The Quarter Finals #WCSweepSocialCare

The non footballing loving family members are eyeing up the remote. Whispers about tennis and other sports are happening in hushed corners. Sky plus remaining memory is now dangerously low, crammed full with a plethora of unwatched programmes that have been added over the last few weeks and that now desperately need to be viewed. The World Cup is drawing towards a close.

So, whose made it to the quarters. A quick look..

Uruguay 🇺🇾 (Nina Riddlesden) v France 🇫🇷 (444blackcat)
Tough one this. Uruguay will take some stopping. You sort of get the feeling this World Cup stuff is quite important to them and Suarez has yet to really hit his stride and make his (teeth) mark in the tournament. Good news for @NinaRiddlesden who having escaped an awkward moment with Paul Chuckle late last week really deserves a break. France 🇫🇷 are strange. They sort of looked good, then bad, then ok again in the group stages before they turned into absolute world beaters against Argentina. However I think we all remain bitterly disappointed with the French fans, who with Gallic indifference seem hell bent on not making a song about their star player Mbappé to the tune of Hanson’s Mmm Bop. What a waste. Le spoil sports. @444blackcat has been quietly confident throughout the tournament with this team and with good reason. If the world won’t celebrate 70 years of social care let’s celebrate a French win with an early Friday afternoon finish and please god no late calls in the afternoon for any AMHPs.

Brazil 🇧🇷are usually either really good at a World Cup, even when they don’t win it (e.g. 82, 98) or extremely frustrating and go all defensive (1990, 2010). This year they’ve managed both. Andrea Sutcliffe @crouchendtiger7 looks likely to have done well in World Cup sweeps either here or with CQC. Belgium 🇧🇪 look great and are doing the World Cup like it should be done. Winning all their group games, scoring goals, beating England and their fans wearing huge wigs and face paint. Ryan ‘good lad’ Cowley @ryancowley1989 is surrounded by food at his desk (Ninas) so doesn’t need the congealed chocolates but by god he wants to win this.

Well well well. @richardbrown34 has become such a fan of Sweden 🇸🇪 he’s even recently taken to twitter to berate Denmark! Who other than an absolute newly converted ultra Swede would do that? It’s like getting angry at a dead slug. Hope the Swedes are practicing penalties for you Richard. Oh and by the way, stop selling your best Bristol City players to decent championship teams, it isn’t big or clever!
Apparently England 🇪🇺haven’t won the World Cup for a while. In addition football was made in England by Waddingtons games as a follow up to Monopoly. Against the luckless (but a bit unloveable) Colombia @wardy0286 took to tweeting god and asking for divine intervention. God immediately assisted by making the Colombian defender violently attack Harold Kane in the penalty area and enable England to take he lead. Prayers answered. Admittedly God then answered Colombia prayers (or tweets as they are now called) by giving them a last minute winner before finally sorting things out and letting England win. Go God!

Russia 🇷🇺 are keeping things interesting, at least for @ElaineLJames Clearly the benefit of playing at home is having an effect. Elaine has recently chosen to celebrate the success of her beloved Russia by scarpering 300 miles down to Kent with her other half to see the in-laws and go watch some tigers whilst eating tuna sandwiches from the car. And people say she’s unconventional?!?! Croatia 🇭🇷 are really good and proper dark horses. Maxine @Em1stuk discovery of this team has made her summer. The prospects of her being sent some properly dodgy Roses chocolates, less so. Living the dream Maxine but please do not eat the prize.

Good luck everyone.


World Cup Sweep Social Care – Group Review #WCSweepSocialCare

Now then Sweepers. A quick look at how we did in the group stages and a look ahead to the knockouts.

Group A

Uruguay – Top of the group for Nina Riddlesden without any biting incidents but with three excellent performances in all three games. Nina doesn’t care in truth, win or lose she will have the chocolates.

Russia – Second place is not Elaine James thing. However despite this she remains the best commissioner in world and a phenomenon to anyone who has worked with her and would make a better coach for Russia than whoever is their coach now. I still kind of get the feeling Elaine would be better suited to the old CCCP team of the 80s. With home advantage, still in with a shout.

