The Westminster Child Abuse Inquiry: Blood on Their Hands

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Between 1981 and 1985, Conservative Member of Parliament (MP) Geoffrey Dickens campaigned to uncover a pedophile ring at the heart of Westminster. In 1984, Dickens presented a 40-page dossier of evidence to Margaret Thatcher’s then Home Secretary, Leon Brittan, implicating numerous prominent figures “in positions of power, influence and responsibility”, including the name of the late MP Cyril Smith. On receiving the dossier, Leon Brittan sent a letter to Dickens, informing him that his file would be given to police and passed on to the Home Office for investigation.

After the Jimmy Savile scandal broke in Britain in 2011, Peter McKelvie, a former Child Protection manager, contacted Labour MP Tom Watson with claims that at least 20 prominent figures, including former MPs and government ministers, had abused children for “decades”. McKelvie had discovered links between paedophiles and the government while assisting police in investigating convicted paedophile Peter Righton who had made his career as a child protection expert. Amongst evidence seized from Righton’s home in 1992 were a vast number of documents that pointed to a “very well organized pedophile network.”

As more information emerged, different investigations were launched by the police, under Operation Fairbank, including inquiries into activities of child abuse at Elm Guest House in London and Operation Midland, which is specifically looking at information about three possible murders linked to child abuse.

HORRIFIC ABUSE

The allegations that are surfacing from victims of the pedophile ring, push the boundaries of human depravity.  Amongst the allegations, is the claim that Liberal MP Cyril Smith, who died in 2010, abused boys at Knowl View residential school in Rochdale and at Elm Guest House, in Barnes in south west London, during the 1970s and 1980s. In one incident, Smith is accused of molesting an 11 year old boy at the National Liberal Club in London in 1978, insisting that the boy remove his underpants before attempting to fondle him.

At least three other MPs are reported to have been questioned in 1982 after a police raid on Elm Guest House. It was reported at the time that it was being used as a brothel where children as young as 10 were being abused. Whips, chains and ropes were discovered at the Guest House by police officers.

A particularly chilling statement was given by an alleged victim, known as ‘Nick’, who stated that, as a child, he and other boys, aged between 10 and 14 were repeatedly raped by government ministers. He recalled that chauffeur-driven cars were sent to pick up young boys and drive them to locations where they were to be abused. Nick states that he was present in the room when a 12 year old boy was raped and strangled to death by a Tory MP.

Nick also claims that another 11 year old boy was deliberately hit down and killed by a car in broad daylight on a London street as a warning to other boys not to speak out about their abuse. Worryingly, Home Secretary Theresa May has hinted that this only touches the surface of the horrors committed by the Westminster paedophile ring.

Whilst, it was clear that evidence had been collected at the time of the abuse, what makes this heartbreaking reality more sickening, is that there appears to be a widespread and deep-rooted cover up of what happened.

The details of the 40 page dossier, passed from Dickens to Brittan in 1984, still remain unknown, as the police later stated they had no record of any investigation into the allegations and a Home Office review revealed that the dossier “has since been destroyed or lost.”

On 1 July 2014, Labour MP Simon Danczuk publicly called on Leon Brittan to say what he knew about paedophile allegations passed to him when he was Home Secretary in the 1980s. Brittan has always denied any wrong-doing, however his death on the 22nd January 2015 has meant that a full investigation in to his actions can never be undertaken.

MEDIA SILENCING

The scale of the cover up reaches much further than a select group of politicians. Two newspaper executives have stated that when they attempted to report on allegations of a powerful group of men engaging in child sex abuse at Elm Guest House, their publications were issued with D-notices. D-notices (Defence Advisory Notice) are issued by government as warnings not to publish intelligence that might damage national security.

Don Hale, the former editor of the Bury Messenger between 1980 and 1988, recalls being given a file by MEP Barbara Castle, which contained details of a Home Office investigation into allegations made by the Tory MP Geoffrey Dickens of the existence of a Westminster pedophile ring. Hale said that he asked the Home Office for guidance on the dossier and the progress of the investigation but was repeatedly stonewalled.

“Then shortly after Cyril Smith bullied his way into my office. I thought he was going to punch me. He was sweating and aggressive and wanted to take the files away, saying it was a load of nonsense and that Barbara Castle just had a bee in her bonnet about homosexuals. I refused to give him the files,” said Hale.

“The very next day two non-uniformed officers, about 15 uniformed officers and another non-uniformed person, who didn’t introduce himself, came to the office waving a D-notice and said that I would be damaging national security if I reported on the file.”

Officials running the D-notice system, which works closely with MI5 and MI6 and the Ministry of Defence, have said that the files which would contain the record of the D-notices have been destroyed.

THREATS AND INTIMIDATION

The threats and intimidation extended to more than just media reporters. On the 29th November 1985, Geoffrey Dickens said in a speech to the House of Commons that “the noose around my neck grew tighter after I named a former high-flying British diplomat (Peter Hayman) on the Floor of the House. Honourable Members will understand that where big money is involved and as important names came into my possession so the threats began. First, I received threatening telephone calls followed by two burglaries at my London home. Then, more seriously, my name appeared on a multi-killer’s hit list.”

The same week that Dickens handed the dossier over to Brittan, his flat in London and his constituency home were subsequently broken into and ransacked. Nothing was taken from either premises.

However, the level of intimidation becomes even more disconcerting. Last year, Scotland Yard confirmed that they are looking in to the suspicious murders of two men who were in the process of whistleblowing to reveal the Westminster paedophile ring. In 1993, Lambeth Social Services Manager, Bulic Forsyth told a witness that he suspected children were being assaulted by an organized group at a children’s home said to have been visited by a Labour politician. Days later Forsyth was beaten to death in his flat which was then set on fire. A caretaker who was in the process of giving evidence against the child abuse gang died in similar circumstances. Both cases remain unsolved.

More recently, Rochdale MP Simon Danczuk, who has called for a public inquiry into the child abuse, has alleged that before his appearance at the Home Affairs Select Committee where he was to answer questions on child abuse, he was urged by a Conservative minister not to challenge Leon Brittan over his knowledge of the alleged paedophile ring at Westminster.

Danczuk said of the warning that he’d “never spoken to (the man) before in my life but he blocked my way and ushered me to one side… He warned me to think very carefully about what I was going to say the next day.” The minister said to Danczuk, “I hear you’re about to challenge Lord Brittan about when he knew about child sex abuse…It wouldn’t be a wise move…It was all put to bed a long time ago.” The minister also warned Danczuk that he could be responsible for Brittan’s death.

