Podcast Episode: Imagining the Future: public debate part one
Category: Social work (general)
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.
LR - Lesley Riddoch
AM - Alastair McIntosh
GM - Gehan Macleod
As part of the Iriss, Imagining The Future of Social Services project, led by Robert Rae, a series of creative events were held in Govan over May 2014, to explore aspirations for the future from a locality perspective and to think about the changes that need to be made now and in the coming years. One of the events was a public debate on the subject of Social Justice, Chaired by the Journalist, Lesley Riddoch. This is the first of three episodes covering the debate. This episode features guest speakers, Alastair McIntosh, Scottish writer and academic, who speaks about the challenges of social justice, and Gehan Macleod for the GalGael Trust, who focuses on the dilemmas for social services. The debate includes audience comments, questions and viewpoints.
LR First of all is Alastair McIntosh, who is an activist, writer, broadcaster and has written many books including Soil and Soul, and is talking about the challenges of social justice, and Gehan Macleod, who is a Director of the GalGael Trust, talking about the dilemmas for social services. So let’s hand over to Alastair, and give him a big round of applause, because it’s not easy …
AM Thank you folks. Social justice is not a morally neutral term, it involves two things, it presumes an assumption that there is such a thing as society, that we are interconnected social animals, social beings, social souls, and justice infers that there is some kind of good, and the question that we are discussing in what is social justice, is not a new question. Two and a half thousand years ago a group of men, it was all men, as documented at that time, got together in a market place in Greece, and they asked a question, “Wherein lies the nature of a good society?” And one of them called Socrates, as documented by Plato in the republic started off, and he said " a good society is a society in which women and men will be equals and they will work all day in the fields, aiming to have simple sufficiency of livelihood and they will spend their spare time singing hymns to the Gods. Whereupon the city slicker young men, the kind who go and make their career in the banking world on arms trading today, headed up by one called Glockan, said “wait a minute, Socrates, wait a minute … we are not going to live like that, we want to have fine art on our walls we want our servants and dry nurses and wet nurses for our children, and we want this and that …” to which Socrates replied, “very well, it is not for me to cast a value judgement upon what you say you want, but if you want all these things, I reason that you will not have sufficient means within your own territory to get them.” “True enough”, said Glockan. “Therefore”, said Socrates, “I figure that you will have to go to war and take it from your neighbours.” “Indeed we will”, said Glockan. “And I imagine that your neighbours will think like you, therefore you will be stuck in a state of constant conflict.” “We will indeed”, said Glockan, “might is right”. To which Socrates replied, “it is not for me to say what kind of society you should choose, I would simply observe that in our discussion in the marketplace today, we have discerned the roots of war.”
Now I would put it to you that lack of social justice is war on the poor. Lack of social justice is a consequence of long term intergenerational social and political constellations that have led to a situation where some people, like people from the kind of middle class family background that I came from, with my father a doctor, my mother a nursing sister, some people have had what they have needed in life to enable them to function effectively in this world, and other people have not. And then because the have’s feel guilty about the have nots, they engage in victim blaming, they say “it’s your own fault because you don’t get on and get out or whatever.” And then they stratify society, so the rich people live on one side of the river and the poor people on the other, and it’s easy enough for the rich people to get working class skills but it’s often very difficult for working class or unemployed communities to have an adequate infusion of middle class skills, if I can put it like that, because social stratification stops us from knowing each other in community.