Saudi Arabia – It was always a long shot for Dave Wilkins. After the 5-0 mauling at the hands of Elaine James Russia it became undoable. Watch Saudi Arabia in next World Cup though. I reckon they will make at least quarters in Qatar.

Egypt – Ian Burgess struggled with his World Cup pick. No real direction. No understand of a way forward. Wandering around aimlessly fouling people for the most part… and the least said about Egypt the better. Stick to Majorca, Ian.

Group B

Spain – Rebecca Shearing and Spain is one to watch. One the verge of completing her studies and in need of the out of date chocolates. I reckon she might just get them with Spain although they may have to improve slightly. A degree and the rancid chocolates would make it a sum,we to remember on both counts.

Portugal – Human Writes deserves a break. For years and years he’s turned up to see his generally unloved Sheffield Wednesday continue to fail. This time he has the similarly unloveable Portugal. Unlike Wednesday though, Portugal haven’t got Tom Lees, they’ve got Ronaldo instead. Interesting little known factoid – both Tom Lees and Ronaldo won the meat prize at Eastborough Working Men’s Club in the last 12 months. Portugal have a chance in this too.

Iran – Julie Robinson Joyce is lovely. And very good at her job. Iran are neither. Julie deserved better and was last seen boarding at Yorkshire Airways (aka Jet 2) flight to Tehran to tell the team exactly what she thought of them and how much they’ve cost her.

Morocco – I never did find out if Michael Lee was a real person. Talk to us, Michael! Regardless, Morocco were pretty poor. Michael will be back, maybe.

Group C

France – 444blackcat is through to the next round with France without much fuss but also without much style. Hardworking, determined and never donning the mantle of Sherlock Holmes – that’s France and that’s AMHPs. It’s a match made in heaven. I think France and bc may still be winners of the sour Tangy Orange Cremes et al.

Denmark – Denmark played it safe, which isn’t something usually associated with Mark Harvey, a man who lives for unwise decisions and the banishing of forensic cotton wool. Denmark didn’t hit their stride in the group games but just as Harvey can rely on the engine room and creativity of Belcher and Stone in Herts, he can rely on Eriksen and Schmeichel with Denmark. They still might do ok.

Peru – Unlike his beloved Scotland, Jack ‘the kid’ Skinner has had a good couple of weeks experiencing what a World Cup is. Like his beloved Scotland, any love Jack had for the tournament didn’t progress pass the group stages. Peru sparkled briefly but ultimately blew out of steam pretty quickly. Best kit by a mile though.

Australia – The Right Honourable Steve Broach was unlucky to get Australia in truth. They never really got out of first gear but took some great throw-ins, goal kicks and kickoffs throughout all three games. Steve is gutted but has saved himself considerable digestive discomfort by swerving the crusty caramel kegs.

Group D

Croatia – Well well. Enigmatic Croatia. Winning the group and now the dark horses for the tournament and with good reason. They’re good and will take some stopping. The truly awful chocolates could become a reality for Maxine. And if it all goes wrong Maxine, get The Greatest Showman on the iPod and whack it up to 11.

Argentina – Quite a journey for Peter Hay with Argentina. From a three nil loss to Croatia to a heart stopping last minute winner to clinch second place, Argentina have been great drama to watch. All Peters best wishes to those who felt the game was up on his claim for the foisty Coffee Escapes where channeled through Maradonas response on the final whistle no doubt. Peter isn’t singing Don’t Cry for Me just yet but oh what a circus (btw, yes Gary Lineker, you can use that line).

Nigeria – Fancy kits aren’t everything, it’s what fits within them that counts. Unluckily for my dad Colin Mitchell he got the hugely unpredictable Nigeria. For brief moments they looked decent. For the most part they were awful. They didn’t take many prisoners and disappointed their huge fan base. A great reflection of Colins 70 years of following Leeds United then.

Iceland – As the Sugarcubes said, this wasn’t supposed to happen. Iceland’s goalkeeper used to direct videos for the Eurovision Song Contest. I think ITV told me that about 12 times over the two Iceland games they covered. So near but so far for Louise. At times it looked like they could make progress as they did in France in 2016. However in truth, their fans properly made more of an impact that the team did.