FAILURES OF THE POLICE AND CROWN PROSECUTION SERVICE

Scotland Yard has also been implicated in the cover up after retired magistrate, Vishambar Mehrotra, revealed the poor police handling of his son’s abduction in 1981.

Mehrotra’s eight year old son, Vishal, was abducted as he walked home from Putney on 29 July 1981. Months later Mehrota recorded a telephone call from an anonymous male prostitute informing him that his son may have been kidnapped and taken to the Elm Guest House to be abused by “judges and politicians.” The recording was given to the police but they refused to investigate the allegation. “At that time I trusted the police. But when nothing happened I became confused and concerned. Now it is clear to me that there has been a huge cover-up. There is no doubt in my mind,” said Vishal’s Father.

Similarly, in May 1979, the Rochdale Alternative Press magazine alleged that MP Cyril Smith had spanked and sexually abused teenage boys in a hostel he co-founded. The matter was investigated by the police but Smith was not prosecuted. Smith never publicly denied the accusations of abuse, nor did he ever take legal action. The Press Office of the then leader of the Liberal Party, Sir David Steel publicly commented at the time: “All he seems to have done is spanked a few bare bottoms.”

Tony Robinson, a former special branch officer with Lancashire Police in the 1970s, said that a dossier of sexual abuse allegations against Smith, which police claimed had been “lost” was actually seized by MI5. Robinson said that he was asked by MI5 to send to London a police dossier that had been kept in a safe in his office which he said was “thick” with allegations from boys claiming they had been abused by Smith. On 27th November 2012, the Crown Prosecution Service admitted that Smith should have been charged with crimes of abuse more than 40 years earlier.

In September 2013, a Channel 4 Dispatches programme “The Pedophile MP: How Cyril Smith Got Away With It” quoted the Crown Prosecution Service as claiming that they had not prosecuted Smith for crimes of abuse because he had been given an assurance in 1970 that he would not be prosecuted, and that prevented them from subsequently reopening the investigation under the law at the time.

In June 2014, Detective Chief Superintendent Russ Jackson of Greater Manchester Police admitted the force’s previous investigations into Cyril Smith’s abuse of children at Rochdale Knowl View residential school “fell well short” of what would be expected today.  Allegations had been made that a paedophile ring had been operating for decades in the town of Rochdale and that men would travel from all over Yorkshire to Rochdale to have sex with Knowl View boys aged between eight and thirteen years of age. Greater Manchester Police had the names of 14 of the 21 suspects, including Cyril Smith. In July 2014, Rochdale council’s inquiry into child abuse linked to Cyril Smith at Knowl View residential school was halted at the request of police. Greater Manchester Police asked the authority to suspend their inquiry while detectives investigated claims of an institutional cover up.

MISHANDLED INQUIRY

In 2013 the Home Office conducted a review on their handling of the missing dossier given by Geoffrey Dickens to Leon Brittan and claimed that parts of the dossier described as “credible” and which contained “realistic potential” for further investigation had been passed to prosecutors and the police.

The review, covering the years 1979 to 1999, found 527 potentially relevant files the Home Office had kept. However, a further 114 documents that also concerned child abuse allegations were missing from the Home Office’s records.

The government has declined to publish the 2013 review, with a spokesperson saying that “the executive summary reflects very fully the report…If there are allegations, evidence of wrongdoing that people have they should bring that to the attention of the relevant authorities including the police.”

Last year, Home Secretary Theresa May announced a wider expert-led, independent inquiry into whether public bodies, such as the police, NHS and BBC, have failed in their duty of care to protect children from sexual abuse. Within days, the integrity of the inquiry was called in to question as Baroness Butler-Sloss, the retired high court judge, who was selected to chair the panel leading the inquiry was forced to step down when it was highlighted that her brother, Lord Havers, was attorney general for much of the 1980s and was the government’s senior legal officer at the time the Dickens dossier was considered.

Home Secretary Theresa May then chose corporate lawyer Dame Fiona Woolf as Butler-Sloss’s replacement, but she too was quickly forced to stand down after it was disclosed that she had lived in the same street as Lord Brittan and had dinner with him five times between 2008 and 2012. It was also revealed that the Home Office had helped her re-write a letter detailing her contacts with Lord Brittan seven times in a way that played down their relationship.

In April 2014, following the reports that there had been 144 complaints against Cyril Smith and that attempts to prosecute him had always been blocked, Tim Farron, President of the Liberal Democrats called for an inquiry in to his party to retrieve answers to “serious questions” about who knew that Smith had faced allegations of sexual assault. Nick Clegg, the Leader of the Liberal Democrat party has refused to allow this inquiry.

In July 2014, Norman Tebbit, who had held a variety of government ministerial posts in the 1980s, when asked if there had been a “big political cover up”, said that “there may well have been”, describing it as “…almost unconscious. It was the thing that people did at that time.” Tebbit also spoke of the political atmosphere of the 1980s, saying that “At that time I think most people would have thought that the establishment, the system, was to be protected and if a few things had gone wrong here and there that it was more important to protect the system than to delve too far into it.”

WITHOUT JUSTICE THE ABUSE CONTINUES

As the inquiry in to what happened stumbles along and Theresa May struggles to find a replacement Chair for the investigating panel, we must remember that at the heart of all of this, are many individuals who suffered unimaginable abuse when they were at their most vulnerable.

One victim, now in his 40s, has said that the abusers “controlled my life for… nine years. They created fear that penetrated every part of me. That was part of my life day in and day out. You didn’t question what they wanted; you didn’t hesitate to do what they asked you to do. You did what you were told without question or the punishments were very severe. They had no hesitation in doing what they wanted to do. Some of them were quite open about who they were. They had no fear at all of being caught, it didn’t even cross their mind. They could do anything they wanted without question and we were told that.”

It is clear that those who are part of, or who have links to the establishment, are the people who can be least trusted to secure justice for the victims. This week it was reported that Keith Vaz, Chair of the Home Affairs Select Committee, has published four of the victim’s names online, leading to the victim’s receiving countless death threats. This demonstrates, yet another unforgivable mistake by those whom we should be able to trust the most. If those with the power to uncover the truth about this injustice choose not to, where do we turn to next?

This is a dark episode in British history and my heart is with all those, both victims and whistleblowers, who have fought hard to bring us back to the light. May we soon get there.