I was fortunate in that I was raised on the island of Lewis and educated there, and in that community those who did have middle class skills, the teacher, the doctor, the minister etc, understood the principle of a Scottish democratic intellect. That if you were fortunate enough to be educated and well positioned in society, you have a moral duty not to use that for your own betterment, but to serve the community which gives you life, because at the end of the day we have got to ask … what legitimatisation is there for the principle that because I earned it, it’s mine to keep, and the more I earn, the more I get to keep, while in denial that to have money and money is to have power, and to have power means if you get a disproportionate share of the common basis that society and the environment provides. So I put it to you that we need to tackle social justice at two levels. One is at the very large scale political basis, in terms of the distribution of wealth, and simply the question, in the Scotland of the figure, with the resources of land, energy, people that we have got, do we want to continue to have a society in which a small number of people can control very great wealth and not use that for the wider social benefit? And secondly, at the micro level of community, Verene and I have lived in Govan for the past 10 years, in Drumoyne there, and it breaks my heart to see people on the streets around us or the folk who come into Galgael or similar charities like Plantation and the Stables and so on, that you have in these parts of Glasgow, it breaks my heart to see these young guys coming in and nobody is able to give them the networks, give them the integration that brings them fully into life, that sees them as human beings, that sees them as women and men made in the image of God, if I can put it like that, there’s just not enough of that. We were looked after in our society, I would be taken out by the old men fishing, making hay, gathering peats, riding on a tractor, we had that kind of thing. These people in Govan, our neighbours in Govan, are no different, sociologically they are also coming from the places like the Hebrides in the time of the clearances, or Ireland in the time of the famine, there’s nothing genetically different, what is different is, it’s a social constellation has been configured against them intergenerationally, and that is what we have got to change, by seeing what is tender, by seeing what is wholly in each human being and creating a society that relates to people accordingly.
LR Okay, are you provoked, come on, let’s have some reactions and thoughts about that. Particularly, come on, people who haven’t spoken before, just any thoughts.
F Hello, my name is Mildred Simonia, I work for an organisation called Waverley Care, we support people living with HIV and also people living with Hepatitis C. Now my question basically since I have been sitting here and listening to everything, I just have one question, how do we define community, because all of the things that people have been saying, yes they are about community, but where does the person who does not have a legal right to stay in the country, but is in the community, in a society, where is that person … and I think that’s the question that I would like us to explore. Govan is just next door to the home office reporting centre, and every day we see people up and down going into that office and some of them locked out of their homes, so what defines community, is the question that I would like to put to you to say, where do those people run to, because at the moment when people go to a food bank, they are told here is your food, but there is no place for you to sleep here. They go to women’s aid, after experiencing domestic violence, they are told everything else except the fact that where to go for that night, so that’s my question to us, what are we doing about that bit? If it’s about social justice, and being a community in the full sense, what are we doing about that? So that is just my question. And I was really sitting here just thinking, where do I fit into all this with my questions? And I am already beginning to feel like a fish out of water, but this is a very pertinent issue that we are grappling with. Right now I have got three people who have been locked out of their homes, they have got nowhere to go, they are roaming about the streets, if we don’t keep them up in our offices until 6.30, after that they have got nowhere to go, but here is a community saying we want to be inclusive, we want to have social justice, so where do we go with that?
LR Okay, sorry what’s your name, before we disappear?
MS Mildred Simonia.
LR Mildred, okay thank you. Did you hear that well, Alastair?
LR Okay, and you put your hand up, is that in response to what Mildred said, because I think it needs to be answered?
LR Right, Alastair, can you answer that or does anyone else want to answer?
AM Yes, I would love to answer that because it’s … do you want me to speak now or …
LR Yes, go for it
AM … to me that is an absolute central question as to what it means to be a human being. Community, as I understand it, is about our profound interconnection as members one of another. Others would not agree with that, others would speak of their gated community, and for them community is also rich enough to live within that particular area. I consider that in Scottish society, we have two sacred duties, when you look at our poets, when you look at our traditional customs, we have the sacred duty of hospitality for the short term, and we have the sacred duty of fostership of adoption for the long term, and hence various Gaelic proverbs that translate, for example, as ‘blood counts for Twentyfold, but fostership counts for a hundredfold’, or ’the bonds of milk are stronger than the bonds of blood’. And therefore, for me, community, a person in Scotland belongs in as much as they are willing to cherish and be cherished by this place and its people, and I think many of us in Scotland want to see that multi cultural, multi ethnic definition of a civic society here.
LR I suspect though, Mildred has got some very practical needs for these people, like they have no home tonight … yes, yourself?
M Yes, I forgot to introduce myself, my name is Tony, I can give you somewhere to send them. In the West End on the Great Western Road there is a night shelter for non EU residents, where they can have a bed for the night and dinner and breakfast, and it’s 7.30 until 9 o’clock, and it’s run by the Unity Centre project.