Group E

Brazil – Well, what to make of Brazil this year? I can’t work out if they are the best team in it or the worst Brazil team I’ve seen since 1990 in truth. Still they’ve done the trick for Andrea Sutcliffe in making the group stages without too much fuss really. Neymars hair though? What’s going on their?

Switzerland – Question. What’s the best thing about Switzerland? Answer. I don’t know but their flag is a big plus (credit wee Jimmy Kranky). Well well. It was meant to be for Helen Franklin with the Swiss. Drawn out for World Cup sweeps by both Helen and her son, the Swiss may actually amaze the football world and make the quarters or even the semis. Sweden is the next round is winnable. Don’t be getting a taste for decent Swiss chocolate though Helen, you might have these slightly dampened Golden Barrels to feast on first.

Serbia – Well, what to say about Serbia for Gary Pickles? I think I watched all their games and cannot honestly recall one single moment! Apparently they even won a game! The chocs aren’t yours Gary. You may be sickened about that but equally you’d be sickened if you had one them, they’re starting to smell.

Costa Rica – Well Costa Rica offered me nothing other than a preposterous image of Professor Hatton sat watching them on an old black and white portable TV set, in an empty, dusty library, cloak wrapped round him, mortar pushed to one side and a string of expletives coming from him between big gulps of barley wine. Football? Who cares.

Group F

Sweden – RichardBrown34 with Sweden. Well, quite a turn up. Top of the group, next game winnable. Game after that winnable. All a knew feeling for a Bristol City fan, Richard. Could this be the biggest Swedish summer since Brighton 1974, Abba, Waterloo and all that? Jä.

Mexico – Could they actually won it? Well in beating Germany it looked like they possibly could. In losing to Sweden it looked like they absolutely couldn’t. Social Worker Gaz has them. Could be surprise semi finalists.
South Korea – For a moment I really felt sorry for Karen & David Maude after they drew South Korea. Imagine supporting these seemingly no hopers throughout June. I then received a photo from Karen and David as the sun set on their Mediterranean cruise in Monaco. It’s funny how quick sympathy can leave you.
Germany – Warren. No words really apart from our thoughts are with you at this sad time.

Group G

Belgium – Ryan ‘good lad’ Cowley can’t lose at the moment. Surrounded by the most gifted colleagues he’ll ever work with (in Public Health), supporting England on to glory but having drawn Belgium, he’s had a lovely World Cup so far. Belgium look good. Really good. But have they played anyone decent yet? Ryan, allow yourself to sniff the Hazel Whirl. The dream is on.

England – Interesting times for Lucy Ward. She’s seen England blow away the mighty Tunisia and Panama and then fall to Belgiums second team. Is it coming home? Can you imagine the nausea of the brexiteers if it does? We’d have to leave the country would we? That said, maybe it’s happening.

Tunisia – Jamie Spencer drew Tunisia but probably forgot given how underwhelming they where. That said, they rallied against England and were probably unlucky not to have possibly got a point. They capitulated to Belgium and beat Panama but everyone does that. Those strawberry dreams (dark cadburys chocolate encasing a delightful strawberry flavoured centre) remain just that. Probably for the best, Jamie.
Panama – Now, for some reason when I consider that Catherine Mawn got Panama it makes me smile and almost laugh. It was such an implausible mix. Catherine, I’ll level with you, they were truly awful and for that I owe you a free Cafe Nero cuppa, which I delegate responsibility to buying to my Deputy, Ian Burgess.
Group H

Colombia – Well, Beverley B Jones, your Colombia team have done really well. Free flowing football at times. Some great theatrics to win free kicks and loads of memorable ex Colombian footballers in the crowd looking pretty washed up for us to reminisce about. I wonder if Colombia are good at penalty shootouts? Well the good news is that they don’t have to be, they’ve got England next.

Japan – Simply Positive had Japan and what a coincidence given that they made the second round due to positive football and ‘winning’ the fair play yellow card thingy. Likely to go out at the next round but a great achievement to get out of this group.

