Tuesday, 12 November 2013

The ideology of social work: "we are all guilty"


Michael Wharton, in his guise as Peter Simple, so often found his satire cropping up in real life. So it is with the mantra of Keinz Kiosk, psychologist -  "we are all guilty" he would cry as the audience stampeded for the exits. However, this collective sin sits at the heart of much soft left thinking and damages society in being so.

At a time here in Bradford when we must look to our practice and policies around child protection for all the wrong reasons, the idea that there is nothing wrong with the training, management and development of social workers must be challenged. So I am cheered when Michael Gove, as the responsible minister says:

"In too many cases, social work training involves idealistic students being told that the individuals with whom they will work have been disempowered by society. They will be encouraged to see these individuals as victims of social injustice whose fate is overwhelmingly decreed by the economic forces and inherent inequalities which scar our society."

This isn't to deny inequality or to say that the inconsistency of our education system doesn't result in inadequate parents. It is to change the focus away from the idea that social workers should not judge the actions of their clients.

As the health and achievement of many families demonstrates being poor simply isn't a precursor to dysfunction. However, we have rather got use to the idea of using poverty as an excuse or explanation for dysfunction. For all that each tragic child protection case is different, recent cases have a depressing similarity - not simply the presence of broken families, drugs and alcohol but the apparent failing of seeing a starving child and assuming poverty rather than neglect or abuse.

We are not all guilty, people are not poor because others are rich and Britain is a generous nation - collectively and individually. So when social workers see that starving child, they should perhaps ask themselves whether the fault lies with a neglectful parent rather than an unequal society.


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