Transcript: Freshly Squeezed: Ben Farrugia

Michelle Drumm interviews Ben Farrugia, Director of Social Work Scotland.

Podcast Episode: Freshly Squeezed: Ben Farrugia

Category: Freshly Squeezed 



What follows is a transcription of the audio recording. Due to differences between spoken and written English, the transcript may contain quirks of grammar and syntax.

MD - Michelle Drumm
BF - Ben Farrugia

Hello and welcome to Freshly Squeezed, an Iriss podcast which aims to squeeze information and inspiration from key influencers in social services in Scotland. Today I’m speaking to Ben Farrugia, Director of Social Work Scotland. Ben grew up in London and Dorset and studied modern history and political science in Birmingham followed by a Masters in Political Sociology at the London School of Economics and Political Science. He held a variety of policy roles, down in London with a particular interest in education and children’s services. In 2009 Ben moved up to Scotland to work in the government’s Looked After Children Team and in 2011 moved to the university of Strathclyde to join the team that would soon after become CELCIS, the centre for excellence for looked after children in Scotland. He moved into a senior management role in 2016 taking on a new team with a focus on project development an innovation including CELCIS research, policy and consultancy. In his own words he is now very proud to be leading social work Scotland’s small Edinburgh based team which provides support to various committees and groups and represents members in discussions with parliament, government and other partners.

MD Ben, welcome to Freshly Squeezed.

BF Good morning Michelle.

MD It’s lovely to meet you and congratulations on your recent new role at Social Work Scotland.

BF Thank you, 3 months in and feeling good.

MD Great. Did you always want to work in the social services sector?

BF Not social services specifically, but from quite early on I was clear that I wanted to work in public policy, being part of efforts to address inequality, build strong communities, extend high quality education and opportunities to everyone. My childhood had it’s fair share of turbulence, my parent’s separated when I was about 5 and it was quite stormy in those 5 years. I’ve got a big family though and that really helped, and I think even though I look back at those moments, the way I view my childhood is one of being full of privilege, full of love, amazing experiences in learning and perhaps the thing I’m most grateful for is that my family made, even though they made all those things possible for me, they never let me feel entitled to it. These things we had weren’t due to us because we were special, or because I was special, we weren’t better than anybody else, or more deserving and that really shaped my thinking from early on. When I became more aware of other situations, I became more focused on wanting to ensure that I played a part in ensuring we all had access to the same opportunities, the same kind of childhood that I had even though those who were close to me, they smiled when they’d hear me saying that because they’re aware of some of my …

MD Challenges?

BF … my past but I do mark my past as being one full of family and love and fantastic opportunities and I think that’s what everyone should be able to have.

MD And you’ve a strong sense of a kind of a social justice as a result?

BF Absolutely, absolutely. I really do and I should probably throw into the mix there that my dad was quite political in his youth and some of his zeal and self-belief, he’s a fantastic character, I love telling stories about him but he really has a lot of self-belief, he’s a self-starter, I think he’s an entrepreneur, he’s a civil engineer, he started his own business and he really believes that people make change, not unseen external factors, there are no strings pulling people. People are trapped by their environments but they’re also agents if they work together to address those and if we set our minds to things, it’s amazing what we can do. Because of inequality and because of prejudice, individuals are prevented from living lives that I think they deserve to, I see things like prejudicion 31.09 and equality like big boulders in the road to progress and what’s drawn me toward social services and I think recently over the past 10 years, social work in particular as I see it as such a critical lever for moving those boulders out of the road, I don’t think we can work around them, I think one has to address those things head on and I think things like education and social work are the levers that will move those things off the road and allow us all to move forward as a society.

MD Okay. So, tell me a little bit more about your journey into social services?

BF Sure. It’s a relatively short but a circuitous one into social services with some interesting stops along the way looking at international development spending, health and safety, education and regional economies, I spent a couple of years looking at regional economic development.

MD Oh.