Senegal – Extremely unlucky to go out for our Ermintrude. Lots of endeavour. Lots of passion. And really hard done by given that they went out on ‘yellow card rule’. If England had have gone out on that rule we would’ve exited Europe, FIFA and the world! Oh and I was slightly amused to see 442 Magazine claim that Senegal have ‘a team of leaders’. Don’t tell Erm that!!!

Poland – Ingrid Richardson got these. Ingrid, I’m not sure what they taught you about football. It’s not usually this bad but sometimes it’s worse. That probably doesn’t help.

Ok. The draw then ….

France (444blackcat) v Argentina (Peter Hey)
Uruguay (Nina) v Portugal (Human Writes)
Spain (Rebecca Shearing) v Russia (Elaine)
Croatia (Em1stuk) v Denmark (Mark Harvey)
Brazil (Andrea Sutcliffe) v Mexico (Social Worker Gaz)
Belgium (Ryan Cowley) v Japan (Simply Positve)
Sweden (Richard Brown 34) v Switzerland (Helen Franklin)
Colombia (Beverley B Jones) v England (Lucy Ward)
Please make contact with your opponent on twitter and either encourage them or give them a bit of stick to under in their confidence. Remember you’re playing for a gift that money can’t but here.
Thanks to all those who played so far. Hope you enjoyed our #WCSweepSocialCare


Ok then Sweepers. The draw has been made for #WCSweepSocialCare so let’s have a quick look at the runners and riders. Oh, and I have found prize! Around the back of my desk, between the cable wires and manky biros, I have found a pure box of Cadburys Roses*, which are a discarded gift from Christmas 2017 no doubt. The chocolates will be delivered to the winner when you next see you or meet you for first meet me dependant on you proving me with a a good two weeks notice.

Miserable, me?!

Group A – Predictions




Saudi Arabia

Group A – Meet the teams and the sweepers

Tough draw for me personally given that three of the sweepers are friends of mine (and I also am aware of Ian’s works online).

Uruguay, a 33-1 chance for Nina Riddlesden. Likely to make it through the group and if their star centre forward doesn’t decide to literally take a chunk out of opposing defenders. Biting is a thing that Nina knows well but that usually relates to other peoples lunch. Russia, not everyone’s cup of tea, particularly if you live in Salisbury, are a 66-1 shot for Elaine and are likely to raise their game as host nation and should get through to the next round. Elaine is no stranger to controversy and turmoil so it’s a match made in heaven. Egypt (300-1), is lovely this time of year and was a holiday destination favourite with Ian Burgess right up until the Spring Uprising when he bottled it and started going to Majorca. Whilst Saudi Arabia are the rank outsiders at 2500-1 for David Wilkins and are expected to be safely back home long before their postcards arrive at their slightly embarrassed relatives after three disappointing group games.

Group B – Predictions





Group B – Meet the teams and the sweepers

Another tough draw on a personal level having to face Julie Robinson Joyce across a meeting table just 12 hours having matched her up with 750-1 outsiders Iran. If looks could kill! Iran are an entertaining team. That said, I don’t expect them to score a goal in their three games. Morocco are the 500-1 pick for the enigmatic Michael Lee (who is an egg on here and possibly a bot!). Again a good team on their day but unlikely to get past the big guns. Speak to us Michael so we know youre real! First big gun of the group is Spain(13-2) for Rebecca Shearing. Her ‘is that a good draw?’ tweet after been given the previous World Cup and European Championships winners was either reflective of a total disinterest in world football or a cunning ploy to play down the chances that she will be soon to be feasting on nearly out of date strawberry creams* shortly. And finally Portugal (28-1) were drawn by Human Writes. Known to be a one man team, who singularly carries the expectations of many and drags others around them up standard. Portugal on the other hand are a decent team.

