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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child protection, children's voices, Uncategorized

Stolen childhoods – seeking justice

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Stalking the Bogeyman, based on a true story, is a play about one man’s search for revenge. Twenty-five years after he was raped at age 7 years, David learnt that his ‘bogeyman’ had moved to his neighbourhood. He then planned revenge on the man who stole his childhood. The play draws sharp attention to the devastating impact of sexual crime against boys and explores sensitively how difficult it is for children to speak out about the horrors of abuse.

Peter Saunders, from NAPAC,  (National Association for People Abused in Childhood) says, “What sets this play apart from others is that it pulls no punches as to what child abuse is…..and illustrates the reasons so many victims never speak out. But it also concludes with a proposition that many will find challenging. Did the Bogeyman really only strike once?”

The play is not about promoting revenge but draws attention to the psychological impact of child abuse, increases understanding and opens up debate. Continue reading

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Uncategorized

On their own: Britain’s Child Migrants: an exhibition not to be missed.

The story of British child migrants is a current survivor campaign. The children were exploited for political and economic reasons and the practice went unchallenged for decades. Here are some of my thoughts after I attended, on the 14th April, a presentation at the Museum by Margaret Humphreys   (Director of the Child Migrants Trust).

The Britain’s Child Migrants exhibition is not to be missed. It provides a context for understanding the extent of state engineered crimes against children and enables us to relate this knowledge to what is happening to children today. The exhibition raises unanswered questions about the rationale for the child migration policy and who drove it forward within a context of secrecy, deception and lies. The survivor and witness accounts are painful to hear but must not be ignored if we are to relate their experiences to current children’s rights agendas.


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On their own: Britain’s Child Migrants        24 October – 12 June 2016; Victoria and Albert Museum, Bethnal Green, London E2

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This exhibition tells the heart-breaking true stories of Britain’s child migrants who were sent to Canada, Australia and other Commonwealth countries between 1869 and 1970. The exhibition shares the work of the Child Migrants Trust , which has brought some comfort to former child migrants, by finding their families and reuniting them with surviving members. Continue reading

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Investigative Interviewing

Seeking the truth

Cassandracogno Russell byline: September 2015

Journalists have a responsibility not only to approach victims of child abuse sensitively, but also to establish and tell the truth. A guest article by Dr Liz Davies, social worker and Islington whistleblower, outlining interviewing guidelines police and social workers use which media can learn from.  Continue reading

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