Posts Tagged 'social work'

‘Baby P’ 10 years on and the devastation of child protection

The updated and expanded second edition of ‘The Story of Baby P: Setting the Record Straight’ by Ray Jones, was published by Policy Press in February. Here, Jones discusses the impact of the Baby P case 10 years on, especially the ineffectual regulations on abusive press behaviour and the devastating effect on the social work profession.

Ray Jones

“On 3 August 2017 it is the tenth anniversary of the terrible death of 17 month old Peter Connelly in Haringey, North London.

Abused within his family home, his death became a focus of national and international media coverage when his mother, her boyfriend and the boyfriend’s brother were each found guilty of ‘causing or allowing’ Peter’s death.

Within the press, Peter was known as ‘Baby P’. One newspaper in particular, The Sun, and its editor, Rebekah Brooks, day-after-day, month-after-month, and year-after-year ran a campaign of harassment and hatred targeted at Peter’s social workers and their managers, and a paediatrician, who sought to help and protect children.

The Sun launched a ‘campaign for justice’ with a front page accusing those it was targeting as having ‘blood on their hands’. This notorious banner headlined front page is no longer to be found on The Sun’s website but is still accessible through other sites.

Much has happened since August 2007. David Cameron, who is now known to have been a close personal friend of Rebekah Brooks, wrote a column in The Sun demanding the sacking of the social workers and managers and that ‘professionals must pay with their jobs’. At the time he was leader of the opposition. He has subsequently come and gone as Prime Minister.

Mr Gove, who was the Shadow Secretary of State in 2008, joined in the targeting of Sharon Shoesmith, who was quickly (and the High Court in 2011 decided wrongly) dismissed from her post as Director of Children’s Services in Haringey. Mr Gove has also come and gone as a government minster … and has now recently come again.

Mr Gove has been a champion for Rupert Murdoch, owner of The Sun and The Times. Murdoch had also owned The News of the World. It closed amid the exposure of the long-standing criminality perpetrated by editors and reporters at the paper in hacking phones, including the phones of bereaved parents and a murdered school girl.

It took several years for the Metropolitan Police to conduct an appropriate and proper investigation into the criminal activities rampant within Mr Murdoch’s British press.

“At last acknowledged that the… threat and harassment of Sharon Shoesmith was “cruel, harsh and over top””

The self-serving parasitic relationships between the Murdoch press, Metropolitan police and politicians was exposed through the Leveson inquiry. At the inquiry Rebekah Brooks at last acknowledged several years late that her paper’s threat and harassment of Sharon Shoesmith was “cruel, harsh and over top” and that “balance went right out of the window”.

Mrs Brooks, who was found not guilty of charges at the phone hacking trial, claimed that she knew nothing about the wide-spread criminality in the organisation she led, even though this criminality also included the actions of her deputy editor, Andy Coulson. Mr Cameron had appointed Mr Coulson as his media advisor, an appointment which ended when Coulson was convicted and then imprisoned.

Politicians have come and gone. So have senior police officers. The hacking investigations and trial led to the closure of a newspaper, prison sentences for newspaper editors, and a major public inquiry. That inquiry, however, has been cut short.

Its major recommendations on regulating abusive press behaviour are not being enacted and the press continues to intrude, bully, and abuse much as before. The Sun, for example, recently and remarkably used its ‘blood on their hands’ banner headline, this time to target Jeremy Corbyn, John McDonald and Diane Abbot during the 2017 general election campaign.

And Mr Murdoch and Mrs Brooks have had their down times but are now again both flourishing.

“None of the social workers or managers targeted by The Sun have been able to regain employment as social workers.”

But what of the social workers and social work? None of the social workers or managers targeted by The Sun have been able to regain employment as social workers, despite those whose cases were heard by the social work regulator allowing them to continue their registration as social workers.