Group C Predictions




Group C Meet the teams and the sweepers

AMHPs know their onions (and when they don’t they read Jones) so it was no surprise to see 444blackcat voice their quiet pleasure at drawing (my personal tip) France (7-1). Thankfully Jack Skinner is a Scotsman who was born too late to shriek with terror at the very mention of Peru (200-1), which is handy because that’s who he’s got. Best kit in the tournament doesn’t win you the nearly out of date Roses* though Jack (and Nina would only eat them all anyway). The genial Mark Harvey of the PSW Pontificators brigade stopped his onslaught of offering breathtakingly decent CPD to the beautifully giddy social workers of Herts and drew the mercurial Denmark (125-1) who are a game for anyone on their day. Whilst everyone’s favourite barrister (and our future nomination for the President of the Supreme Court) Steve Broach was sentenced to a miserable four weeks having first drawn Sweden in his works sweep and following it up with the hapless Australia (1000-1) on here.

Group D Predictions





Group D Meet the teams and the sweepers

When Peter Hay isn’t galvanising the Social Work Awards (incidentally, a reminder, get your nominations in asap!) then he will be sat quietly at home, comfortable in the knowledge that he’s got Argentina (10-1). When they go out in penalties in the semi finals we all look forward to the footage of Peter drunkenly warbling rude words to Don’t Cry For Me Argentina in his disgust, which is mandatory. Caffeine addict Maxine (em1stuk) drew the unpredictable Croatia (40-1) and like me seemed mightily impressed by their beer mat shirts. I’ll slip in a couple of extra coffee creams* if they come good for you Maxine. As if the football season wasn’t tough enough on Bolton-mad Louise she only went and got Iceland (300-1). The country with the smallest population in the tournament will need a minor miracle to progress. Iceland did beat England in Euro 16 but in truth my sons u14 team could beat England and their team usually comprises of a midfield trio that have to be subbed at halftime due to wheezing, eczema and X box withdrawal symptoms respectively. Finally Nigeria (300-1) were drawn by my dad, Colin Mitchell. From him I inherited a lifetime of misery supporting Leeds. From me he gets 4 weeks of nothingness and not a sniff of the slightly foisty caramel kegs*. He’s got away lightly.

Group E Predictions


Costa Rica



Group E Meet the teams and sweepers

Sometimes it’s good to challenge. Sometimes it’s good to schmooze. The Chief Inspector of Adult Social Care randomly got drawn the hot favourites Brazil (9-2). Who’d have thought it? <sheepish glance>. The chocolates* are in the post ma’am. Everyone’s third favourite professor (after Brian Cox and Snape) Chris Hatton couldn’t produce a graph and a load of numbers big enough to describe how disappointed he was to get Costa Rica (1000-1). Reports from Lancaster University say that he was seen running down the corridor after the draw screaming ‘I am not f***** having this s***’. He’s not wrong. I’ve seen Costa Rica. They’re awful. Gary Pickles proved that been drawn first out of the hat counts for nothing when he got the sullen Serbia team (200-1) who according to one of their own journalists are just as likely to beat someone 6-0 or storm off the pitch at halftime in protest at the length of the grass if things aren’t going their way. It’ll be exciting to see which way they go though, Gary. The last team for this group were Switzerland (150-1) who decided not to be neutral for a change and actually nail their colours to the mast. Helen Franklin got them and so did her son in the school sweepstake. There might be something in that. Cow bells a plenty in the Franklin household.

Group F predictions




South Korea

Group F meet the teams and sweepers

Warren Belcher is the social worker we all want if and when we need a social worker. Especially because he might come to your house armed with the chocolates* I sent him when he wins this sweepstake on penalties. He got Germany (5-1). Enough said. Richard Brown 34 fared less well in drawing Sweden (300-1). Workmanlike, no superstars, good at thrown ins and goal kicks and ultimately disappointing everyone concerned, reminiscent of his beloved Bristol City. Mexico’s odds of 150-1 look generous to me. That said, you also wouldn’t be surprised to see them go out after three disappointing games. Picked up by Social Worker Gaz he describes himself as a lover of curry and rugby, which might come in handy particularly if the experience is accompanied by 12 cans of Special Brew. Finally David & Karen Maude got their comeuppance by drawing the lamentable South Korea (750-1). Did they really think they could get away with taunting us with photos of semi-retired life watching the cricket in the sunshine? No, the totally random #WCSweepSocialCare draw struck a blow back for the oppressed full time workers!