Has Children’s Mental Health Become Political Fodder in the United Kingdom

Politicians in the United Kingdom have just announced plans to improve mental health services for children and young people. Leader Ed Milband accused the government of “stripping back preventive services”, and he stated his party is “committed to improving access to services and support”. If Economic austerity is set to continue after the General Election in May, then the current announcements by major politicians will be seen to be just more empty rhetoric with young people set to pay a heavy price.

stat-pageOfficial statistics show the volume and complexity of child and adolescent mental health problems have increased rapidly during the past five years of austerity. Public health enquiries and other research has highlighted the need for a response to meet the overwhelming demand which has stretched existing provision beyond its capacity to cope adequately.

Government policy directives encourage multi-disciplinary and more interprofessional working methods as part of the strategic response yet they do not provide any more finance to increase service provision. Demand has outstripped supply meaning that in nearly every part of the country waiting times for assessment are in excess of 8 weeks while it can take up to 6 months for treatment to begin. This is a long time to leave a child and family without any interventions in place.

The traditional model of service delivery in community Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) in Britain began formally over fifty years ago. The first child guidance clinic opened in East London in 1948 after earlier limited developments to help children with emotional and behavioural difficulties.  After pressure from Education and Health officials since the beginning of the twentieth century, there were concerned about the abilities and behavioural problems of children brought into the new state compulsory education system. The clinics were comprised of an interprofessional team composed of various professionals with Health, Education and Social Work backgrounds who all brought their separate training, theoretical understandings, and working practices under one clinical umbrella.

Their aims were to intervene with children and families referred for help in a variety of ways where there were concerns about a child’s mental health, behaviour, or emotional development Each team member had distinctive skills and worked with the child, parents, or whole family. In the next twenty five years child guidance clinics grew in number and became accessible to more and more children and families. However, their success in offering support to parents resulted in increasing demand, creation of long waiting lists, delays in treatment, and pressure to prioritise the most urgent and worrying cases. These would invariably include children with severe and longstanding mental health problems, aggressive disturbed behaviour, physical, sexual or emotional abuse, depression, acute anxiety, and suicidal behaviour.

One of the difficulties highlighted in a seminal piece of research 20 years ago was the gap which had been steadily growing for decades between the primary care sector and the specialist child guidance service. A four-tier structure was designed to streamline the referral process for children who could be helped with minor emotional and behavioural problems at Tier 1 by their doctors (GP’s), teachers, social workers and health visitors. This system progressed from Tier 1 through to Tier 4 where very disturbed young people who were at risk of harming themselves or others could be supported by highly specialist staff in forensic work or eating disorders. The idea was based around the simple notion that early intervention could prevent problems from getting worse and thus harder to resolve. However, many believe the constant changes to Primary Care, National Health Service (NHS) re-organisation, and the introduction of private providers has destabilised the system, demoralised staff, and undermined good practice.

Child Guidance clinics were also incorporated in changes brought forward in the end of the last Century, and they were health-led bodies often designed as out- patient clinics in office buildings. When children and young people were consulted, feedback revealed consumers found these services lacked accessibility and were not designed around their needs. Additionally, the services were perceived as unhelpful, stigmatising and unfriendly. The milieu of young people’s mental health does not stick to 9-5 office hours which is often wrapped up with substance mis-use, drugs, alcohol and family breakdown.

Poverty, unemployment and poor housing are also implicated in developing and/or exacerbating mental health problems. What young people required were accessible services open at week-ends and evenings where they could drop-in, with staff who were qualified to work in a variety of therapeutic ways and who were trained in ways that enabled them to empathise and understand young people.

In 2008, the last national report from the NHS demanded increased training for all staff working with young people, more specialist resources, and extra investment in early intervention services to prevent problems arising in the first place. Seven years later the situation appears to be getting worse. Staff vacancies are high, moral is rock bottom, budgets are slashed and demand for help and support is increasing. Early intervention services have been cut back in a classic example of a false economy. The United Kingdom has the unhappiest children in the European Union, according to the World Health Organisation and the Children’s Society charity research.

Suicide is now the second-most common cause of death in young men and women in Britain, yet stigma and shame continue to blight those trying to cope. Three young people commit suicide every day while tens of thousands self-harm or suffer serious depression and anxiety preventing them studying or in some cases even attending school. Working class children feature disproportionately in the numbers affected. School teachers, practitioners, and parents are crying out for resources to tackle these problems.

Drive for Excellence in Social Work with Older people – Launch of College ‘White Paper’

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Proposals for delivering excellent social work to older people was recently unveiled by The College of Social Work (TCSW) with the launch of its ‘white paper’ Excellent social work with older people: a discussion paper.

The document kicks off a debate about what excellence in social work means and how it could make a difference to older people. Led by The College’s Adults’ Facultuy; user groups, older people, their families, carers and social workers, will be consulted on the proposals which call for:

  • employers of social workers to make it clear to older people in their communities how social work can support them and how they can access services
  • commissioners, employers, and the wider social work professions to recognise social work with older people as a specialist area of practice
  • clarification and strengthening of the role of social workers in policy and guidance relevant to older people
  • research evidence to be properly utilised to ensure social work with older people continues to evolve and improve
  • the lived experiences of older people to be central to the continued improvement of this area of social work practice.

Feedback from the consultation will go towards a final document detailing the capabilities and conditions required for excellent social work with older people.  Initial findings will be released at TCSW conference in March this year, followed by publication of final reports in May.

Bernard Walker, Chair of the Adults’ Faculty said:

“Our aim is to create the right conditions and opportunities for social workers to improve the lives of older people by ensuring they receive excellent social work.

“We know there are pockets of excellent practice out there; we have seen the difference it makes to individuals, families and communities, and how it improves the use of resources.  We want this to become the norm for all older people no matter where they live.

“Our paper sets out our initial thoughts on what needs to be done, but we want the views of  the people that count, so we can agree on the capabilities and conditions needed to provide excellent social work for older people.

“Their responses will go towards our final document which we’ll use as our call to action for social workers, commissioners and stakeholders to ensure excellent social work for older people.”

Feedback can also be sent to The College via email; or views can be lodged by taking part in a short online survey. Email Michael.simpson@tcsw.org.uk with responses to the following questions:

  • How should we define excellence in terms of social work with older people?
  • What difference do you think excellent social work can make?
  • How can social work with older people be better recognised and valued?

Or take part in one of the following short surveys:

  • For older people, their carers and families:
  • For social workers, managers and employers:

The College of Social Work is the centre of excellence for social work, upholding and strengthening professional standards to the benefit of the public. We are an independent membership organisation that aims to provide a strong, unified voice for social workers and play a leading role in the development of social policy.

Media contacts

Michelle Smith – Michelle.Smith@tcsw.org.uk  t: 0208 4532 932, m: 07714 245785

Cathie Louis | Senior Communications Officer | The College of Social Work

020 8453 2924 | www.tcsw.org.uk | 30 Euston Square, London, NW1 2FB.