Sharon Shoesmith has completed a PhD and written a book about child and familial homicide but has not been able to get paid employment since being dismissed by Haringey Council at the instigation of Ed Balls (another politician who has come and gone).

Not surprisingly, it is now difficult to recruit and retain social workers (and specialist doctors working in child protection) to work in statutory children’s services with the continuous threat that they too could be a focus of vilification and vengeance by the media. There is now a dependency in most local authorities on short-term interim agency social workers and managers with services no longer having the stability, continuity and experience which is needed to provide good children’s and family social work and child protection.

There has also been a dramatic shift in social work and social services practice from helping children and families to an emphasis on surveillance, assessment, risk management and child protection.

Since 2008 there has been a 90% increase in England in child protection investigations (now running at over 170,000 a year) and a 130% (and still rising month-by-month) increase in court proceedings to remove children from families. In part, this reflects more defensive practice by professionals and agencies fearful of media attacks.

But it also reflects big cuts in government funding to local authorities (a 40% reduction since 2010 and still to be reduced further) with the closure of Sure Start programmes, children’s centres and youth services. This is at the same time as draconian cuts in social security and housing benefits are moving more families into severe poverty and destitution and making it harder for stressed and overwhelmed parents to care well for their children.

The response of the Conservative-led governments has been to see this all as an opportunity to say that social work is not good enough and the answer is to take children’s social services outside of local councils. They have sought to create a commercial and competitive market place open to all comers who can now be contracted to provide these services, and to favour fast-track social work education outside of universities provided by independent companies and shaped by management consultancy and international accountancy firms.

‘Child protection services in many areas are now at the point, and for some beyond the point, of breakdown’

Who would have anticipated in 2007 that within ten years one of the safest child protection systems in the world, based on 40 years of learning and development, would have been churned up and undermined by politicians using the ammunition provided by the tabloid press whipping up public hostility and in the context of politically-chosen austerity?

In the book, ‘The Story of Baby P’, I comment that “my greatest horror is what happened to a little child, Peter Connelly, and my concern is that the campaigning by The Sun and others has done nothing to make it safer for children like Peter”.

It certainly has not made it safer. Child protection services in many areas are now at the point, and for some beyond the point, of breakdown. This is today’s story which the media choose not to cover – unless of course every so often they skew the story and focus on another child death and find new social workers to abuse and attack.

Dr Ray Jones is a registered social worker, a former director of social services, and an emeritus professor of social work and frequent media commentator and columnist.

 

2017_The story of Baby P_NEW FC 4 webThe Story of Baby P by Ray Jones is available with 20% discount on the Policy Press website.  Order here for just £11.99

Find out more about impact, influence and engagement at Policy Press here.

Policy Press newsletter subscribers receive a 35% discount – sign up here.

The views and opinions expressed on this blog site are solely those of the original blog post authors and other contributors. These views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of the Policy Press and/or any/all contributors to this site.

Social work can lead itself for far less than College funding

Originally published on www.communitycare.co.uk on 30 July 2015.

Bill Mckitterick

Bill Mckitterick

Government contracts and allocating responsibilities to employers are in danger of infantilising the profession, says Bill McKitterick, author of Self-leadership in social work. It’s time for self-leadership.

The “reform” of social work over the last six years shows an unprecedented level of interest and financial investment by the government in social work and social workers.

We have seen the deliberations of the Social Work Taskforce in 2009, the Munro Review of Child Protection in 2011, the Social Work Reform Board in 2012 and the two reviews of social work education in 2014, by Narey and by Croisdale-Appleby.

A glance at a thesaurus offers some revealing alternative words for “reform”: improve, mend, reconstruct, rehabilitate, renovate, repair, get back on the straight and narrow, get one’s act together, pull one’s socks up, turn over a new leaf…

Have we really been in need of so much improvement?

I have been unable to identify another period when there has been such a concentrated focus and money allocated to social work – yet we have so little to show for it!