Group G Predictions





Group G meet the teams and the sweepers

Football’s coming home. As will the England team (20-1) after a second round knockout on penalties to Colombia. Don’t tell that to Lucy Ward though. She was positively glowing at the prospect of supporting England to a World Cup final win. She’s always got Dewsbury Rams to fall back on. Ryan Cowley, AMHP, BIA, AP & new blogger has a chance. Belgium (11-1) are many peoples tip to win it without really having good reason to think if other than people in England know their players a bit. Gym-goer Ryan is a good lad who if he wins is likely to donate the nearly out of date Roses* to a good cause. Jamie Spencer was last out of the hat and drew 1000-1 Tunisia. At least the England v Tunisia game gives Jamie a win-win scenario before he sees his team go out to lose 5 and the 6 nil to Belgium and then inexplicably Panama. Talking of Panama (plucky 2000-1 outsiders) the usually mild mannered Catherine Mawn could not hide her furry at the outcome of the draw. She was heard cursing throughout the day and was last seen trying to swap Panama for a bag of spice outside the ladies toilets in Debenhams at teatime.

Group H Predictions





Group H Meet the team and the sweepers

Anyone’s group this. Poland (80-1) were drawn by Ingrid Richardson, consultant SW and lead professional for MH Herts who thankfully had no idea whether Poland was the best or worse possible outcome for her. That said, she can spot goalkeepers who are moonlighting from Homeland with the best of them. Poland might actually surprise a few and do well. Colombia (50-1) used to be what the World Cup was all about. Players with huge hair, goalkeepers who ran out of their penalty area for a laugh and ultimately losers to the likes of big European teams. Not anymore. They’ve gone all serious on us which is good news for Beverley B Jones who describes herself as a ‘street level bureaucrat’, which might come in handy for me as I continue to struggle to complete the admin for this! Ermintrude is Twitter gold. Reliable, entertaining, insightful and full of social work values. All of which helped her not a single jot as she drew a Senegal team (200-1) who have really struggled since qualifying for the finals. And finally Positive Simply is Simply Positive on here and that’s extremely useful given he’s drawn Japan (500-1) who I think have the best national anthem in the tournament but that doesn’t win you chocolate that is on the verge of going off. This group could be full of surprises so expect absolutely anything. So there’s the runners and riders. If I get chance I’ll do a couple of updates as we go on. Please remember to use the hashtag #WCSweepSocialCare to keep in touch. We really want to know how your team is doing and how you are feeling throughout the tournament. Remember, there’s a big prize on offer here that’s not to be sniffed at.

*The chocolates are significantly out of date in truth. Eating the chocolates is done at your own risk and is not the responsibility of the event organiser. Be careful with them.

We’re all agency workers really

A Guest Blog

There is lots of movement of social workers within Local Authority and NHS employer organisations. Times change, different agendas and different prerogatives mean people move on.

A common question asked when a worker joins a team these days is whether you are an agency worker or permanent staff. I’m never quite sure when asked this whether being a ‘permanent member of staff’ is better or worse than an agency worker but the question always seems like a loaded question to me; loaded with value judgments about the person being questioned.

Currently we work with lots of permanent and agency staff. Many permanent staff are great, others or not. Many agency staff are great, others are not. When I was asked this week by a new member of our team whether I was agency or permanent it made me stop and think. Who do I actually work for?

The Council? They put the money in my bank on the 15th of every month. I have training through them, I am authorised as an AMHP by them and they provide me with the tools required (sometimes) to do the job they give me the money to do. But do I work for the Council? I don’t think so. At least I have never felt like I do.

I worked within the NHS for two years. Again the Council would put my money in the bank on the 15th of the month. The NHS would provide me with the tools to do the job but the Council authorised me as an AMHP. When I was asked to do admin by my NHS manager instead of spending time supporting people I would say ‘I don’t work for the NHS, I work for the Council’. And that’s how I felt…did I work for the NHS. No.

So who do I think I work for? I work for the people who pay me, and I mean really pay me. People, citizens who pay their taxes which in turns go to the government, which then goes to the Council who then pay me. So I work for local people…The Council as my employer is merely the agency, the middleman. We’re all agency workers. The Local Authority is a servant of local people not a master over them, we work for people. Social workers are servants not masters.