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Scapgoating Social Work Again

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British Education Secretary Nicky Morgan’s proposed reform of UK social work training in the light of the Rotherham and Manchester child sexual abuse and trafficking scandals is another example of a knee-jerk reaction from a desperate government trying to deflect attention from  the consequences of the 2008 financial crisis and the consequences of Casino banking and millionaire tax dodging. The resulting operational problems in child protection services are not going to be solved by undermining and restructuring social work training. By targeting social work, other professions such as Teachers, Health and the Police are left relatively untroubled despite their legal role as jointly responsible for child protection.

Morgan wants to make social work more like teaching, where professionals are “free from the burden of over-prescriptive guidance and paperwork” and trusted to “make sensible decisions about the children in their care.” Many teachers might laugh at this description of their working environment. Her plans include yet another re-structuring of social work, following a pattern established in the 1970’s when society came to realise what was happening to vulnerable children and families. People demanded action and Politicians provided scapegoats.

Social workers are easy targets for the right wing media when it comes to reporting child abuse failures. BBC’s Panorama recently showed how other professionals notably the Police and Health Service staff were equally culpable in missing the risks to Baby Peter Connolly prior to his death at the hands of his carers in 2008. The programme was in stark contrast to the Establishment newspapers which targeted a social worker and her boss with blame. But history shows this witch-hunting, scapegoating reflex is nothing new and part of the modern Capitalist media narrative seeking to undermine the principles of the Welfare State, Local Authority social care and to pave the way for more privatisation.

In 1974, DHSS published a report into the death of Maria Colwell, another young child killed by her parents who was known to Social Workers. It was the first modern media scandal involving child abuse, death and a newspaper campaign to scapegoat social workers. Needless to say it was the first of 30 such reports between 1974 and 1988 as a steady number of similar cases grabbed public attention. Running in parallel with these developments in legislation over the past decade has been a deepening sense of public concern prompted by evidence of widespread physical and sexual abuse in children’s homes.

Several major public inquiries have taken place. They include inquiries into abuse at the Kincora boys’ hostel in East Belfast (1989), the ‘Pindown’ regime in Staffordshire children’s homes (1991), Castle Hill School (1991), Ty Mawr former approved school in Gwent, Feltham Young Offenders’ Institution (1993) and Leicestershire children’s homes (1993). A tribunal of inquiry and full-scale police investigation is currently examining allegations of abuse in children’s homes in North Wales.

Legislative changes have mirrored or preceded such inquiries. In 1975, Parliament passed a Children Act which contained provisions relating to care proceedings, adoption, custodianship and the treatment of children in care. The provisions of the Act were implemented in stages over the next 10 years. Various measures relating to children in care were consolidated into the Child Care Act 1980. In 1984 the House of Commons Social Services Committee, produced a detailed report, Children in Care, which examined policy and practice in regard to children looked after by local authorities, voluntary organisations or other bodies other than their families. The report recommended that the DHSS establish a working party on Child Care Law. This recommendation was accepted, and the review which followed led, via a White Paper, to the enactment of the Children Act 1989, which forms the basis of current child care policy and practice.

The Cleveland Report (1988) and The Rochdale ‘Satanic Abuse’ Report (1990) had similarities with Rotherham and Manchester in that they presented a government with an excuse to quickly respond to the findings, be seen to be doing something, and placate the badgering right wing media. In 1982 the British Association of Social Workers published its own report into Child Abuse Inquiries. It found that ” frequently inquiries simply repeat the recommendations of previous inquiries and in many cases recommendations, if they have not already been carried out before the report is published, remain unimplemented. In few cases can it be claimed that the findings and recommendations of an inquiry justify the anguish, disruption and paralysis caused.”

With Morgan’s half-baked idea for a new level of training to be imposed upon social workers in the form of an Approved Child and Family Practitioner Status, it gives all the appearance of a logical step in enhancing social work practice and better protect children. Yet, nothing could be further from the truth. Social Work education and training has undergone countless changes since the early 1980’s after the Barclay report – yet another soul-searching exercise undertaken after the deaths of children known to social workers.

The Barclay report led to the Diploma in Social Work being established as the modern, skills-based professional training qualification with clear standards, supervision and evidence-based practice. But after yet another round of child protection scandals, media publicity and scapegoating, a new qualification was inaugurated in 2003 which made social work a graduate level training involving more time spent in practice learning and more extensive research evidence to back up a complex knowledge base acknowledged as necessary to enable staff to tackle entrenched poverty, adult mental health, modern parenting problems and new evidence of the extent of child sexual abuse. But these quick fix solutions fail on several counts.

First, they tackle the symptoms not the cause of child abuse and the deaths of children by their parents or carers and the underlying economic deprivation. Second, they fail to provide resources in terms of time, money and staff to respond to increasing numbers of child protection cases as communities suffer under austerity budgets. Third, they cause huge disruption to established training programmes and recruitment patterns so staff are relocated, redefined and given new guidance leading to confusion and defensive practice. Fourth, management are shielded from blame or themselves scapegoated causing a breakdown in the quantity and quality of experienced practitioners able to use their wisdom and experience.

Changing procedures or creating a child protection elite within social work is superficial window-dressing and a cruel deceit by a government ideologically repelled by the notion of community, solidarity and collective welfare. A comprehensive child protection system is best able to look after vulnerable children when all agencies are working jointly together with a common set of procedures and risk assessment tools, and who should be a last resort after proper resources are ploughed into families in need of support, and preventative methods of intervention to help rather than persecute vulnerable families.

Response to Nicky Morgan’s Speech at the National Children and Adult Services Conference

The College of Social Work’s Chair Jo Cleary said: “The College of Social Work is extremely heartened by the Secretary of State’s, Nicky Morgan, clear and explicit support for a strong and confident profession.  The proposals about a new assessment and accreditation system for social workers, supervisors and managers who hold statutory child care roles hold real potential for promoting social work excellence in children’s services.  They could significantly assist in enhancing the status, standing and standards of social work. As such, they should dovetail with other measures already being progressed to strengthen further the quality of social work practice.

Conservative Representative Nicky Morgan- UK Parliament
Representative Nicky Morgan- UK Parliament

“It is obviously now important to understand the details of these proposals. The College and other stakeholders will be particularly concerned to ensure that any accreditation system connects with, and supports the Professional Capabilities Framework (PCF).

Social workers, employers and educators need to have one coherent standards framework.  There is strong evidence that the PCF is now well established in initial and post qualifying training, in supervision and also in many employer appraisal systems.