Continue reading ‘Social work can lead itself for far less than College funding’

World Social Work Day 2015 #WSWD2015: WIN a Policy Press Social Work book of your choice…

Jess-photo

Jessica Miles, Marketing Executive

Today is World Social Work Day and you can follow all the actions and events happening around the world using the hashtag #WSWD2015. This year’s theme is ‘Promoting the Dignity and Worth of Peoples’, something we hope we contribute to, at least in a small way, here at Policy Press.

To celebrate we thought it would be great to find out from you which Policy Press social work title from recent years you’ve most enjoyed. In fact if you email us here with your favourite book and a bit about why you liked it so much, we’ll enter you into our prize draw to win a Policy Press Social Work title of your choice! Just mark your email ‘Happy World Social Work day‘ and send it to us by 5pm on Friday 20th March.

According to our data crunchers our top five best sellers over the past few years are:

The story of Baby PThe story of Baby P: Setting the record straight

by Ray Jones

The first book to tell what happened to ‘Baby P’, how the story was told by the media and its considerable impact on the child protection system in England.

 

Re-imagining child protection [FC]Re-imagining child protection: Towards humane social work with families

by Brid Featherstone, Susan White and Kate Morris

This important book challenges the current child protection culture and calls for family-minded humane practice where children are understood as relational beings, parents are recognized as people with needs and hopes and families as carrying extraordinary capacities for care and protection.

Understanding research for social policy and social work_2nd edn [FC]Understanding research for social policy and social work (2nd edition): Themes, methods and approaches

Edited by Saul Becker, Alan Bryman and Harry Ferguson

This acclaimed international textbook combines theoretical and applied discussions and case examples to provide an essential guide to research methods, approaches and debates.

The short guide to social work [FC]The short guide to social work

by Robert Adams

This one-stop text for new and prospective social work students is easy to read and full of essential information and practical advice about what is needed to qualify and practice in social work.

Communicating with children and young people [FC]Communicating with children and young people: Making a difference

by Michelle Lefevre

This timely book prepares social workers and other practitioners for the challenge of engaging directly with children and young people in order to make a difference to their lives.

 

We’ll also add you to our mailing list so you can be first to know about all our new Social Work books – please do let us know if you’d prefer not to receive these mails but don’t let that stop you from entering the draw! All entries must be entitled ‘Happy World Social Work day‘, emailed to pp-marketing@bristol.ac.uk and received before 5pm on Friday 20th March. The winner will be announced in our newsletter at the end of this month.

We also publish the journal, Critical and Radical Social Work… find out more here.

All these books are, of course, available to buy on our website. Find out more about these and our other titles in social work here. Don’t forget, if you’re a subscriber to the PP newsletter you get 35% discount on all our titles if you order on our website.

Don’t feel left out if you’re not a subscriber – click here to sign up now! We promise never to let anyone else have your details and we’ll only send you two newsletters a month, keeping you up to date with latest title information, special offers, free journal articles and forthcoming events.

Happy World Social Work Day!

Our thanks to our Marketing Executive Jessica Miles, who specialises in Social Work as one of her subject areas, for writing this post. You can follow Jessica on twitter here: @TPPjess

Racism, anti-racism and social work

by Iain Ferguson and Michael Lavalette

A spectre is haunting Europe. It is the spectre of racism, xenophobia, and in some countries, outright Nazism. For Golden Dawn in Greece and the Jobbik Party in Hungary, there is little attempt to hide the associations with 1930s German National Socialism. These include overt anti-semitism, paramilitary marches, and the encouragement of violence against asylum seekers, immigrants and left-wing activists. At the time of writing, a member of Golden Dawn is being held in custody for the murder in September 2013 of Pavlos Fyssas, a rap singer and well-known anti-fascist activist in Greece. Elsewhere in Europe, racism wears a more respectable face. Parties such as the UK Independence Party in Britain or the various People’s Parties in Scandinavia have gained a degree of electoral support by playing on popular fears about waves of immigrants from Eastern Europe coming to the West solely in order to live off the benefits system. It is a rhetoric which, shamefully, is increasingly echoed by the leaders of mainstream political parties, both Conservative and social democratic.