When the starting point is that the person you are going to see today is your boss, have that in your head, I wonder if that power imbalance shifts at all. My dad was a skip driver; I used to go to work with him every Saturday morning for the day. On Saturday he would get paid by his boss, my dad would always say thank you and shake his hand when his boss would pay him. One day I asked my dad why he always said thank you when he was merely getting paid for what he had done. ‘Because without him paying my wages where would we be?’

I wonder if the next person I see would be happy to pay me for the service I provided them?

munby poster

About a boy called Steven

If you follow @MarkNeary1 you will know he is currently curating #RightfulLives – see here

Spotted in another thought provoking blog was a reminder of context for the the call for lives to be rightful:

In a debate on “Hospital and Patient Welfare” in the House of Commons in 1964, the MP for Abertillery the Rt Hon Rev Llewellyn Williams despite declaring himself suspicious of the new patient organisations as a potential refuge for “chronic bellyachers”, he does however go on to state:

“What concerns me is the question of human relationships. This is the nub of the matter. In the post-war period we have witnessed incredible medical technological advances. Surgical skill seems to go from one new wonderful discovery to greater discovery still. We have discovered drugs which are indeed miracle-working. One would wish that there were a comparable advance in human relationships”

Heartbreaking to think – this stuff is really not new….

Gaze back further to 1913 and you will find Josiah Wedgewood arguing that “our object.. is to secure justice for everybody” (campaigning against the draconian Mental Retardation Act).

Reinventing, recycling, replaying of context over and over and over again.

Look further back still and you can trace the origins of how people societally judged as being of “unsound mind” are treated back to Magna Carta. The earliest version of Clause 39 was recorded in the so-called `Unknown Charter’ in the early months of 1215. “King John grants that he is not to arrest a man without judgment, nor to take anything for justice, nor to perpetrate injustice.”

Look forwards to more modern times and you will find the right to speedy access to justice for people who are detained by the state, deprived of their right to liberty, and who are judged to be of “unsound mind” encoded into Article 5 of the European Convention on Human Rights to which the UK is a signatory. There are positive obligations on agents of the state such as social workers to uphold the Safeguards of liberty.

However, Art5 ECHR is procedural. The heart of soul of rights based approaches are grounded in Art8, the right to a private and family life. Which is why Neary vs LB Hillingdon 2011 is arguably the most important piece of English adult case law. It is certainly more important than the acid test 2014 Supreme Court Ruling. It established the principle that Steven has a right to a private and family life like any other human being. To consider any other position due to his autism/Learning disability was held to be inherently discriminatory and a breach of his inalienable humanity.

We need more historians to curate our past if we are to create our imagined futures. Perhaps then we will integrate the learning into our world view and experience a world filled with colour, life and sparkle with the inherent dignity of all human beings celebrated for its very diversity.

The Ghost in the ATM


A few years ago, when I was a Team Manager, I chaired a meeting about a man who the Local Authority had recently placed in a care home. During the meeting I noticed that the man’s mother Sheila was becoming increasingly frustrated by the meeting, in particular she became fidgety as the Social Worker insisted that he go carefully and line by line through (what was then) Community Care Assessment. The Social Worker patiently explained to Sheila that he had to make sure he had captured all the information appropriately and accurately and so that everyone’s views were incorporated. Sheila stopped the meeting and said ‘Can I tell you something? I work for a bank and I’ve studied commerce. You know mini banks? Cash machines? When you put your card in and you want to withdraw cash, what happens? Take me through that process’ Uncomfortable silence ensued. No-one spoke, everyone looked down not wanting to make eye contact with either me or her. After a few moments of awkward silence, she continued ‘Ok. I’ll tell you. You type your PIN in and then you issue your instructions to the machine. It asks you if you want information about your balance, receipt and then finally you get cash options. You choose what amount of cash you want. But the crucial thing is that the machine doesn’t give you cash straight away. First it gives you back your card and then and only then it gives you your cash. That’s deliberate. Does anyone know why?‘ Again, nothing from the stunned MDT. ‘It’s because you’ll forget your bank card once you see the money because that’s what you came for. You will take the money from the machine and turn and walk away and you’ve forgotten about the process because it’s not important. The card will then come out of the machine and the machine will bleep loudly to remind you to take it. If it didn’t you would be down the road counting your money and planning on what you’re going to do with it. We have research in commerce that evidences that this happens on 90% of transactions we’ve tested it. The product is always the thing, not the process. You’re assessment is a process but it doesn’t mean a thing to my son or me. We want action‘.