MS Thank you, I thank you very much for that, but I think you heard me right when I said I work for a charity that supports people with HIV. Now a person living with HIV is a vulnerable person, they are living with a chronic illness that needs treatment every day, that needs care in going for appointments, that needs mental stability, it’s a condition that probably some of you listening to this are probably going, “oh, HIV”, but it’s a condition that’s very stigmatised and it’s a condition that exposes someone to any sort of violence that can come their way just because they are HIV positive. We had a situation where we referred someone to a housing place and they were turned away because the manager there felt that they were a risk to their staff, so that’s the level of knowledge we are dealing with, where people are not quite sure how to deal with people living with HIV, in the night shelter, as he has said, we have referred people there, but the challenge comes, where do they put their medication, where do they put their stuff, their mental instability? All those we are talking about. So I am not just talking about the general asylum seeker, but they are someone who is living with all these medical conditions and they are homeless, you refer them to Centre, 11pm, the officer tells them, I am sorry, you don’t fit the criteria, you don’t tick the boxes. So this is something that I would like to put for social justice, what are we saying? Because I would want to think, if I am looking at that, I am working in that environment, I have got a home, I have got a roof over my head, sometimes I am thinking, why can’t I just take them home? So what are we saying?
LR Okay, I am conscious that this was part of our 3 minute sweep, is that a very quick response to that, yes?
F Hi, my name is Julie Crawford. I just wanted to touch on what the lady said there a little bit about food banks, because I think in this day and age that people rely upon food banks and sanctions happen with peoples benefits and on a very basic level people are expected to live without no money just astounds me, just really, really baffles me, and I think until we can kind of come over some of these kind of things around homelessness and the use of food banks and people having no money, you know, how can people move forward and really meaningfully engage in things when they are living in circumstances like that?
LR Right, okay, let’s just have our second provocation and then continue this as a wider discussion, because I think you are absolutely right, it was one of our earlier speakers who was talking about the norm, or maybe it was one of the audience members, the norm of a 6 month tenancy these days. I mean if you think about it, that means that whatever families there can’t even guarantee their children even go to the same school the next year, and we have accepted that as a norm, so once that’s the norm for the settled community, we are willing to wear anything for people who come in and are not part of the original settled group, so I suspect all our standards have slid when we start to accept some of these questions, and I am sure there’s a question of tenancy and where people can go and what we would like to see for a fuller Scotland will be our final session, so keep that behind your lugs, folks, and let’s have the second provocation from yourself, and I am not sure I have at all said your name right, so please tell me, what is it?
Gehan Macleod It’s Gehan
LR Where does that come from?
GM Well my dad is Egyptian, but I am also … I grew up in Essex, so …
LR Egyptian Essex?
GM … I have been living in Govan for 18 years and I still probably wouldn’t call myself a Govanite, wouldn’t dare, but I do feel a very strong sense of connection with the place. I have just realised how daunting it is speaking after Alastair, so I can’t promise you anything half as poetic as what Alastair gave you.
AM I only live in Govan because of the work you and your late husband started.
