‘Don’t Even Get Us Started on Social Workers’: Domestic Violence, Social Work and Trust—An Anecdote from Research

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.

You may require institutional access.

https://academic.oup.com/bjsw/article-abstract/doi/10.1093/bjsw/bcx125/4616221

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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

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

Tess Hadley – The Past (2015)

the pastAfter the trauma of reading The Tidal Zone, Tessa Hadley’s The Past was a welcome retreat.  A mildly dysfunctional family in a cosy, mildly dysfunctional setting.  It was a charming, knowing read.  It understood the point of fiction and the number of roles it can play.

One aspect of the story is the romantic relationship between Molly and Kasim, in which the slightly older Kasim casts himself as knowing seducer. Of course, it is not as simple as that:

“Don’t be anxious about this, he said – I’ll be very gentle.  I’ve had quite a bit of experience.

– I’ve had some too, Molly said, – so I’m not anxious”

Continue reading

Sarah Moss – The Tidal Zone (2016)

The Tidal ZoneI would never have read this book had it not been recommended by a friend whose judgement I trust.  I certainly wouldn’t have taken it on holiday, without that recommendation.  This is a book about a Dad whose daughter inexplicably collapses and (momentarily) dies from an anaphylactic shock.  I am the mother of a child who had a serious reaction to a walnut (that I’d fed her) and had to watch as doctors stuck needles into my frightened, half-breathing girl to save her life.  Being on holiday with that child is a negotiation – health insurance, systems, languages, resources.  For example, earlier in the year we went to New York rather than Borneo, because I knew I could be understood if I needed to shout at doctors.  Continue reading

Adult social workers and high risk domestic violence cases

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.

If your library has access to the Journal of Social Work You can find the full article at: http://jsw.sagepub.com/content/early/2016/06/06/1468017316653268.abstract?papetoc