BF And it, yeah, it was very different to this work and at the same time there’s actually a lot of commonality you know from a policy level it’s kind of feels very different talking about gross value added and the kind of business development and local kind of enterprise but actually as I’ve become deeper into the policy area of social services, I see the connections and ultimately it’s about building strong communities and what are the building blocks for that so, I really draw on all those stops along my way before coming to social services, I think they’ve all been incredibly useful. When I moved to Scotland I took the opportunity to narrow my focus though onto the area which most excited and engaged and enraged me, and that was children’s services, I’d done bits of work before then, particularly on education and what had really incensed me was people’s apathy about kids education on one hand, groups of people who were shrug shoulders about poor quality or poor provision or limited opportunities you know either because certain communities were in certain parts of the country or because they were certain demographics, certain cultural backgrounds and on the other hand people who were resistant to new ideas because those ideas came from a certain person or a certain party or a certain ideology and I never, never have been able to understand that. I’ve always worked in politics of some kind, I’ve never been a party-political person and I don’t consider myself terribly ideological principled yes, but not terribly ideological, I’m just like if an idea is good and its foundations are good and it’s objectives are pure, i.e. in an educational context that we want to improve opportunities and improve education for kids and critically, I think this important for Iriss, that there’s a robust evidence base behind it who you can confidently say, “We think this will work for these reasons.” Let’s try it, I don’t care who it comes from, who’s selling it, I’ll always consider it so, that’s been very important. When I came to Scotland, I was looking for an opportunity for me to really pursue that particular interest and the job that was open to me was in the Looked After Children Team, not an area that I’d done a lot of work with before but as it turns out the fact that, that was the only vacancy when I came up here, when I write my autobiography that no one else will read, I’ll just write it for myself: I’m not so vain that I’m going publish it, but when I look back it will be one of those moments in my career that you know unplanned, unseen, but it absolutely seminal and critical cos I didn’t come up wanting to work in the Looked After Children’s Areas, probably more education but god I am pleased that it was. It’s been the most fantastic thing for me and I found the area that gets me up in the morning, I found the area that connects me with people who you know has allowed me to have a career so far where I am friends with the people I work with and all of that stuff which makes work more than work.

MD Sure.