GM But I was going to talk about a story, a friend of mine who is from Govan, and it is a tenement story, and I am not sure whether it glorifies the past, but it has a lot of meaning for me and I have been thinking about it in relation to the theme of what we might want for the future of social services, but also what it says about social justice. It’s a story about a tenement, mother of a toddler and a baby, her husband walks out and she just disappears leaving the kids. All the women in the close got together and said right, you will do Monday, you will do Tuesday, you will do Wednesday, you will do Thursday, you will do Friday … she rang up, they said it’s okay, don’t you worry, take your time, get some space, you know, look after yourself, we have got it covered here, you don’t need to worry about the kids, we are looking after them. About 3 or 4 days later she came back, kids were totally happy, in fact my friend talks about all of the kids being seen as part of all of the families in that close, and she got on with her life. Now my question is, and what seems meaningful for me in that story is what does that tell us about what would be … if we projected that story today, what would be the social services, the professional services response to that situation, I mean it’s kind of maybe provocative to say that would she have been sectioned for leaving her kids … would those kids have ended up institutionalised, in social care, how many generations of disconnection would we have created, and when a community response filled that gap, filled that gap with a community … you know, a genuine, motivated through neighbourliness response, there was additional outcomes, in that there was more connection, people felt more connected, the women in that story felt … played their full role as powerful members of their community, what would have happened if those women were too busy out working, or what would have happened … there’s all kinds of things we can draw out of that story. I suppose an even more provocative angle at some dilemmas for services is there’s a joke, and I am going to tell it, and I am sure it will offend people, but … but it was mentioned, the word provocative, so I will do it … which was, what’s the difference between a Glasgow social worker and a Rottweiler? It’s easier to get your kids back off the Rottweiler. Now, okay that is a grossly unfair to the social work profession and probably at completely at odds with the people, the original intention of the people who work in that sector, but it says something about the way in which a lot of people experience the services that are supposed to be there to provide more care. So, can we ever, or can care ever be as effective when it’s provided by a professional as it can be when it’s provided through neighbourliness? And I think that’s the question, and I don’t know nearly as much about Ancient Greece, but one of the things that I read recently that I think is really interesting to the discussion we are having just now is the way in which, back then, they saw reproductive work which was the work of neighbourliness, which was the work of what they called ‘filia’, the sort of social love that a community had for one another as being equivalent to citizenship. But because we’ve lost any sense of economic value for reproductive work, it slowly disappeared from view until it becomes economically productive, in which case we are all kind of forced into economically productive forms of work which means that we don’t have enough time any more.
I mean how many social care professionals might be busy providing in a professional role care in one community, what’s happening to their family, how many normal care services are they having to commodify in order to get by, are the needing childcare, are their elderly relatives needing to be put in homes, what are they not seeing, the opportunities for neighbourliness, what opportunities are they missing? And I think that fundamentally we have created a dependency culture, and I know I have said that recently and I know that’s problematic for some people, and I have been told that that’s a neoliberal narrative, and I am not entirely sure what that means, but I think day to day, I experience a way in which we are living in a dependency culture and that is why we don’t respond when we see something needing done, we think that somebody else is going to come along and sort out that situation, we don’t have the skills any more, we don’t even have the relationships any more to address a lot of the situations, that’s probably behind a lot of the reticence we have to chap a neighbours door, you are positively looked on as if you are a weirdo actually sometimes if you talk to people that you don’t know. So if those relationships aren’t there, they form the fabric, so where do we go from there and I think that there’s something about creating the right conditions, I think one of the things that we learnt about what we do at Galgael is, it’s not the interventions or the services we provide, and I mean I think that even that immediately we are creating distance in our relationship, it’s about saying, we all need purpose, we all need a common purpose, something to get around, we all need an environment where we feel respected and where we feel seen, and most of all, we all need to be needed, and I think that at the moment, we have created a situation where we are just consumers of products or services that have nothing to do with our … contributing our creativity as human beings, and we even do that to our democracy, we even sell our vote to somebody 4 times a year, I mean we don’t engage in the democratic structures. So I think to answer the question about social justice, I think there’s a song lyric, I can’t remember which one it’s from, but that says … there’s no justice, just us … and I think that that is the kind of community we need to get back to, it’s just us and there’s something really enlivening about that, reclaiming that right of responsibility, acknowledging our need to be needed and to need one another, and something about … so I think that we understand a kind of … we need three R’s, and I am not talking about writing, reading and arithmetic, we need the 3 R’s of respect, responsibility and not see that as a bad word any more, but to see the right, the biggest right is the right to be responsible for yourself, for your family, for your communities. How many people in areas like Govan can say that? They’re limited to being consumers of services and consumers of products when they can afford it, and the third R I think is about reciprocity, it’s got to be mutual, do you know what I mean? I need Galgael as much as it needs me and I would like to think that everybody in there could say pretty much the same thing, so … I think that’s it.
LR Right, there’s a mind blower, all of it incredible.