In reality of course, the vast majority of immigrants are young, hard-working, ambitious, make less use of health services than the rest of the population and do the jobs that the local population refuse to do. The residential social care sector in Britain, for example, would collapse without the labour of people from the Philippines, South Africa and Poland. But that truth is lost in the deluge of anti-Roma, anti-Muslim and anti-asylum seeker propaganda pumped out on a daily basis by the tabloid press. In early October 2013, the bitter fruits of that propaganda, and of the increasingly restrictive immigration policies adopted by governments across Europe, were only too graphically demonstrated. Then, some 274 refugees from Eritrea and Somalia drowned when their overcrowded boat sank off the Italian island of Lampedusa. These were ordinary men, women and children fleeing war, torture and hunger in search of a better life for themselves and their families. But as a letter in the Guardian newspaper in the UK pointed out, responsibility for their deaths lies not just with the people smugglers but also with the exclusionary policies of Fortress Europe: ‘People-smuggling is the symptom and not the cause of migration. Tougher border controls, higher fences and more expensive surveillance systems won’t deal with the causes either. They will make things worse by driving more people into the perilous embrace of the smugglers. The causes of migration are overwhelmingly poverty, inequality and conflict’.

The main challenge to racism and fascism has come, and will continue to come, from parties of the Left, social movements and trade unions. In Greece, for example, following the murder of Pavlos, some ten thousand people demonstrated against Golden Dawn in the streets of Athens. In Britain, the anti-Muslim English Defence League is currently in crisis following the resignation of its two founders, a crisis provoked in large part by the fact that every time its supporters appeared on the streets they were physically challenged by much larger anti-fascist protests.

As individuals, social workers from Glasgow to Athens and all points between have participated in many of these demonstrations. But we also need to explore the implications of the growth of these new forms of racism for our social work practice. And here, it is important to learn the lessons of the past, both negative and positive.

Discussing the role of social work during the Nazi period, Walter Lorenz has commented on the use of social workers’ diagnostic skills to sort out the ‘deserving’ from the unworthy, the latter referring to those with mental illness or learning disabilities who would then be deemed eligible for compulsory sterilisation or worse. As Lorenz (2006) describes it:

Sticking to their professional task with the air of value neutrality and scientific detachment (especially after the ‘non-conforming’, ‘politically active’ social workers had been sacked or imprisoned) they did not feel responsible for the consequences of their assessments and may indeed not have been conscious of the full implications their work had in the national context (pp 34-35).

As Lorenz argues, the issue here was not only State coercion or lack of discretion but rather the understanding of their role which informed the practice of these workers:

The evil of a fascist approach to welfare had not emanated primarily from its collectivism and from the imposition of ideologically determined forms of practice (which social workers usually knew how to get round) but rather from the disjuncture of the political and professional discourse that prevented the ‘ordinary welfare workers’ from fully facing up to the consequences of their actions (p35).

If there is a lesson for today, it is surely that social work cannot respond to the growing tide of racism and xenophobia by hiding behind a mask of ‘professionalism’ which seeks to deny the political nature of our profession or pretend that somehow we are above the struggle.

A very different response to racism developed in the late 1980s. In that period, social workers and social work academics in the UK and elsewhere sought to develop forms of anti-racist theory and practice which challenged the ways in which racism shaped the mind-set of many white social workers on the one hand and blighted the lives of black and minority ethnic clients and communities on the other. The limitations of these approaches, above all their focus on personal racism at the expense of State and institutional racism, have been well-documented. Nevertheless, they were important in putting issues of racism and anti-racism on the social work education agenda in a way they had not been previously.