BF Makes me want to do so, that has been incredibly important. Let me just acknowledge as well while I have the opportunity to say when I came to Scottish … Scottish government get’s a bad rap quite a lot of the time, I’m sympathetic to some people’s complaints but when I joined Scottish government I joined a team, The Looked After Children Team, full of compassionate people who believed in their capacity to effect change for children and I think, yeah, that was really, really heartening, you know these people weren’t cynical, a lot of them weren’t there just to do a job, you know they really genuinely believed and actually I’m proud to consider a number of them friends now in the way they live their personal life has absolutely coloured in their work. It also was a absolutely amazing opportunity for me to build relationships across Scotland and it’s been a platform which the rest of my career up here has been built and one of the people who I got to build a relationship was with Claire Burns who now if the Director at CELCIS and her and Jennifer Davidson, gave me an invitation to jump ship to the University of Strathclyde, this is my circuitous route and to join the team as you said in your intro, setting up CELCIS and I’m an enormous believer in the model that CELCIS represents and I think Iriss is not dissimilar, the Centre for Youth and Criminal Justice, having a dedicated team of professionals bringing different ideas and experience together available to other professionals who are actually delivering service, actually delivering support available to them to help till the soil, to help identify what’s working, till the soil, and try and propagate that more widely in the interests of children or adults, those involved in offending behaviour. I think it’s a robust model, I think it’s one that I’m proud to have been associated with and I hope in a small way, helped to be successful. I’m hugely privileged to have worked at CELCIS, it brought me into the orbit of social work Scotland, and I’m very pleased to be here and the opportunity this presents me to I hope articulate a vision of social work, but also be at the front of trying to fight for the values of social work across public services and to really articulate the value of social work, I think that’s really, really important to me. There’s a sociological concept known as dirty work which possets that kind of certain activities are seen as and unwelcome and that therefore polluting of the people who work in those areas and I think personally social work is affected in this way, I think people, people’s prejudices about the communities and the issues that we work with in social work colour how the whole profession is seen and treated as a result and there’s no doubt there’s a lot of respect for social work, I’m constantly hearing that respect but I often feel it’s framed in terms of “that’s such tough and unpleasant work, I couldn’t do it.” And “Hat’s off to those who do.” And I want to shift that, I want to shift from that kind of framing social work isn’t a necessary evil, as I said earlier, I want people to understand that social work is an essential lever for change and improvement, it has to be at the centre of our plans and not on the perifory it’s not ‘and social work’ you know, social work is absolutely critical, it’s as critical as schools, it’s as critical as health. Effecting change in people is, in my opinion, absolutely the hardest thing to do in the world and social workers, I think, are some of the best equipped people to do it and that’s why I’ve gravitated towards social services, why I’ve gravitated towards social work and that’s why I wanted to come and work here. Last bit from me and I’ll get off my soap box, one thing over the past 10 years, this really aggravated me and perhaps illustrate best what I’ve been trying to say is, I’ve sat as I’m sure you have in many conferences and I’ve sat there and I’ve heard people say from the pedestal, people I really respect some of them from fantastic social services backgrounds, social work backgrounds, decades of experience, and they’ve stood up and they’ve been talking about the change we need to achieve as a society that the changes we’re trying to achieve as professions and as a sector and they often throw in, “… and it’s not rocket science.” And over time that phrase is just, over time it’s really … in the beginning, I think I probably nodded and people all nod, there’s this idea that … particularly when it comes to the area of change that we work in, in social work, you know it’s about relationships, it’s about trying to affect behaviour so, it can be more positive and less destructive and harmful to others, to yourself and others. People see that, well that’s what we do in our daily lives so, it’s natural so, ipso facto it’s natural, it’s easy and I think the complete opposite and I think when somebody stands up and say’s, “it’s not rocket science.” I think oddly, they’re right but for entirely the opposite reason. It’s not rocket science because rocket science is easy in comparison so, easy, it’s maths and I’m not saying it’s not complex, I’m not saying there’s not lots of room for error but essentially once you’ve cracked how in the same conditions to get the same payload off the ground as long as you can control for everything else, it’s going to be the same every time. Every time you work with a person, it’s different, every person is different, every situation is different, the same individual over time is different, there’s so much complexity in the work that we do and it needs to be seen in that way and needs to be respected in that way and I just think the people who choose to work in social work, who choose to work in social services of which I include education and everything in that mix as well, to be successful in it you’ve got to invest some of yourself, there are few other jobs where that’s the case, you’ve got to be gambling a little bit, you’ve really got to put out part of you into that and I only have respect for that and I feel it’s become part of my mission to make sure that other people understand that too.

MD They’re really, really interesting insights into the complexity I think of social work today and your passion really comes through for really promoting the values of social work and so forth.

BF Good.

MD I applaud that. It sounds like you’re very motivated in your day to day and around your work with Social Work Scotland but tell me what motivates you to get out of bed in the morning?

BF So, very literally it’s my cat, Baba Ganush, who lurks … I can hear her moving into the room before my alarm goes off and she stands by the side of my bed waiting. She knows the alarm will go off at some point and it’s obviously her stomach time that knows and the minute it goes off, she pounces right on to my back or my front. She’s the centre of our world at the moment so, she’ll probably appear a few times in this interview.

MD I love her name.

BF Baba Ganush is great, isn’t it? We love, we love saying it. We love shouting it from the window for no reason partly just that. More philosophically I suppose, which is probably where you’re coming for from the question, what gets me out of bed in the morning is the knowledge that I have to continue to earn the right to be here, I have been privileged today and I’m in a privileged position now and I strongly feel I have to continue to earn that.

MD You mean in your role?

BF In my role now, yeah my role … I think in all aspects of my life in truth cos I think I would say that about my relationship with Emily too it doesn’t just come and I don’t think I should ever treat it as if it does, I think that’s a terrible idea and I’m not entitled to this post and as I said, I think in my introductory remarks, you know there’s nothing particularly special about me but I believe in working really hard, I’m proud to be here and I think I have to earn it. I believe as well that we can make a difference, I think that’s really important in an organisation like this which is a few steps removed from communities, what difference can an organisation like this make? I wouldn’t have come here if I didn’t think we could and difference I can make here is ensuring that again, social work has a robust voice in those national conversations that senior social workers have an infrastructure of support that enables them to do their work. Those things are all within my power and I think they do play a part in improving the quality of what communities receive and what people out there expect from their public services so, that definitely gets me up in the morning knowing that I can do that and finally I’m going back almost to a personal one, it’s Emily, Emily get’s me up in the morning. I said, I think I have to earn …

MD Is Emily your wife?