F Thank you very much to everyone for their contributions, everything is really interesting. One thing that’s come to my mind throughout this evening, is we are here now and we need to think about the future, and the past is really important to understand how things worked in the past, what was good about the past, but also what wasn’t so good and what we want to improve, and I think that there’s no point in like going for a kind of black and white discussion or rejecting everything we have now or idealising the past, and I think we all agree on that, and one thing I have been hearing about lately is the idea of resilience and to be more resilient is to be stronger and to be able to cope by yourself, or as a group, and so I think that what’s really important is to have the complementarity of services. Social work is incredibly important and especially nowadays I suppose when there’s more flexibility, more mobility, I, for instance, I am French, I came here to study with no family connections here in Glasgow or Scotland, so I am immensely grateful for the services provided by companies, by the council, but at the same time I regret not knowing my neighbours, because that’s my experience, after 4 years of living here … and so I think, yes, it’s really important to have these complementarities of social centres, of places like Galgael, of community gardens, but also having a really strong council, a strong state.
LR Okay, thanks for that.
F Yes, I have a story to illustrate, care, which is actually about … I think we also need to learn how to receive care when it’s offered. My name is Vivienne, by the way. I was walking back home the other day and right in front of me I could see a mother with a pushchair and a toddler who was holding on the pushchair and desperately trying to keep apace because the mother was going quite fast, and he was quite distressed, he was crying and I could just feel a lot of tension in that scene. At some point the mother stopped and she started to shout at her toddler, can’t remember what she said, but she was obviously under stress, she was busy hurrying home, there was all kinds of things going on in her life, that’s what I interpreted anyway, but that little boy clearly for me was not coping and was needing some help, somehow. So I approached the mother and then I started to talk to the little boy and say, you know, it sounds like he might be a bit tired or … you know, this is quite hard, yes, it seems like it’s hard right now, and then I talked to the other and I said, would you like me to carry him and we go home together with you, and as I expected, her reaction was, “no”, and I say that, because I think very often when we are offered care, we start by saying no, because of all the beliefs about it and everything that’s going on in us. And I have one regret about the scene and in fact she then took her little boy on her arms and continued to push the chair, and I have one regret in that moment, is to not have offered again by saying, I can just push the chair and we will go home together, and I didn’t think about it. So it was like, it required both an offer of care from me and even being a little quicker to think how I could offer again, maybe in a slightly different way, that she felt able to receive but also for her to feel relaxed enough and trusting enough to receive it.
LR Does anybody just have a thought before we move onto anything completely different, anyone have a thought about Vivienne’s story there, as to kind of what went wrong, or what could have been different?
F I just think it’s the pressure that society puts on some people these days, that lady probably did require help, obviously as you could see from the scene, but it’s probably the word failure again, she probably feels by accepting help from a stranger, which was a nice gesture, that it would be her accepting that in fact maybe she is failing at her role there to get home, and I think that’s pressure from society not to accept help, not to be seen as a dependent, because there is such a … you feel less than what you are really if you are seen in those eyes, so I think that’s probably why 99% of people wouldn’t accept that help, because they don’t want to be seen as a failure basically.
LR So is there anything that anyone could have done in that situation, I mean was that just … is it impossible to give help then, because that’s the conclusion … that was a rather sad conclusion … perhaps, in a public space, perhaps that’s a more difficult situation than if there was any mediating thing, you know if you were in any centre, like this perhaps, if there was some place that brought you both together, it would perhaps equalise or connect you, whereas in the street it’s probably the most random way to meet somebody, and then that … probably throws you back a little bit.
M You can’t give up.
LR I know you can’t give up, that’s … and I am sure it’s not in Vivienne’s nature to give up, so she will be back the third time. I am just thinking it’s interesting to drill … I hate that phrase … drill down, but think a little bit about specific circumstances, because sometimes the answers are in the very detail. But anyway, where are we next, where is the microphone?
M Hello, my name is Jim McMillan. I have worked in residential childcare and I now teach social work, so I feel morally obliged to shed some light on what has happened to the nature of social work, and I think my take on it is that social work, along with many other professions, has become a victim of the neoliberal agenda since the 80’s and it has become fragmented, specialised, it’s become risk averse, over regulated and part of the challenge is to instil, in the social workers of tomorrow, an activist perspective and one that can embrace the structural as well as the interpersonal, and there are a lot of good people out there doing exactly that, there are a lot of good people in the renonance of young and community work, there are a lot of good people in community medicine, etc, etc, but the nature of the procedural approach now, the mixed economy of care, the risk averse and the fact that we are all taking on this fear agenda, which is about not giving our children to other people to carry home, and we need to all work on that and we need to keep challenging that and I would recommend the work of Peter Moss and Pat Petrie, who have introduced the notions of social pedagogy into the UK, and it’s a difficult term, social pedagogy, but it’s one to look at, it’s practiced in mostly Nordic countries, in Germany where it’s roots are, and it is about active citizenship that involves all people and you do actually have that sense of sort of common cause, the trick to it is though, you need a more equal society, and we are not starting where they have been for many generations, and that’s the challenge, and that’s about challenging the structural inequalities and starting to shout down these bureaucrats that are maintaining the status quo that’s purely in their own interest.