Race, racism and social work

Race, racism and social work

Recent publications have sought to develop new forms of social work theory and practice that can challenge the forms of racism that have emerged over the past decade and can defend multiculturalism (Lavalette and Penketh, 2013; see also Mahamdallie, 2011; Richardson, 2013). This is a very positive development. Critical and Radical Social Work welcomes papers on all aspects of racism and anti-racism in social work. These can include both analyses of current developments and also historical pieces which critically evaluate the role of mainstream social work in oppressive and racist regimes such as Nazi Germany or apartheid South Africa as well as those highlighting examples of social work resistance which have until now been’ hidden from history’.

References
Lavalette, M. and Penketh, L. (eds.) (2013) Race, Racism and Social Work: Contemporary Issues and Debates, Bristol: Policy Press
Lorenz, W. (1993) Social Work in a Changing Europe, London: Routledge
Mahamdallie, H. (ed.) (2011) Defending Multiculturalism: a guide for the movement, London: Bookmarks
Richardson, B. (ed.) (2013) Say It Loud: Marxism and the Fight Against Racism, London: Bookmarks

Race, racism and social work, edited by Michael Lavalette and Laura Penketh, is available to buy with 20% discount from www.policypress.co.uk.

Seeing social work through narrative

Clive Baldwin

Clive Baldwin

by Clive Baldwin, author of Narrative social work: Theory and application

Narrative is becoming increasingly a focus of interest across disciplines and professions – philosophy, sociology, psychology, medicine, nursing, psychotherapy, theology, women’s studies, law and so on have all taken up narrative in some form or other.  Social work, too, has taken up narrative, albeit to a lesser extent – social work interest in narrative seems to cluster within three main areas: narrative as an intervention (usually a version of narrative therapy), narrative in social work education and personal narratives of practising social work.  While these three areas are interesting and important, to my mind they do not engage deeply with narrative as an approach to social work per se and as such miss some important insights and opportunities for developing a truly narrative-based social work.

The difference, I think, lies in what I distinguish as the stronger and weaker programs of narrative.  The weaker programs see narrative as something that casts light on a reality that is out there, whether that be the reality of service users’ lives, the reality of practising social work, or the reality of wider social and political movements.  Narrative, in this program, is but a window onto the world of social work.  Alternatively narrative is seen as a tool, an intervention – as in narrative therapy – to be brought to bear when the occasion is apposite.

The stronger program, on the other hand, uses narrative as the lens through which we see all of social work.  In this stronger program narrative is taken as a way of knowing about the Self, others and the world; a way of communicating; a way of acting – narrative does not simply reflect the world, but constantly makes and remakes the world.  In this program, social work, as an activity that seeks to understand individuals in context and work with them toward individual and societal betterment is, through and through, a narrative activity.  Supporting this view is a wide literature on how the Self is constructed in and through narrative; another on understanding policy-making as a narrative process; yet another on how social movements rely on and play out certain stories; and still another on how narrative acts as a means to ethical reasoning and decision-making.  The stories we hear and the stories we tell make up the world of social work. To understand narrative is to understand social work.

Narrative social work is available with 20% discount from www.policypress.co.uk

The rise and fall of social work?

During the late 1960s and into the 1970s social work was the rising star of the of the human service delivery professions. This was an optimistic era when the state, through the government of the day, was seen as being able to ensure the basic needs of all its citizens – health, education, social security, housing and so on – were met. Social workers were part of this welfarist project with any social problems remaining being ‘solved’ or ameliorated by them. Working with individuals, families, groups and communities, and ensuring that the work of various agencies met their client’s needs, they were seen as the key players. These were certainly heady days for social work by today’s standards but, sadly, it was not to last.

Margaret Thatcher’s general election success in 1979 saw the end of the social democratic consensus of the post war years which had entailed the acceptance of the welfare state and the role of government in economic planning and regulation. Monetarism, the forerunner of today’s neo-liberalism was to be the replacement, a return to the free market ideology that had been discarded since the Great Depression of the 1930s.