BF Emily’s my wife, Emily’s my wife. She’s an art physiotherapist at sick kids hospital.

MD Fantastic.

BF And you know the work that she does is amazing and I’m just so, every day, proud of her and feel really privileged to be with her so, that gets me out of bed in the morning too knowing that you know I can’t rest on my laurels with that you know you have to work for it and you have to earn it.

MD Fantastic and what does a typical day look like for you, Ben?

BF I’m a lark not a night owl, again, most of my friends will know from about 10 o’clock I become quieter so, yeah so, morning person so, the day starts early for me, between about 5:30 and 6, that’s been a little bit hard wired into me now after 10 years of having to go over to Glasgow every morning from Edinburgh as well but the morning’s were always okay, it was always the coming back that was the harder bit when I’m starting to get closer to my evening time as I shut down. My mum, I think is a vampire as well so, you would always get home at sort of 3 in the morning after being on a night out when I was a teenager and she would be awake. She would just call from the upstairs, quietly, “Are you okay?” she’d say.

MD Awake listening.

BF Yeah exactly, always awake. I think I’ve inherited some of that from her. But I don’t like to rush in the morning so, I get up early but I quite like to be sedate, I think I’ve inherited that from my dad and my dad’s quite methodical in the morning. Breakfast is a big deal, listening to the radio, taking his time and I’ve inherited that so, I definitely take my time, play with Baba Ganush, exercise and then into the emails, I’m starting to feel like I’m doing a kind of Sunday Times business piece but yeah, emails and then I do have a job that does involve a lot of meetings, there’s no getting out of it. Partly self-interestingly people will say, “Oh meetings, you know.” I was bought a fridge magnet, which was a great fridge magnet from the museum in Washington, great museum if you’re ever going to Washington, but a fridge magnet from there that says, “If you want to kill an idea, take it to a meeting.” And there’s some truth to that, but I’ve also found meetings to be fantastically inspiring places and I love the discussion, I love debate, and a meeting for me is a meeting between 2 people or a meeting between 10 and in both contexts I’ve found them really useful part of the way we do our work and an essential part of how we do our work so, our work is changing attitudes and perceptions and thoughts and a meeting is as good a place as any to do that. Quite a lot of face to face interaction with my team which I always feel, again, privileged cos I often get more out of than I feel they do, I’m constantly learning every day and I work with some amazing people here at Social Work Scotland members and some of the team here, people with the massive experience working in social work, real breadth of knowledge, incredibly empathetic people, compassionate people who’ve given up a lot themselves to their work and I really take a lot from that, selfishly steal it and I definitely find that a motivation.

MD And do you then have a motto for life?

BF Ooh no, I’m not really a motto inspirational quote kind of person. If people have seen me speak before, I don’t litter my presentations with quotes but I’m not against them, I think they’d be out of my memory, I’m not very good at recalling them but if memory and recall is a sign of their significance to you then the ones that do come to mind at times when I’m thinking about things, the first is a little twee I suppose but, I don’t know where I heard it or read it, but ‘carry a smile, not a frown it’s lighter.’ And I like the sentiment of that, cos I think it just chimed with how I try and approach the day. I always thing, you know there’s that stuff we know there’s that if you smile to someone in the street, they’re more likely to smile back and that little moment, that micro moment kind of adds up and I do believe in that trying really hard to concentrate on the positives, not to exclude the negatives, they’re really important but that carrying a smile, if you go around looking upset, it permeates and effects other people. I was listening to radio 4 there, a documentary, a philosopher I think from Cambridge talking about, it was about human rights and he was talking about, there are 2 ways to remove someone’s humanity: scrub them of all virtue and wipe away all their sin and again that really resonated with me cos it kind of fits with my world view. I’m really not somebody who looks to people for … as in people who I don’t know for inspiration, I’m not a big figure’s in history kind of person and actually it’s been really on my mind recently, thinking about this interview and the news over the past sort of 48 hours when John McDonald of the labour party was asked that question about Churchill: hero or villain?

