Ajay Close – A Petrol Scented Spring (2015)

petrol scented springSocial policies categorise people.  A primary category is those who require support.  Another is those who provide support.  Those who are subject to social policy are then further divided; we call them service-users, patients, recipients, tenants, etc.  And those who provide services are called social workers, medics, civil servants, housing officers etc.  Social policy academics can look at the impact of social policy for those who use services, the organisation of those provide services or the relationship between the two.  I have been turning my attention more recently to that last point. This is for three main reasons.  First, I am not convinced by the divide between those in need and those who provide.  I am both teacher and learner.  I offer help but also require it.  I require help, but can also provide it.  Second, the relationship is subject to the implementation of policy.  The consequences of legislation and resource allocation mean that it is not simply about practitioners using professional judgement, but understanding the context of their practice.  Third, the relationship is not as described and is frequently far from the ideal that the terms service-user and provider would suggest.  If the expectation is that someone described as in need of a service will receive an appropriate and professional service from someone described as a service-provider, that expectation is often thwarted. Continue reading

Advertisements

Helen Dunmore – Birdcage Walk (2017)

birdcage walk coverWhen 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

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

Helen Dunmore – The Lie (2014)

The Lie

The blurb for this short novel reads:

Cornwall 1920

A young man stands looking out to sea.

Behind him the horror of the trenches, and the most intense relationship of his life.

Ahead of him the terrible unforeseen consequences of a lie.

I picked up this book for two reasons. First I had read previous books by Dunmore and her flair for recreating an historic moment through careful research but few words is a pleasure. Second, it is about the First World War, an era that fascinates me by being both near and far in the public imagination.

L P Hartley wrote as the first words to The Go Between:

The past is a foreign country; they do things differently there.

Contrast this with Eric Midwinter (1994: 11) writing about history and social policy:

It is more than a passing or antiquated interest which should prompt an appraisal of medieval England. Apart from the discovery there of the origins of some present day welfare mechanisms, it serves the other purpose of demonstrating how societies different in style from our own are faced with basically similar problems

Continue reading