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Ed chatting with Deirdre
Deirdre Sanders is employed by The Sun newspaper as their agony aunt. She was chosen by Ed Balls, the Ministers for Children, Schools and Families to sit on the Task Force which has been set up to establish and decide on the future way forward for Social Work in the UK in the wake of the awful tragedy of a child dying when under the supervision of social workers. I find it hard to stomach and I won’t pretend I don’t. Unfortunately, people who want to kill and harm other people, and particularly especially vulnerable people, will sometimes do just that. Of course lessons must be learnt but some kind of knee-jerk ‘There’s something wrong that needs to be put right through political posturing’ fits uncomfortably.
Now, from what I understand there was to be a debate about social work generally in any case, but it was the Minister who seemed to link it directly to one particular instance and the understandable public outrage against the ‘obviously incompetent’ social workers who allowed this child to die. I have always said that I can never defend poor practice but it can and does happen. If there is something systemic that can change to improve and promote the role of social work then of course it should be done.
Deirdre however, I remain sceptical about. She promotes herself as a ‘voice of the people’ but seems to deal in the lowest common denominator and what I think she really needs to do is to speak more to social workers, rather than accuse us of ‘defensiveness’ because we feel slighted at her inclusion on a panel of those who will decide our future path. Even more incredible is her position in the light of the lack of any front line social worker in the children and families sector.
It is interesting to look at the members chosen, in fact and here they are
- Moira Gibb, Chief Executive, Camden Borough Counci
- Andrew Webb, Corporate Director, Children and Young People, Stockport Metropolitan Borough Council
- Bob Reitemeier, Chief Executive, The Children’s Society
- Celia Atherton OBE, Founder and Chief Executive of Research in Practice Anne Beales, Director of Service User Involvement, Together – Working for Wellbeing
- Kim Bromley-Derry, Director of Children’s Services, Newham
- Sue Butcher, Head of Children and Young People’s Services, Gloucestershire
- Richard Jones, Director of Adult Services, Lancashire
- Diane Mallett, Senior Social Work practitioner, Barnsley Adult Social Services
- Helga Pile, Unison’s, National Officer for Social Care
- James Riley, Director of Adult Services, Hammersmith and Fulham
- Bridget Robb, Professional Officer, British Association of Social Workers
- Deidre Sanders, Agony Aunt: The Sun
- Professor Sue White, Professor of Social Work, Lancaster University
- Neil Wragg MBE, Chief Executive Officer, Youth at Risk
- Maxine Wrigley MBE, National Coordinator, Voice
From that list we see one social work practitioner from adult services. I know some focus group has been added to this list but looking at the initial list and the lack of any social work input from mental health services, it seems that assigning one of the precious places to an ‘agony aunt’ has little credence.
Deirdre Sanders has defended her position in Community Care as well as, rather unhelpfully, accusing those who question her position as building some kind of bunkered defence mentality.
Her defence of her position is
was invited to join the Task Force because I hear from – and with my counselling team reply to – hundreds of readers with problems every week, many of them your clients.
I’m sorry but Deirdre makes an ENORMOUS assumption about who ‘our clients’ are (because she is talking directly to social workers here).
I wonder if she is including my clients who are affected by dementia across any racial, political and socio-economic divisions.
She points out that she has been ‘trying to build bridges’ and I’d ask where those bridges are. She did not attend the Community Care Live event that she was slated to. I’d love to see if she had made any attempts to speak to social workers. Actually, I’d like to have had the opportunity to speak to ANYONE connected with the Task Force but unfortunately, the dates in London were all booked up within days. I was told that there were no places available. Perhaps it would be better to have opened up more general and free dates rather than confine the ‘discussion’ to a safe, GSCC conference which costs hundreds of pounds to attend and is unlikely to involve many front-line workers who can free themselves on a busy work day.
She paints herself as maligned by defensive social workers who are having a go at her when all she wants to do is help. I’m sure that’s just how she feels but if she has no awareness of a wider political role of being Ed Balls’ pawn in the process and a lack of understanding that it is her role rather than her persona that is being queried, she might have been a little less tetchy in her response and honestly, it is undignified and unbecoming.
I’m also disappointed that her response keeps making distinctions between us and our clients. I have to say that, you know, sometimes we are the clients. The more distinctions we make, the more removed we become from the importance of the decisions we make.
There is a narrow narrow line between receiving and providing services. I, myself, over the last couple of months sat down as a user of a service of a social worker in the hospice in which my father died and I was offered me that counsel and support that I have offered in similar circumstances to other people. One of my current ‘clients’ worked as a social worker for 30 years in a local authority in which I took my first job – indeed, and we have discussed it, it seems as if we were in the same borough at the same time!
So social work isn’t and shouldn’t be about ‘us and them’. It is about ‘us and us’. Sometimes we see each other on different sides of the fence but not often – and by presenting it as such it shows a lack of understanding of some of the processes that we engage in.
I hope never to come back to this point again as I feel I have more or less exhausted it. Honestly, at the moment, apart from paying my requisite £30 per year to maintain my registration, I have no interest in the GSCC.
If any body is there to represent and speak for the profession, it has to be the newly invigorated British Association of Social Workers and good luck to them.