“The College has questions too about how a new accreditation system for children’s social work might be complemented with similar approaches in adult social work.  It is vital that there is equity and equivalence across these two connected spheres of our profession.

“We support the importance of social work professional leadership and the proposal to develop accreditation for senior practice leaders is a bold step. However, we will need to understand how this will ‘fit’ with the existing Principal Children and Families Social Worker (PSW) role.  The PSW role is now well embedded in most local authorities and we look forward to clarification of this matter.

“Plans to consolidate partnerships between employers and higher education institutions are also a positive step forward.  TCSW has been working closely with these partnerships to ensure that social work students are properly prepared for the reality of frontline social work, both in terms of university-based education and practice placements.  This new announcement will help to develop this work further.

“Yesterday’s announcement marks an important milestone in a new and potentially exciting era for the social work profession and The College of Social Work looks forward to working with government, employers and other stakeholders on translating these intentions into workable proposals that will support the delivery of first class social work to children and families.”

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Mark Ivory | Head of Policy and Communications | The College of Social Work
T: 020 8453 2922 |  M: 07906 893019 | www.tcsw.org.uk
The College of Social Work, 30 Euston Square, London NW1 2FB

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A Monster At The Heart Of British Policing

I have postponed writing this piece for several months now. However as more stories emerge on an almost daily basis, it has become clear that there is something rotten at the core of British Policing. This will, unfortunately, come as no surprise to the Black and Minority Ethnic Communities living in England who have been victims of institutional racism, intimidation and victimization for many decades. However, the stench of police corruption has now reached the nose of the political class.

scotland yardIn February of this year, several police officers were dismissed for criminal conduct after attempting to smear the reputation of Conservative Politician Andrew Mitchell. Whilst this of course is no more important than the daily injustices of Stop and Search, perversely it does mean that we now have national recognition of the problem and finally stand a chance of tackling it.

The police are an essential aspect of any civilized society and a core component in the battle between liberty and security. It is a job that I do not envy but one that I admire. Whilst people continue to harm others, we need people who are willing to stand up and be the ‘good guys’. Unfortunately, the line between good guys and bad guys is being irreparably blurred in the UK.

Last month, the final report of an internal investigation in to the work of the Metropolitan Police’s Special Demonstration Squad was presented to the public and the findings are highly alarming. It was revealed that from the mid 1980s to 2005, undercover police officers were secretly gathering intelligence on 18 families who were fighting to get justice from the police after their relatives had been murdered or had died in police custody. The report highlighted the fact that the information gathered by the police should only have been stored if it could have prevented crime or disorder and concluded that ultimately the information “should not have been retained and certainly not for the period it has been.”

What is particularly worrying about this and other cases is that it was not a one-off individual- a lone ranger- it was an organized group of people all willing to ignore and reject government guidelines, best-practice and human decency. This cannot be something that is simply swept under the carpet. It is terrifying to know that those we pay to protect us will put more energy in to protecting their own reputation. The notion of ‘police before public’ reeks of gang mentality.

As further stories emerge about police misconduct, I have been shocked to discover the true level and scale of police malpractice in Britain. I feel embarrassed that so little has been done to iron out the injustices that the BME community has struggled with for so long. Whilst it would be unfair to say that there are no honest and decent police officers, you only need to scratch the surface to realize that there is something significantly and dangerously wrong with the structure and ethos of the British Police Service.

In June of this year, a Court found that Firearms Officer Carol Howard had been subjected to discriminatory treatment by the Met Police due to the fact that she was black and female. The Court case revealed that the deletion of records of sex and race discrimination was common practice within the Met and was used as a means of ensuring that there are no findings of discrimination against them.

There are countless other examples that I could list. So many, in fact, that the Home Secretary Tereasa May was forced to do the previously unthinkable in May of this year. At this years Police Federation, she abandoned the usual deferential treatment given to the police force and rather read out a long list of recent police scandals. The Home Secretary made it explicitly clear that unless the police take heed of the recommendations of the Normington Report for police reform, the Government would have to impose reform upon them.

Courageously, Tereasa May directly addressed the Federation to say:

I want the police to be the best it can be. I want you – the representatives of the thousands of decent, dedicated, honest police officers – to show the public that you get it, that you want to take responsibility for the future of policing and you want to work with me to change policing for the better.

I hope that this speech was not mere rhetoric but genuinely marks the beginning of a determined effort to reform our police service. We cannot claim to live in a democracy if we do not prioritize accountability of those in positions of power.

There is a dark monster within the heart of the British police force and it is growing ever larger. We must act immediately. It is our duty to fight this monster. We owe it to the grieving families who have been spied on; we owe it to those women and men who join the police force to genuinely protect and serve their communities and we owe it to ourselves, because whilst this problem may not affect you directly today, if the monster is allowed to continue to grow, it won’t be a matter of if it will affect you but rather when it will affect you. And by then it will be impossible to defeat.

This is a serious problem and we can ignore it no longer. As Cornel West states: “The country is in deep trouble…We need the courage to question the powers that be, the courage to be impatient with evil and patient with people, the courage to fight for social justice.” We need as many voices as possible to speak out in order to create change and we need to speak out now.

Protecting Vulnerable People: Let’s Get It Right

In the field of social work and particularly with the protection of vulnerable people , we are presented almost daily with the opportunity to make a difference in someone’s life. No matter how small or insignificant this may appear to us, to our Service Users it could mean the world. Not just in Social Work but in Care, Nursing, Healthcare and Education among others, the job you have decided to take on is that of protecting the most vulnerable members of our society. I speak as a UK social worker, but this is the same across the world.

Social Work Week - March 7, 2011
Social Work Week – 3/2011 (Photo credit: BC Gov)

If only it was as simple as hiring people with a view to protect vulnerable people, to work in these positions, thus solving the problem of vulnerability by filing the gap and putting up a defense system for the person in question. The human race is endlessly complex and challenging and as such, those who protect can sometimes become the very opposite- using their powerful position to take advantage of those who cannot look after themselves.

In fact, recently it seems a rather large number of people have chosen a caring role for all of the wrong reasons. It is easy to see why these jobs and this field of work is appealing to those who- for reasons unknown to most of us- wish to cause harm, abuse and torment the disabled, the young, the old, the mentally handicapped. By becoming a Social Worker, a Carer, a Nurse, a Teacher or Assistant, you immediately gain access, often in a private setting, to the very people you wish harm upon.

