Critical and Radical Social Work journal

It welcomes contributions that consider and question themes relating to the definition of social work and social work professionalism,that look at ways in which organic and ‘indigenous’ practice can expand concepts of the social work project and that consider alternative and radical histories of social work activity. As a truly international journal it actively encourages contributions from academics, scholars and practitioners from across the global village.Critical and Radical Social Work - An International Journal

We are delighted to announce that the first issue has now been published and contains the following papers:

F: Critical and radical social work: an introduction 
Authors: Ferguson, Iain; Lavalette, Michael

 Neoliberalism and social work in South Africa 
Author: Sewpaul, Vishanthie

 Greek social work and the never-ending crisis of the welfare state 
Authors: Ioakimidis, Vasilios; Teloni, Dimitra-Dora

 Courageous ethnographers or agents of the state: challenges for social work 
Author: Briskman, Linda

 What is the future of social work? 
Author: Reisch, Michael

 The ethical-political project of social work in Brazil 
Author: Behring, Elaine Rossetti

 Crisis, austerity and the future(s) of social work in the UK 
Authors: Ferguson, Iain; Lavalette, Michael

 Advocating for Palestinian children in the face of the Israeli occupation 
Author: Horton, Gerrard

 When the ethical may be illegal: student movement and resistance in a context of repression 
Authors: Sansfaçon, Annie Pullen

 Social work and the struggle for social justice in Ireland 
Author: Cuskelly, Kerry

 Marikana massacre: explosive anger 
Authors: Smith, Linda; Alexander, Peter

F: Some reflections on critical and radical social work literature 
Author: Woodward, Rona

The first article: Critical and radical social work: An introduction is available on our blog here:

Critical and Radical Social Work is available as a free online trial during 2013. To sign up, please send an email to

Save Dudley Child & Adolescent Mental Health Service (CAMHS)

This service will close by early summer 2013 (date to be confirmed) unless we can apply pressure, on Dudley Children’s Services and Dudley & Walsall Mental Health Trust, to alter their decision.

Please support us by signing our petition:

You do not have to be a foster carer or an adoptive parent yourself, or live in the Dudley borough, to sign. You may know someone who is in care or has been adopted, you may work with adopted or looked after children or you may just care about the welfare of some of the most damaged and vulnerable children in our society and the families that are doing their best to help their children thrive and reach their potential.
For more information please see below.

Dudley Children’s Services currently commission Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) to deliver a specialist provision offering dedicated services to looked after and adopted children and the people that care for and work with them.

Children in or adopted from care have a unique and complex range of needs due to their early life experiences of neglect, abuse and/or trauma, as well as subsequent moves into, within and from the care system. Simply being removed from their birth families, or subsequently out of care into adoptive families, does not undo all the damage done in their young lives. These children often present with very difficult behaviours and are unable to securely attach to their new carers. Well established parenting techniques do not work with children with insecure attachments and carers need help to therapeutically parent their children. This help can take many forms (e.g. support groups and training) but in some cases it requires specialist help from mental health services.
Whilst the generic CAMHS system provides a valuable service to many children and young adults it does not adequately support the unique and complex needs of adopted children. Dudley Children’s Services obviously recognised this and commissioned Dudley CAMHS Specialist Services to provide services dedicated to looked after children and families with adopted children. Their models and therapeutic methodologies are based on extensive research, specific to children with these poor and chaotic early life experiences, and differ significantly to the therapies offered by generic services.

This service has proven invaluable to many families within the Dudley borough, some of whom also have personal experience of the inadequacies of generic services for their specific needs. Unfortunately, the LAAC Psychology Service at Dudley CAMHS is not available to all looked after children and adoptive families in need of help. Families are often in crisis and on the verge of breakdown when they are offered this service and it is these families that are most in need of specialist support.

