves and others from abuse, I always ask – ‘Is there anywhere now where you feel safe?’ After a long pause, even from those who now have settled relationships and very supportive, loving families,  the answer is generally ‘No’.  They now seek justice and redress. Continue reading

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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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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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