MD Yeah, yeah.

BF And just the premise of the question frustrates me and the desire to put someone like Churchill, and we do this as a society I think it’s a real problem with our public discourse, into hero or villain boxes. And there are in my opinion no heroes and no villains and perhaps its that kind of attitude that’s brought me into this work, there are just people. And some do incredible things and some of them do terrible things and often the same person does incredible things and terrible things and Churchill wouldn’t be at all interesting if he didn’t have a complex background and have overcome his own challenges and done things that we are less approving of and again, that’s been really important for me, it’s not a motto for my life but I think it definitely has informed how I’ve tried to approach it. The last one, and it’s quite important in terms of the kind of the policy work that I do and working at a political level is Occam’s razor, Occam’s razor being that when you’re looking at multiple explanations that the simplest one, the one least built on assumptions is probably the right one.

MD That’s a new one to me.

BF Occam’s razor yeah.

MD Mmm.

BF Yeah, definitely worth having a look but often the explanation in terms of our work is that it’s cock up not conspiracy, you know like conspiracy’s always rely on lots and lots of assumptions being built in you know lots of motivations for people and stuff you have to assume and my experience and my learning suggests to me that much more often that it’s the simplest explanation, that’s not to say that conspiracy’s don’t happen, of course they do. They happen in all sectors of our life, both big and small and of course they do but I think overwhelmingly when I’m looking to try and explain and communicate something, I favour the simplest explanation, I hope that’s held true.

MD well for someone who said they didn’t really … do you remember that conversation …

BF That’s true.

MD … unclear 12.38 there’s about 3 in there.

BF Thank you, yeah, it’s true, yeah. That’s says something about me there, I’m sure.

MD so, I don’t know if you like to read, Ben, but do you have a book or blog that you would recommend to listeners?

BF I’m a big reader, particularly of fiction, I’ve been trying to move myself almost consciously cos I feel I need to move myself into reading more management books and stuff, I don’t know it kind of comes with the territory I think but there’s obviously another part of my brain which is quite resistant so, even though I keep both some sort of self-improving book by my bed and a piece of fiction, I always lean across the self-improving book to the piece of fiction.

MD It is easy to do

BF It is indeed, and in truth I think fiction is self-improving, this is going to come out sounding like a critique of some people but I’ve never really understood people who don’t read fiction. I think its such an important source of imagination and takes us out of our self and allows us to view other perspectives and think differently, you move for a time into someone else’s … the authors brain, into someone else’s world, anyway I find all that very important for me. To answer your question, over the last 12 months, cos that’s as far as my memory can think: 2 books, one Middle March by George Eliot, a marathon and I’ll concede here that I listened to it rather than read and I listened to it … a big, big fan of audible, and there were just moments when I would stop and just think, just that writing it just caught me, just like beautiful descriptions of the human condition and of relationships and although talking about a world that to a degree doesn’t exist anymore or never existed, one might argue, but it really resonated and I just think the beauty of words constantly dazzles me so, there’s that and oddly I don’t see them as that far apart, strangely but The Dispossessed by Ursula Le Guin, I’m a big fan of Ursula Le Guin, I think she’s been again, somebody who is essentially a sociologist and throughout my studies when I was at university, you know , she came into my kind of reading a lot and The Dispossessed, about … I don’t know it was a really good, I think again, social observation. Science fiction, but in the way that science fiction provides you with a platform to do, I suppose to posit experiments, thought experiments and that’s what the book is full of, it probably allows me to concede here as well, that I’m something of a techno communist, I realise. I was discussing this with Emily that I kind of am a communist, like I kind of believe in kind of that kind of approach to think but at the same time, I don’t believe it’s possible without like if we have work so, that whole thing of work leads to hierarchy, hierarchy gets in the way of everyone being equal but if we had technology to do stuff for us so, then that becomes easier. I’m not naive, I think it’s utter fantasy, there’d be a whole lot of other sociological problems that would emerge in that kind of scenario but a book like this, which isn’t about that but a book like this, always takes me to that place and thinking about what kind of society are we building, what kind of society do we want to build and again, I think she’s just a great, she’s a great writer. In terms of that self-improving book next to my bed that I’m leaning over too often, but it’s Dialogue by William Isaccs, before I left CELCIS, I got, really over the last 2 or 3 years there, kind of really fantastic opportunity to do lots of work on structural dynamics and the art of reading the room and really fantastic work. The Structure of Dynamics work is a guy called Canter, I would really recommend those, I think there’s really good stuff online and really good books and this book in particular, I found it really useful in terms of leadership and management and again, going back to that question about my whole day being full of meetings, you know, how to get a really productive meeting: a meeting is just communication and if you’re understanding what you’re contribution to that is and what others is, you’re able to make it as productive as possible.