Sheila went on to explain that the ‘action’ for her son was the care and support, that was the outcome. The process (the assessment), as she saw it, was for us not her and absolutely not something for her son. This observation had quite a profound effect on me. I reflected on earlier that week I had been to see my GP. Although I recalled answering the GPs questions and listening to the GPs observations about what I told her, it was her diagnosis and her intervention that really mattered to me. That’s what I was there for. That was the action. Whether I was there for the prescription, or the referral on or the sick note or the something else, I was there for outcome and not really that interested in the process about how she got there. The GPs assessment was just that – the GPs. I didn’t need her for an analysis of my life to date and the environment I lived in. I was the expert of my life and my circumstances, I’d lived it! I just needed her to make the next step happen to help me stay healthy.

By this point in my career I had been schooled in assessment and genuinely believed in their merit. Even in my first qualified social work post I had the job title Social Care Assessor. I had showed off to colleagues at the hospital team that as Social Care Assessor covering older people’s mental health wards. In a typical week, I brought 6 cases to funding panel for placements in care homes. I worked hard on producing the assessments. I learned to write lots. They were huge. They covered everything. I wanted to show just how person centred I was so in every assessment I included a pen picture of the person making clear how much research I had done on to understand their younger days, their likes, their culture. The assessments were approved at panel. The CCG had copies. Prospective care homes received copies. And eventually when the person went to the Care home the assessment accompanied the person. As a Social Care Assessor, I would then see the person again in six weeks to see if they had ‘settled in’, which is essentially Social Care code for ‘have they given in and accepted the Care home and all it entails’….

But faced with Sheila I found my faith in my assessment wobble. I went home that night and couldn’t sleep, my mind churning with questions:

  • Who cares about the consequences of the product when we’ve got the process to do?
  • Were the assessments I undertook as a Social Care Assessor ever read again?
  • Did anyone other than me read the carefully researched person centred pen picture?
  • In processing the person through a conveyor belt of assessments was I really being person centred?
  • Did any of my assessments lead to anyone being better off?

I didn’t sleep well for weeks after meeting Sheila.

My assessments were produced after a huge amount of input, but in reality they consistently resulted in a very simple to arrange outcome – the Care home says yes, they’ll take him, send them the Care plan we can settle him in ready for the evening meal round. Ultimately the success of the product was invariably what the care provider made of made of the person I had processed towards their final resting place. The long term happiness of the person entirely dependent on the quality of the individual provider, my assessment recording a point in time which faded into the past as it was superseded by a plethora of new documents to process – support plans, med charts, meal charts, visitor logs.

I genuinely cannot recall a single 40 odd page assessment that ever genuinely informed my view on things like eligibility, need and what the right support would be. The skill of the social worker is in recognising the value of a cuppa and a chat, a frown or a joke, the mention of a relationship, a loving glance between family members. Social Workers shine for me when they celebrate that they are experts in human interaction.

So, let’s embrace our humanity and the humanity of the people we serve such as Sheila and her son. Sheila and her son were the experts of their lives. We are there to understand environmental and sociological issues and place those in a context of their human rights. That’s our role. Let’s stop wasting time spending days in the office typing up pages and pages of assessment forms and case notes which no one will read. We are the PIN number, the bleep in the machine, the questions about balance on screen and whether receipts are wanted. We are the action, not the assessment.


promote the ld vote

In 2015, social workers supported people to participate in the General Election. To find out more, the first 50 people to click on this link will be able to download the paper for free –

If you still need any persuading that #promotetheldvote matters – take 5 minutes to watch this: