Margaret Atwood – The Heart Goes Last

heart-goes-lastI have an academic interest in utopias.  Imagination is often underplayed in social policy, but, to me, creating future worlds is an inevitable product of redistributing resources in the present.  A current fantasy of mine, in a near-future Utopia is that one of my favourite authors has read my blog and deliberately uses the motif of Doris Day as a ploy, so that I write about her work.  Atwood understands the technology, the communication networks and the soft power of blogging.  The tens of views my blog regularly receives means she could find a new audience of social workers and policy researchers previously considered ‘hard to reach’[1].

My imagination is not complete enough to detail fully the symbiotic relationship between academic and author that would flourish in the near future, but I can at least flatter myself that Atwood (or Margaret as I call her when we text and email) have a shared understanding of the complexity and nuance that the seemingly innocent image of Doris Day can evoke. Continue reading

Cynthia Bond – Ruby (2015)

rubyReading plays a number of roles in my professional and private lives.  Sometimes I read fiction to transport myself out of the present.  I read fiction at night to provide for that gap between the switched on working mind and the sleeping one.  However, writing this blog means I make connections between the theories and explanations of social policy and the fiction I read to escape.  This was most acute when reading Ruby.

The social policy academic side of me, would describe Ruby as a novel about racism, sexism, their intersection, child abuse, child sexual exploitation (CSE) and poverty. The social work educator might use it as an example to study the impact of grief, bereavement and trauma.  Yet none of those terms would be found in Ruby. The vocabulary of the novel and my day job are very different, even if the content is shared. Continue reading

Is Domestic Abuse an Adult Social Care Issue?

This is the link to an article I co-wrote with researchers at MMU about adult social care and domestic abuse, published in the Journal of Social Work Education:

http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/02615479.2016.1140733

Abstract

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.

Reference

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.

Carmen Bugan – Burying the Typewriter (2012)

This blog comes after three events.

carmen buganFirst, the criminalisation of coercive control under the 2015 Serious Crimes Act.

The second, a short conversation with a much-loved ex-colleague (paraphrased below).

Me: “So, I work for a centre researching inter-personal violence”

Him: “Yes, I know, but isn’t all violence inter-personal?”

Me: “I guess so, but as opposed to state violence”

Him: “Good point”

Third, I finished reading Carmen Bugan’s Burying the Typewriter. Continue reading

He Named me Malala (2015)

malala posterMalala Yousafzai is a remarkable woman, with a spirit and voice that needs to be acknowledged and heard.  What happens to this voice when it is mediated through the lens of a documentary maker?  He Named Me Malala is a fascinating film, through which Malala’s charm and courage shines, but it is not perfect.  It starts with the mythologised context of Malala’s naming.  Her father chose her name which is from the Afghan folk heroine Malalai who rallied Pashtun fighters against the British in 1880.   This provides a context of colonialism and conflict and a narrative of defiance.  There was a powerful scene, narrated by her father (over animation) where on seeing the family tree populated entirely by men, he draws a line and adds her name.  For me, this is what that act symbolised:

“Women’s history has a dual goal: to restore women to history and to restore our history to women.” (Kelly-Gadol, 1987: 15)

Continue reading

Jenny Offill – Dept. of Speculation (2014)

dept of speculationDept. of Speculation is an intense delight.  It is also such a slight book (only 177 pages and lots of white space), that I didn’t think I would be writing about it on this blog.  However, as someone who claims ‘narrative’ as my preferred methodology, I am really interested in story-telling and I couldn’t ignore the way that this story is told. Continue reading

Marge Piercy – Woman on the Edge of Time (1976)

woman on the edge“Utopias have a long mixed history in Left movements.  Sometimes they have propelled our imagination toward what better worlds might look like.  Other times they have trumpeted heaven on earth, a world for angels rather than mortals, a far-fetched leap to the impossible, where birds can play guitar and human beings are able to flap their arms to fly” (Spannos, 2008:3).

Midwinter (1994) once listed the compromises within social policy as being along the following lines: public/private; central/local; domestic/institutional care and cash/services in kind.  His discussion demonstrates how social policy is a negotiated practice along the lines of ideals versus the practical.  So, the over-riding compromise is: how do we balance imagination, fantasy and wonder with the practical and the possible.  This is explored in Marge Piercy’s Woman on the Edge of Time. Continue reading