MD Okay, thank you for that. Do you have a go to song or music for motivation?

BF No. I’m going to be slippery again, and say it depends what I’m trying to be motivated to do i.e. spent my university years listening to a lot of drum and base so, that was like me, that was us going out so, now unfortunately both my dancing has been shaped like that for ever but also if I think about going dancing or going out that’s the music that comes into my mind, the strains of Andy C sort of resonating in my background but if I’m running, it’s, you know if I want to get that extra, that extra push to get round Arthur’s Seat, it’s UK and US based hip hop and it’s with a little bit of sort of Queen’s of the Stone Age rock thrown in there as well.

MD Really.

BF Yeah, quite eclectic, I’m like with books, I’m quite … I think there’s a nice phrase saying, I’m quite catholic in y tastes and then at home I do listen to quite a lot of radio 3 and although I don’t really know anything about classical music at all and it’s not background, I really engage with and I do, I find it very … I’m not trying to worthy in saying this, it just, it does, it’s again, it’s beautiful and I really admire the … not just beautiful, it can also be incredibly challenging. I love that, I love that experience, my wife is an artist and so, again, that thing about spending time engaging with art, not in a growing a fancy moustache and I’m so clever, in a stroking my beard way, but you know it’s trying to say something and I think sometimes I don’t get it and that’s fine but like with the music, you know it’s speaking to something and I really enjoy that. If I’m trying to work and I have to do quite a lot of writing in my job as well, whether that’s parliamentary briefings, whether that’s writing briefings for members or communicating with government, I might do that by email but they’re a lot of content and a lot of trying to bring in things. Quite a lot of jazz and I think kind of funk and soul music so, Mandy, Ernest Ranglin, they would be recommendations from me if people haven’t heard of them before, I would really, I think they’re great and can I take the opportunity as well, being cheeky, like I’m on the radio to give a shout out to a band called Franc Moody which is my friend’s band, one of best friends, Ned Franc Windham and his musical partner John Moody and they started this a few years ago and it’s such a … I feel so amazingly lucky that I really like a friend’s band, you know how it is, like with your kids stuff I’m sure or with your friends’ stuff sometimes when you have to be supportive.

MD you have to like it, yeah.

BF And this, I actually genuinely think it’s brilliant and I’m a big …I really enjoy listening to it so, taking the opportunity to give them a little shout out.

MD Franc will be well chuffed then.

BF He will, he will … well I hope so, I hope so at least.

MD Brilliant. So, who or what are your inspirations then, Ben, in your career?