The sea change in the ideological climate occurred because during the 1970s neither the Conservative or Labour governments seemed able to solve the economic problems facing Britain. And as far is social work was concerned, it has since been under attack from both politicians and the media often following child abuse tragedies. One has only to recall Maria Colwell in the 1970s through to Victoria Climbie and Baby Peter of the 2000s.

Although many public service professionals have been assailed over recent decades, social work has surely become the most denigrated. The New Right of the 1970s and 1980s were never happy with a profession which was essentially on the side of the poor and disadvantaged, one which focused on social justice and social change. In any case they saw professions, or aspiring ones like social work, as self-serving groupings which were obstacles to privatisation and marketisation. This necessitated social work, as well as public expenditure, being controlled by the introduction of private sector management systems. Initially, this related to care management being introduced with work with older adults in the 1990s and, under New Labour especially, it spread to other client/user areas notably children and families.

New Labour turned out to be the heirs of the neo-liberal consensus with its belief in free markets (unless it came to bailing out the banks and the capitalist system as a whole) and light touch regulation (unless it came to social work). As Bill Jordan has pointed out, social work fared worse under New Labour than it did under the Conservatives. No longer a political party aimed at social change on more just and equal lines, New Labour did not see social work as a critical ally aimed at achieving precisely this.

Instead, various inspection and regulation regimes were introduced to keep social work in check, as well as continuing with strategies aimed at ‘empowering’ managers to set and control the work that social workers do and how. This has been carried out by introducing various bureaucratic, and increasingly electronic, performance indicator hurdles. In so doing, the needs of such as children and families, and in turn social work, are subordinated to the needs of managers and their organisations. Social work often becomes merely a matter of filling in forms/computer exemplars as quickly as possible so as to meet targets; it amounts to people-processing often regardless of the outcome. Rationing increasingly scarce resources is the overriding goal. Consequently, organisations like local authority adult and children’s services, have adapted to meet their imposed targets rather than the real needs of the adults and children and families they are supposed to be serving. One has only to recall the glowing Ofsted report that the London Borough of Haringey received prior to the Baby Peter tragedy. The inspection was no doubt concerned with the quantitative aspects – how many forms were filled and in what time scale – rather than the qualitative aspects of services for children and families.

Despite a general election in May 2010 leading to the ousting of New Labour, the foregoing developments surely look set to continue. Notwithstanding warm words about a social work college increasing the status of social work, and the need to reduce bureaucracy for practitioners, the situation is unlikely to change under a right-wing Conservative-Liberal Democratic coalition government aimed at ‘getting more for less’ and a ‘big society’. Such a society expects individuals, families and communities to rely on themselves as the state cuts public expenditure and withdraws.

Overall, when looking at social work’s development over the last 150 years one can pinpoint the present neo-liberal consensus as being at the root of the profession’s current crisis. Over the last 30 years the introduction of a private sector business ethos has resulted in deprofessionalisation or, put differently, the deformation of a profession. Put simply, currently being ‘professional’ simply amounts to meeting someone else’s (i.e. managers’) targets.

The current domination of managerialism means a progressive, critical practice based on social justice and social change is increasingly difficult, but nevertheless the limited opportunities remaining need be taken up. Although group and community orientated strategies are often no longer in social worker’s toolbox, in Professor Vicky White’s words ‘quiet challenges’ remain possible. This helps ensure that the limited discretion that does remain, in face to face encounters with children and families for example, is used empoweringly rather than as simply means of control. If this is not done the road is left clear for those wanting to preserve the status quo rather than make the world a better place.

Dr Steve Rogowski, author of Social Work: the rise and fall of a profession?


Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Twitter Updates

Archives

Creative Commons License

Republish our articles for free, online or in print.

The work on the Policy Press blog is licensed under a Creative Commons licence.