F Absolutely. And I meant only to tell that joke in the context, I bumped into a friend on the bus the other morning, he was on his way to work in social work and he was saying that 80% of his time now is on paperwork and administration and 20% with people, and it used to be the reverse, and I was just sort of, you could tell on his face that that’s not what he went that for, and I think it’s about reflecting on what this is doing to both people who are missing out on that connection, but also the people that are fulfilling kind of meaningless roles. I could say more but …
LR I was just going to say … sorry, on you go.
F Thank you so much for giving me the second chance. One of the things I think that struck me from the discussion is about how do we define the community, and what would be the indicators of what that ideal community we want, look like, thinking ahead? Because is it only about speaking to neighbours, is it about identifying common issues that affect everyone in the community, is it about supporting those who are not able to support themselves, I think we need to go back to the drawing table in terms of what kind of communities that we are aspiring to, communities where we can feel safe and be involved and engaged, taking into consideration the issues that have already been raised? And the second point I also wanted to contribute to, on social work, I happened to have some interaction with kinship carers, who also, in their role as people who are trying to save the state billions of money, if you look at the long term effect of that, by looking after children who would have ended up in care and who would have been more expensive to support them, and what kinship carers tell me is the fact that their support differs from one local authority to the other, and I wish … when you listen to how the social workers and the social services engage with the people, that they support, could explore options that need to be taken on board and making sure that you are not taking children into care or deciding to take the children into care should be the last resort after you have exhausted all other alternatives, but that engagement is often not available, family members sometimes are not consulted, at the end of the day in the context of child protection, the children are … and that has led to the suspicions that people have. So if we could go back to the drawing tables of building relations, engaging both parties interested in the case, so that we can find a better alternative, that would give us an option. Thank you.
LR Right, thank you, yes, yourself?
F Sorry, in this city there is over three thousand children that don’t live with their biological families, half of those children are cared for by family members and supported by Glasgow City Council. So just to redress the balance slightly, people do actually extend the most wonderful hands to look after their families when they can. When they can’t, unfortunately they have to come into the care of the local authority, and to sort of just go on with the Rottweiler bit, which is hilarious, I suppose for some people, but for me it’s very offensive because that is not the case and actually by law we have to ask every family member, of which sometimes there is a huge number, and holds up a child getting a future because we have to ask people if they can care for the children before we can move in to take the children from their families, so in no way are we snatching children, and that’s really important that people understand that. I know what you understand, I just don’t know if everybody else understands it. And I think just another point, 30 years ago, or pre-Thatcher times, there was 60% of housing in this city was public sector housing, not it’s something like 10%, you know we really have narrowed the options of people and so if you think about it, 50% of people living in their own homes are rushing out to work, they don’t have time to look after their neighbours, their families etc, and it’s a much wider political issue than just about the narrowness of people, it’s about what society expects of us.
LR Absolutely, totally agree.
M It’s just a couple of points. You know, we always use dependency in the kind of negative sense, but basically we need to become a dependent society, we need to become dependent on each other, you know the guy was talking, I am glad I never brought out neoliberalism or anything like that, but we are up against this massive steam road roller that’s been going on for the last 40 years, and if we don’t start depending on each other to do things, to move this thing away, so it’s really important that we do become dependent on each other and trust each other. And the other thing is, they were saying earlier on, people don’t have any time, even people that’s unemployed, or time full up, there was a great project that started, it was called FLOCK, and it was for volunteers, and it’s dead difficult to get people to volunteer for things because they just feel themselves getting sucked in, but this FLOCK thing, you know you could say, we need 3 people to clean up a wee woman’s garden or something like that on Saturday, 3 hours tops, 3 people, and you committed yourself to the 3 hours and did the job and you disappeared again, and if somebody needs care for a night or two nights, all you did was commit yourself to the time you could afford and I think we need to look at these ideas because we are not getting any volunteers, anything off people, because they are paranoid that they get sucked into being full time volunteers. So we have to figure out ways how we can use peoples time, that they can offer the time, and that’s all they are doing, is the 2 hours or the day or whatever.