BF I think I’ve said already so far I’m not and then I’ve contradicted myself 5 or 6 times by saying I’m not this and then being exactly that but I don’t, I don’t really have inspirations and I don’t know whether that was from the way my dad saw the world and my mum and that shaped me and then my studying of history and stuff but I definitely don’t take a … that’s a person out there that I really respect. I do take inspiration from people but I’ve got to know them, I’ve got to have understood them and their context and so most of my inspirations are people quite close to home. My sisters have always been … I’ve got 3 older sisters, there’s a 10-year age gap between me and my youngest sister, yeah. I’m very lucky she lives here in Edinburgh with me and they’ve had complex and challenging lives, you know, filled with highs and with lows and having that 10-year gap has always meant that I’ve had that little bit of distance to see and observe and just seeing how they’ve come through those and they are an inspiration. A colleague from CELCIS who was one of the first people I met when I came to Scotland, I got my job at Scottish government, Looked After Children, and was sent out for a meeting to talk about data and the other person who I was meeting with was Dr Graham Connelly who’s for people who’ve worked in the Looked After Children area he’ll be a very familiar name and face, just retired from CELCIS in December. From early on I realised this is somebody who walks the talk, you know, and not in a way that feels worthy or saintly, you know but you know you were arranging to maybe meet him on a weekend, he and I occasionally go skiing together up in Glencoe and stuff and you know and the reason why he can’t do it on a Saturday is because he’s taking this person, maybe a care experienced person, somewhere or something and you know, but it’s he incorporates into his life with such passion and verve and he’s incredible, he’s incredibly intelligent and smart and has done a lot for our understanding of how to improve educational outcomes for Looked After Children in particular and I respect that but he’s just a fantastic person and if I end my life having had as many people who was at his retirement party, saying, “This man has made a difference to my life.” I would consider that a huge win, he really is a model.

MD wow, powerful, great. Okay and what one piece of advice would you give to those working or considering working in social services?

BF That’s a tough question and I feel slightly like a fraud in the sense that I’ve not worked in the front line so, I wouldn’t want people to think that I can comment on that but I think, hopefully, consistent with some of the things I’ve said so far, I think empathise, don’t sympathise. I have had encounters with some groups of people, either considering a career or in a career and I sort have left those sometimes feeling that their motivations for doing it were because they felt sorry for other people or because they wanted to rescue them and that kind of pity starting point. I think one can go far with that, I think one can do amazing work, you know, and have done but I just don’t think that it’s a sustainable model and I think nasty things start to breed from that as well, I think some of the choices that we make on that basis aren’t necessarily good and I try really hard not to feel sorry … I mean I am a human, and some people’s situations are really tragic but my motivation in this work and I think if I was giving advice to others is to really analyse what your motivations are for coming into this work, try really hard to ensure that it’s because you empathise with the situation people are in, not feel sorry for them.

MD And is there one thing, Ben, if you had to name one thing that you couldn’t live without, what would that be? A thing rather than person really cos people …

BF Thing, thing.

MD … jump to a relationship automatically.

BF of course. So, I’ll be totally unclear 2.20 but it’s true, is pencils.

MD Pencils?

BF Pencils. I’m quite a consumer of pencils … if one can be a consumer of pencils, I mean it does take me a month or 3 or 6 months to get through a pencil. I don’t know there came a point, I don’t know when it was, there came a point when I just stopped writing in pen. I think if I saw a psychologist regularly they’d probably say it was something deep about needing to be able to wipe away, but anyway I’ve already preferred a pencil something about it’s feel and the feel of writing with a pencil and I have terrible handwriting too actually so, it does help to be able to make amendments without scratching through but pencils and my colleagues at CELCIS actually funnily enough when I left, they all knew this about me cos I was always walking around with bunches of pencils and so as a result I got some lovely things when I left but I must have taken away about 500 pencils so if anybody listening needs a pencil, they know where to come.

MD They know where to come.

BF They know where to come.

MD Well that wins the prize for most unusual one thing you couldn’t live without, that’s for sure. Really interesting discussion and thanks for all your really interesting insights and reflections there. As you know this podcast is called Freshly Squeezed, and I ask each of my interviews at the end, how do you like your juice? Do you like it smooth or with juicy bits?

BF Oh with juicy bits, absolutely. I actually squeeze orange juice every morning so, I do every morning, I probably have too much citrus probably but maybe it’s something about my Mediterranean heritage but yeah, 2 oranges or an orange and a grapefruit, always with bits.

MD Okay, I’ll give you juicy bits then.

BF Thank you.

MD Fantastic. Ben, you’ve been freshly squeezed. Thank you for your time today.

BF thank you so much again.

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