How this can be avoided is not so simple. We obviously need to introduce barriers in regard to the protection of vulnerable people and checks to these positions to ensure nobody who has previously committed an offense relevant to the role is hired. However the problems arise when the person either has not been caught for an offense, or when it can be hidden.  A DBS (UK Disclosure and Baring Service) check often exposes the majority of incidents, however it is still not 100% effective. People have been employed as teachers, only to reveal they are listed on the Sex Offenders Register. The system means well, but is far from perfect and leads to more questions about the protection of vulnerable people .

Mental Health Social Workers are on occasion working with the most vulnerable people of all and are carrying out safeguards towards the protection of vulnerable people . Just recently, a MH Social Worker was suspended for engaging in and encouraging a sexual relationship with his Service User. For a little over 6 months, Daniel James Bhim-Rao was assigned as her Social Worker yet during this time he pursued a relationship and continued to contact her via text message and calls until he was asked to stop. Prior to this, Bhim-Rao had a completely clean Professional Record and as such was only given a suspension by the GSCC.

Fortunately, the HCPC (Health and Care Professions Council) has proven that it is learning fast as a regulator in regards to unprofessional and damaging behaviour by staff. At a conduct meeting, they reviewed this case, agreeing that Bhim-Rao still posed a risk to the public. The longevity and the relationship he pursued given the time he actually knew the Service User was wholly unprofessional, and for this he neither attended nor engaged with the council at the final hearing. Again at the review he was not present, did not show remorse or provide any evidence to rebuild faith in his character. The HCPC gave him 4 months from the start of February to prove, with evidence, that he is fit to practice, or he will not be allowed to continue.

Of course, the Winterbourne incident and review has left everyone, including the general public, with a sense of dismay and distrust about those people employed to care for their loved ones. What if they are secretly hurting them, and they can’t explain? A recent survey carried out in the UK showed that an alarming number of people state they don’t wish to go into care when they are no longer capable of looking after themselves, the main reason being they were afraid of being abused or receiving inadequate care. Winterbourne is a stark example of what can be lost when power is given to the wrong people.

Another interesting perspective concerning the protection of vulnerable people is the difference between abuse and simply, inaction. What constitutes abuse? Is it only when a person comes under attack? Or can you abuse someone by not meeting their needs? Of course, abuse and inaction are the same. How many stories have the media picked up regarding a Social Worker who didn’t protect the child from the parents or guardians and whom subsequently died?

There are obvious grey areas, nothing is black and white, especially in our field and the protection of vulnerable people . But there are cases where Social Workers and carers, nurses and doctors, made a choice to restrict their actions or assistance. Is that as horrific as someone who physically attacks and maims a vulnerable person? Fortunately the courts decide on a case-to-case basis what level of crime has been committed. However, if you work in a caring position and cannot see abuse and inaction as essentially the same problem, then maybe you should consider a different career!

Restriction, restraint and inaction can all be used as part of a care plan, however these are important decisions concerning the protection of vulnerable people and you will need to be able to explain the use, and extent of use of these methods, to your colleagues and supervisors, and to the family and friends of the person who have made this decision for. It is sometimes difficult to know when you are acting on your personal feelings, within the law or for the Service Users feelings. Those who callously and deceitfully abuse vulnerable people will never be eradicated entirely from a filed where they can gain access. Being mindful of your own actions and being able to justify them at all times is very important for Social Work. We may not be able to protect everyone in a world that can sometimes be crooked, but we can do our bit and work hard to provide the best service for our clients.

5 Charities That Help Fight Global Climate Change

The fight to prevent climate change is a big part of the consciousness in modern society. The recent extreme cold weather conditions are causing more people to be concerned about the effects of global climate changes. As we all try to implement changes to make our society greener in smaller ways, there are few organisations doing real work towards improving the environment. Despite these worthwhile efforts, much of the fight against global climate change falls heavily on the charity and nonprofit sector. Getting involved in charity work is a great way to help fight against climate change and make a real difference to your children’s future. It can also help to improve your chances of finding environmental work in the commercial sector, and here are five charities to consider supporting.

Greenpeace

Greenpeace.org
Greenpeace.org

It’s just about impossible to talk about charity work in the climate change sector without talking about Greenpeace. Greenpeace is a huge international charity which works around the world to help protect and conserve the environment. If there is an environmental cause, Greenpeace are likely to be involved in finding a solution. The charity works to protect the worlds oceans and ancient forests, campaigns against toxic waste and works to promote green energy and sustainable agriculture.

Renewable Energy Foundation

It is hoped that renewable energy will be able to meet our energy needs and reduce the harm done to the environment by the use of fossil fuels. The Renewable Energy Foundation is a charitable organisation which works to promote green power as well as energy efficiency. It is privately funded, with no affiliations to any major commercial organisations. The charity works to provide accurate reports on environmental data as well as consultancy services on renewable energy.

The Global Cool Foundation

The Global Cool Foundation is another charity which works towards a greener and more sustainable future. The charity runs an online magazine which works with celebrities to promote green issues and green trends. The foundation also works with large organisations such as Vodafone and Eurostar to help promote a sustainable lifestyle around the world.

The Woodland Trust

Whilst some charities operate on a global scale, some focus on a particular region and issue. This can help them to have a bigger impact on a smaller scale. The Woodlands Trust is a UK based organisation which works to help preserve, restore and grow the ancient forests and woodland across the UK.

The Canal & River Trust

The Canal and River Trust is another UK based charity, but this is focused on preserving and protecting rivers and canals across the UK and the wildlife they support. The organisation takes on the responsibility of looking after 2,000 miles of waterways, maintaining bridges, aqueducts, reservoirs and more. There are a huge range of opportunities for volunteers all across the UK to get involved in the work they do.

Careers in Charity Work

Charity work is a great way to get involved in protecting our environment and fighting against climate change. It can be a hugely rewarding career and requires a wide variety of skills and talents. If you are interested in finding work in the environment and climate change sector, working with a charity is a great place to start.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PCAfHHntQ34[/youtube]

Is Disability the New Welfare

by Vilissa K. Thompson, LMSW

It seems as if disability benefits has become a fiery political topic for many countries.  Across the pond in the United Kingdom, there has been an emotionally-charged debate and outrage about possible changes to the appeals process for disability benefits claimants.  Under the new appeals policy, those who object to the decision made about their sickness and disability benefits will be denied the opportunity to appeal until the governing body, the Department for Work and Pension (DWP), has reconsidered their case.

The main issue with the DWP overseeing the appeals process is that there is not a definite timeline of when DWP will review these cases; this leaves those who depend on their sickness and disability benefits to be at the mercy of the entity and be unable to sustain the quality of life those benefits allows them to have.  Until their case is reviewed and overturned by the DWP, those individuals will not have any income to rely on; most of the people receiving sickness and disability benefits are incapable of working and/or are severely disabled.