LR Yes … we just … yes, this gentleman hasn’t spoken yet.
M Douglas McKelvie, just a slight reinterpretation of history really, I was encouraged by the contribution by the social work person who is on my left, but I think historically … well first of all, social pedagogy is interesting and it should be explored, I think historically the reason that the UK did not go down the social pedagogy route was determined by the immediate post war history and the formation of the welfare state in the United Kingdom …
LR Can I just stop you for a second, I don’t really understand what social pedagogy means, could you translate that for me?
DM Okay, as I understand it, it’s to do with how we organise looking after people, so in the United Kingdom we had the emergence of social work as a kind of generic service that looked after children and adults and in Scotland, offenders and so on … on the continent, in the post war years, there was a problem of a whole vast number of dislocated children who needed to be looked after and the history was that a childcare approach was adopted that united, if you like, education and childcare social work, and so it has its merits certainly and I am not arguing against it, the point I am making is simply that it doesn’t stem from some kind of interpretation of what went wrong in this country post Thatcher, because clearly the country did go wrong post Thatcher, but I wouldn’t lump the non emergence of social pedagogy with what happened in those days, it goes back to the post war settlement, and actually the … if you like, the creation of social work by well meaning people on the left, so I am not dismissing social pedagogy, I am just saying that I would be careful about where people think it came from and where it’s absence stems from, that’s all.
LR Okay … we need to draw this bit of … you have spoken before, have you? Yes, come on then, sorry the lady at the back, I am just now trying to favour folk who haven’t spoken already.
F You have kind of put me totally off now what I was going to say, but I think the thing for me is I work in residential care where we are actually promoting social pedagogy as an approach for working with the kids, but that’s not what I wan to talk about. I was really interested in what you said earlier on, and I feel as if, as a social worker, because I did my social work training as well but I work in residential child care, I feel as if the values and the principles I had going into social work, I still have those values and principles, but I feel as if I have been caught on a conveyor belt for the last 20 years, and what I went in to social work to do, I am able to do at my work, but it’s been to the detriment of my community, and I think for me what I would … I am well aware of what has happened in the past, but for me, I would like somebody to help me get off that conveyor belt a wee bit and be able to give something back, and it’s really about knowing how I can do that to the best of my ability and to be really effective, if you like, because there’s loads of people out there looking for volunteers, or looking for money for charity or looking for me to give something in, but I really need to know where I can be best used, if you like, and I think there will be a lot of people who work, because I agree to a certain extent that you do get caught up in work and then you go home and you shut your door and you want to just forget all about the outside world, but I think for people like me, we need to kind of go back to where we started, if you like, and to be able to give something in, but we need somebody out there to tell us the best way to do that.
LR Okay, and I know … right, you two are the last because you haven’t spoken before … right, and be quick, gents, thank you very much.
M Hi, my name is John. Much of what we decide to do is done through social policy and one of the things about our country, which speaks volumes about us as a society is that a lot of our social policy is actually done on the back of knee jerk reactions when things have failed, and it strikes me that we don’t value our children, we don’t value the people that need support as full citizens, and we only actually intervene when things have gone badly wrong and we don’t actually sort of take a bigger view to prevent social injustice and for people that are in a position of need, we only get involved when it’s by the point of crisis, and that is not the way that you want to build a society.
LR Thanks John, yes, and last word …
M Hi, my name is John, another social worker … I kind of feel that we need to reclaim social work a bit from the local authority, where we are held in a kind of, a bit of a vice really, and it’s really hard if you are a social worker within the local authority to be standing up for peoples rights, so social work is more than the local authority and we need to reclaim that … those basic values that you spoke of, as a profession.
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