It is ages since I’ve read a Victorian novel and I’ve never read a book by Elizabeth Gaskell. Mary Barton is one of the first industrial novels. It is set in the early days of Manchester’s industrial expansion. However, I was struck by how modern the story is.
Mary is a smitten young working class woman, dreaming of improving her life by the promise of marriage to a richer man. Her life as a seamstress is filled with fashion and gossip. Unlike her father, a union man, she shows little awareness of the structural inequity underpinning her fantasy of escape. As a young, pretty woman she is subject to judgement, through gossip, inter-generational sneering, and her own harsh opinion, when she realises she was looking in the wrong place for happiness. Continue reading →
This is the abstract from a recent paper written with Kate Cook at Manchester Metropolitan University:
This paper explores the concept of trust in relation to social work, child protection and work on domestic abuse. Trust is a complex notion. Borrowing from the arguments of Behnia that trust is the outcome of a process, the paper uses the talk of women who have experienced social work in the context of domestic abuse and child protection to consider the barriers to trust building. The evidence is gathered from three focus groups which formed part of an evaluation of a ‘Freedom Programme’. The findings highlight issues with trust building that start with the context of living with abuse and work outwards to considerations of professional power, social work systems and wider inequality, suggesting an ecological approach to the trust-building process. The key argument is that social workers will struggle to gain trust within a system that sees domestic abuse as a hurdle that mothers must overcome, rather than a trauma through which they should be supported. The experiences of the women in this research, however, do show that trust and respect for voluntary service are achievable and that practice which builds alliances with the voluntary sector and service users could develop more trusting relationships.
The full paper can be found at the British Journal of Social Work.
When I first started this blog I wrote that I wanted to use my reading, cinema viewing, theatre and exhibition visits to help me with understanding the discipline of social policy and my place in the world. This blog aims to be an inter-disciplinary space using culture to understand the practicalities of politics. Helen Dunmore does something similar with her fiction. She asks ordinary people to cope with the dramas of history and politics. For example, The Siege (2001) focuses on the Levin family trapped inside Leningrad while Hitler’s army surrounds the city. The Lie (2014) gives a raw portrayal of a soldier’s return from World War 1. Exposure (2016) examines a marriage under the strain of the Cold War. This novel does something different. The big event is the French Revolution. However, the triumph and horror of the ferocious events of Paris are experienced vicariously as the action of the novel is set in Bristol. Continue reading →
Here is an abstract of an article written with colleagues from MMU (led by Prof Hugh McLlaughlin) about MARACs and Social Work
Summary This article focuses on adult social work’s response in England to high-risk domestic violence cases and the role of adult social workers in multi-agency risk and assessment conferences. The research was undertaken between 2013 and 2014 and focused on one city in England and involved the research team attending multi-agency risk and assessment conferences. Interviews with 20 adult social workers, 24 multi-agency risk and assessment conferences attendees, 14 adult service users at time T1 (including follow-up interviews after six months, T2), focus groups with independent domestic violence advocates and Women’s Aid and an interview with a Women’s Aid service user.
Findings The findings suggest that although adult social workers accept the need to be involved in domestic violence cases they are uncertain of what their role is and are confused with the need to operate a parallel domestic violence and adult safeguarding approach, which is further, complicated by issues of mental capacity. Multi-agency risk and assessment conferences are identified as overburdened, under-represented meetings staffed by committed managers. However, they are in danger of becoming managerial processes neglecting the service users they are meant to protect.
Applications The article argues for a re-engagement of adult social workers with domestic violence that has increasingly become over identified with child protection. It also raises the issue whether multi-agency risk and assessment conferences remain fit for purpose and whether they still represent the best possible response to multi-agency coordination and practice in domestic violence.
Within a global profession with a stated definition that includes “promoting social change and development, social cohesion and the empowerment and liberation of people”, it would be expected that the issue of domestic abuse would be integral to the training and role of all social workers. This article reports on research, which highlighted both a lack of understanding of the role of adult social worker within cases of domestic abuse and also a desire for further training around the issue. However, this article sets out how the current UK (in particular, English) context of social work marginalises the issue of domestic abuse within practice with adults. This marginalisation has been achieved through the construction of domestic abuse as a children and families issue and limited duties, powers and resources within statutory work to support victims/survivors in their own right, rather than as “failing” parents. However, the article argues that the role of social work education should be wider than teaching to the current policy or procedures and instead encourage a wider appreciation of the social, historical and political context. The article concludes with tentative suggestions for how domestic abuse could be considered within the social work curriculum for adult practitioners. This is in acknowledgement that social workers can be well positioned for the detection, investigation and support of those experiencing abuse.
Rachel Robbins, Concetta Banks, Hugh McLaughlin, Claire Bellamy & Debbie Thackray (2016): Is Domestic Abuse an Adult Social Work Issue?, Social Work Education, DOI: 10.1080/02615479.2016.1140733 To link to this article: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/02615479.2016.1140733
To access the full document, you may need to be registered with a university library or contact me for further details.
In my early days of teaching, working with Access and first year undergraduate social work students, I would try to encourage students to consider why context, politics and policy matters:
Me: (Tongue in cheek) So, let’s say the government decided to declare war on some random country in the Middle East (highly unlikely, I know) – what impact do you think this would have on social work?
This question was an exercise in an introductory social policy unit, where one of the objectives was to acknowledge the impact war has on social relations. Students would surprise themselves with the list they produced:
Soldiers returning with disabilities
Soldiers returning with PTSD or other mental illnesses
Increased numbers of asylum seekers, including children in need
Increased budget on defence, meaning less money spent on health and welfare