This new policy will affect those who have failed the Work Capability Assessment (WCA) since October.  The WCA has met its own level of controversy; opponents of the test remarks that the assessment does not adequately put into perspective the capacities of individuals who are not quite well enough to work, due to their health issues or disabilities.  Those who fail the assessment and are consequently denied Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) (which is the sickness benefits) will be automatically placed on the Job Seeker’s Allowance (JSA).  The Job Seekers’ Allowance program will require these persons to seek employment opportunities.  The potential for lack of consideration for such circumstances have many opponents of the changes, those who rely on these benefits and health care and legal allies, greatly disturbed.

Proponents of the changes believe that such actions will not negatively affect those who are currently enrolled in the benefits program, or those who are denied.  Those within the DWP stated that individuals who are placed on JSA will be assisted by employees within the work centers to find employment opportunities that are appropriate for their level of functioning and abilities.  Skeptics of this idea are concerned about the work center employees’ capabilities of accurately assessing the individuals’ abilities to work and pair them with appropriate employment agencies.

Reviewing the news about the proposed changes to disability benefits in the United Kingdom caused me to think about how such changes would be received here in  the United States.  The process of becoming a Supplemental Security Income (SSI) or Supplemental Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) beneficiary is an rigorous, time-consuming, and stressful process within itself; what would happen if we made similar changes to the appeals process  in this country?  Would all “heck break loose” by unintentionally disadvantaging persons who truly need the assistance of these benefits, or would we be able to finally pinpoint and remove those who are thought to be abusing the system  and wasting the taxpayers’ dollars?

The average U.S. citizen is bombarded with numerous legal firm commercials and advertisements competing to represent denied disability benefits claimants so that they will have the rights they are “entitled” to.  We also cannot forget about the whole debate surrounding “entitlement” programs themselves:  Are these programs truly serving the targeted populations that are considered to be in need of the resources and funding?  Are people taking advantage of the system, which is already deemed to be extremely broken?  Will the expanding number of beneficiaries placed on the entitlement rolls continue to add to the mounting national debt?  Will there be any money left for my generation, the Millennials and those who have yet to enter middle school, to seek assistance if we become disabled or have a child with special needs?  These questions, along with countless others, have caused the nation to ponder the existence of disability benefits and if they are truly beneficial at all.

Since its creation in 1935, the number of Americans on Social Security has increased exponentially.  In 1940, the number of Americans receiving Social Security benefits was 222, 488, less than 1% of the U.S. population.  That number seems quite small in comparison to today’s figure; a record-breaking 56 million Americans received Social Security benefits in 2011, which accounts for 18% of the total U.S. population.

With the number of beneficiaries continuously increasing, especially with Baby Boomers “aging into” the system, the Social Security Administration (SSA) had stated that they would not have enough money to pay out monthly benefits by 2036.  There have been steps enacted to keep the program alive.  Two well-known (and controversial) actions taken were the automatic Cost-Of-Living Adjustment (COLA) not being increased in 2010 and 2011, and requesting that Social Security beneficiaries sign up for direct deposit in order to receive their benefits electronically, which would save the U.S. Treasury $130 million each year.

These actions may address some of the issues involving the financial realities surrounding Social Security benefits, but these actions do not touch on questions pertaining to the “need” for such programs.  There is a strong belief that there is a great number of individuals intentionally taking advantage of the system; “bleeding the system dry” to be exact, as voiced by those with more conservative viewpoints who regard these programs as being fruitless and a waste of taxpayers’ money.  Those who are under this impression suggest that the main way to “extinguish” this “criminal, abusive” act is by doing a major overhaul on the system; privatizing Medicare and reducing the number of funds given to these programs.

Opponents of such drastic actions voice that there is a better way to address the shortfalls of the current system without disadvantaging those whose livelihood rely heavily on the existence of these programs.  These persons, those who are moderates, liberals, and those who utilize the programs, believe that changes are necessary to make the programs more effective, but cutting key programmatic facets and funding to disability benefits is not the “quick fix” answer.  Neither group, opponents or supporters, have come to a bipartisan agreement on what exactly should be done to save the programs and eradicate the problems that are detrimental to the programs’ longevity in our society.

It seems that everyone, on both sides of the pond, believe that they have the “magic” answer when it comes to sustaining the programs, and ameliorating or eliminating the issues within the disability benefits debate.  There is just one teeny problem – who is taking the time to ask those who receive these benefits what they think about the issue?  Is anyone inquiring about the issue those who receive disability benefits encounter, from applying for benefits to following the eligibility requirements to remain a beneficiary?  Who is truly listening to the voices of the American people?

Though there are programs in place (e.g., PASS) to help beneficiaries who are capable of working to become self-sufficient, is anyone researching the success rate of these particular programs?  By “success,” I am interested in knowing how many people actually remain off these programs for good?  How many of them had to reapply?

The proverbial “benefits moochers” seem to pervade the minds of those who believe that most of the people on these benefits are “unworthy,” feel “entitled,” or “undeserving” to be disability benefits recipients.  Do we know the exact figure of individuals found to have abused the system versus those who indeed meet the qualifications to become beneficiaries?

Also, is the average American aware of how much monies are given, on average, to benefits recipients?  From the way our politicians discuss these programs, you would be under the impression that beneficiaries are “living high off the hog” (as an old Southern saying goes) while receiving these benefits.  If more people were aware of the real dollar amounts distributed, would this change their minds about how much assistance are given?  Would people demand that more, or less, funding be issued?

These are just a few questions that run through my mind as a self-advocate for person with disabilities, and as someone who has had personal experience with these programs.

Tell me, do you believe that a major overhaul is needed for disability benefits to be more fiscally and resourcefully effective?  If an overhaul occurs, what are the potential positive and negative ramifications of such actions undertaken?  Who will come out as “winners?”  “Losers?”  

From University Straight To The FrontLine: Social Worker Shortage Crisis

By Gradle Gardner Martin

The shortage of Social Workers in the UK has been a hot topic and a serious problem over the last few years. It’s become, through publicity and the media, an undesirable job; unrewarding with long hours and the risks outweighing the benefits. In a move to try and combat this, the Government has announced that they are looking to use a model of recruitment that is innovative but has come under some valid criticism.

With the Teach First Model, it is hoped that the top Graduates from Universities across the UK will be fast-tracked into the position of Front Line Social Worker in areas where they are really needed due to the staffing crisis. The scheme is also appropriate for tackling the problem of recruiting top graduates, who often are not informed of the benefits and career prospects Social Workers have access to.

A report released presenting the facts and figures that have prompted the scheme’s implementation states that the Profession has a need to raise the standards of recruitment, the quality of applicants and to do what is necessary to help alleviate the current staffing crisis.

In this way, promising undergraduates would be recruited by Frontline in their final year, during which time they would attend an intensive summer training school combined with on-the-job training for their last year at university. In this way, they would be ready to start out as Social Workers immediately after graduation. Not only that, but the top graduates would be employed within the profession, therefore meeting all criteria requested from the report.

The obvious criticism of this scheme is simply that academic achievements do not necessarily match parallel to the ability to perform the job. A Social Worker needs exemplary, outstanding people skills, the ability to enter and diffuse a conflict situation and the ability to separate themselves from a distress in order to continue to be pro-active and complete the work needed. Knowledge of the law, rights and what comes within their remit as a Social Worker can be learned well in the classroom, but how do you prepare for life’s experiences without, well, life experience?

A new graduate is often seen as a fresh, young face, ready to take on the worlds of business, science and the like with an enthusiasm that older employees may long have lost. Intensive training and shadowing may offer a small insight into the job at hand, but it is hard to compare to the real thing. Those that are working on the front line currently may feel that the hard work they have strived to achieve to reach this position holds less value than before.

Although the negative viewpoints hold strong, the facts need to be faced- We are in the midst of a staffing problem and our recruitment throughout the country needs an immediate boost which will be difficult to achieve without such schemes in place. Whether or not this is adapted and introduced throughout the UK is still in high debate and it may be some time before we know the real plan of action.

If Only Monsters Actually Looked Like Monsters….

After having a twitter conversation with a social carer in the UK, I was made aware of some breaking news that is taking the United Kingdom by storm. According to BBC News,  Sir Jimmy Savile (Knighted), whose fame rivals that of Sir Elton John here in the States, has been raping and abusing under-aged girls over the course of four decades. The police have at least eight recorded instances of allegations against him. Yet, Sir Jimmy Savile was granted the privilege of dying from natural causes at the age of 85 years old without ever answering for his monstrosities, and it appears his crimes were protected until one year posthumously. He was known as a celebrity, philanthropist, and charitable giver. Does this story sound familiar?

Does this story sound reminiscent of our own recently dishonored philanthropist, the Great Jerry Sandusky of Penn State University. For those who may not be familiar with this particular monster, Mr. Sandusky, under the guise of a honorable football coach of a highly esteemed educational institution, used a charitable organization to identify vulnerable children to rape over the course of decades.

As children, we are taught to fear the boogie man, the big fury monster with big teeth, and the red devil with horns and claws. We do ourselves and our children a disservice by failing to arm them with the knowledge to keep us all safer. More precisely….. Evil is beautiful, charismatic, and alluring while appearing to be kind, genuine, and caring.

Predators are attracted to and they embed themselves within charitable and public institutions tasked with serving the most vulnerable in order to have unchallenged access to their prey. This is further evidenced by the recent revelations on the tracking of pedophiles posing as Scout Masters within The Boy Scouts of America. Currently, there are no mechanisms in place to identify or screen these predators from employment such personality test or psych evaluation. If you have ever felt like you work in an evil environment or felt confused by a relationship, your instincts are your best ally in alerting yourself to possible dangers.

We ignore our instincts because our eyes deceives us, and we often are confused by predatory actions. When you feel confused about someone’s intentions or confused about their character, this is your proof to run. Listen! Listen! Listen! Don’t doubt or dismiss the feeling you have that something is not right. We are all built with spider senses to alert us of the pitfalls we should navigate away from. Quit trying to analyze the intentions and pay more attention to their actions.

Here are a few resources that I would like to leave you with:

  1. Psychopath: Mask of Sanity
  2. Peer Abuse and Adult Survivors of Abuse

For sources on  Jerry Sandusky and Jimmy Savile view these links.

If Social Workers are Intrinsic to Humanity, Why Should We Strive to Make the Profession Redundant?

As social workers, your use of ‘self’ is the most fundamental tool in your kit bag. This is why particularly when our profession faces huge challenges, we must be reflexive.  Globally, we are living through unprecedented times. A failure of the capitalist framework which scaffolds our lives has reduced the resources that we and our service users rely on. Our first instinct is to demand more from the hierarchical structures which govern us, voice our concerns and hope to be heard. We do this because that is the system that we are conditioned to, and it’s the way society works.

We question the system and critique it for being out of touch. Why do the powers that be choose what aspects of our concerns to highlight and minimise what we consider to be core issues? How can a system intended to empower people and improve lives, leave people feeling decimated?

These questions can be applied to our personal selves, our profession and on behalf of the individuals and families we support. But to answer them requires time to think about whether the individual answers for our personal self, our profession, and our service users harmonise or create conflict. There are no easy answers. In some cases as an individual and a social worker you may consider that both you and your service users will benefit from you having a reduced caseload to enable you to dedicate more time.

This is an important issue and the answer is one where you might consider the result is increased harmony which is deserving of more funding. But do all areas of public service require greater provision, more doctors, nurses, teachers, soldiers and police? Hey, she forgot to mention social workers! Sadly this omission was deliberate to make the point that an increase in the number of social workers is rarely voiced as a national issue.

Despite a lack of national prevalence, social workers are crucial to our country’s success.  This is because social workers stand committed to wanting to make a positive difference, to support and empower our service users to live safe and fulfilling lives. However, although social workers can be the human face of a bureaucratic policy, on occasions we also represent an impersonal faceless system.

Listen or read any criticism of the social work profession by service users and it is underpinned by a sense of dehumanisation. Somehow amidst carefully designed systems and well intentioned policies the interventions of social workers leave some people feeling despair, fear and hatred. This was never the intended outcome of the social work profession, whose ultimate goal is one of redundancy, of not being required by a well functioning society.

You may think this utopia is unrealistic and will never be achieved. I fully understand that position. It is natural to feel overwhelmed simply trying to survive the daily challenges that our personal and professional lives bring. We are only human, how can we meet the needs of humanity? When in truth the question should be: We are human, how can we not meet the needs of humanity?

This may feel like a heavy burden for social workers to carry, but I believe it is part of our DNA, an aspect of our self. Our personal lives led us to this profession and professional training supports our knowledge base and skills. We are taught to analyse and reflect on the needs of service users and our decision making processes as individual social workers.  We need to extend that reflexivity to our profession to be honest enough to own our mistakes and apply ourselves to fundamental change. We can only change ourselves not others, so let’s agree what we can do and not focus upon what others prevent us from doing.  We owe it to ourselves and humankind.

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