This is a rare service nationally and seems to fit very well with the government’s recent commitments to support adoptive families. In fact NICE Guidelines for Looked After Children (2010) recommend dedicated services to promote mental health and emotional wellbeing of children and young people in care (as adopted children have been), and stresses the benefits and likely financial savings in supporting children in these circumstances. As such, and because of the success of this service you could argue that Dudley’s model for a LAAC Psychology Service should be championed and promoted nationally.

However, the decision has been made to close down this vital service by the Summer of 2013 (date as yet unconfirmed). The carers and families affected are only just starting to be made aware of this closure and their fate in terms of continued therapeutic support is as yet unknown. Whilst some children and families may be offered alternative support in other services they are unlikely to fully meet their needs and they will most likely have to join the bottom of already lengthy waiting lists. Other children and families may not qualify for existing services at all, despite their obvious needs for support.

We have been advised that the closure of Dudley CAMHS Specialist Services is as a result of cuts made to the budget within Children’s Services. However, Dudley’s Cabinet Minister for Children’s Services, Tim Crumpton, stressed that proposed cuts within the Children’s Services budget “will not affect frontline services” (ref Dudley News 20th February 2013). Also, in his report “The Narey Report on Adoption” (published 5th July 2011) Martin Narey (the Ministerial Advisor on Adoption) said that “In the shorter term it is vital that the provision of post-adoption support does not get worse as financial pressures on local authorities encourage short term economies”. He goes on to say “Any retreat on post-adoption support would put at risk the success of more adoptions and would be exactly the opposite of what I know the Children’s Minister wants. He needs to ensure this does not happen”.
In Dudley we are now in a position where an entire frontline service is to be lost (despite Tim Crumpton’s commitment) and post-adoption support will therefore get worse (despite Martin Narey’s recommendations and The Children’s Minister’s desire).

Listening to survivors: child abuse and the establishment

Contact details:
Liz Davies, Reader in Child Protection, London Metropolitan University
Or via website

On October 24th 2012, Tom Watson M.P. asked a Prime Minister’s Question. He asked the Prime Minster, to ensure that police investigate claims of a powerful paedophile ring linked to a previous prime minister’s senior adviser and parliament. The question referred to an evidence file collected by the police to convict paedophile Peter Righton in 1992. I was involved in the investigation of Peter Righton linked to the abuse of Islington children and  worked closely with a social work team in Hereford and Worcester which expertly investigated other aspects of this network.  Watson later wrote that a specialist unit at Scotland Yard had the material, seized in a raid on Righton’s home, which supplemented a wider investigation into organised paedophile rings in children’s homes and included letters from known and convicted paedophiles. The person who had informed Tom Watson has remained  anonymous for his own protection.  

Peter Righton was a social work academic and practitioner. He was also a member (number 51) of the UK Paedophile Information Exchange and co-author of a book which promoted the right of adults to have sex with children. After conviction for possession of abusive images of children, he lived in a house on a baronial estate in Suffolk which was a regularly used and valued holiday centre for disadvantaged children of Islington (Payne and Fairweather 1993). Despite requests by police and social services that Righton leave this house, it seemed that he continued to live there until he died in 2007.  

Investigations into Righton highlighted extensive worrying connections within the world of social work and academia including networks that went right to the top. An Inside Story documentary comprehensively traced his association with known child sex abusers (BBC 1993) and can now be viewed (alongside many other interesting dvds)  on the website or via this link
Some convictions were achieved but it was ever clear that the investigation could have gone much further. The social work team, which had conducted the investigation jointly with police, was closed down. This case is well documented by a senior police officer who led the investigation (Hames 2000).

Following Watson’s question, much new and historic information came forward and, in the aftermath of the work of Operation Yewtree, concerning allegations of sexual abuse by Jimmy Savile, two further police teams, Operation Fairbank and Operation Fernbridge, were established at Scotland Yard.  Specifically, a hostel, Elm Guest House, in South London, was exposed as a place where high profile people were alleged to have abused children from children’s homes across the UK during the 80s. This has been mainly exposed on by David Henke and colleagues.   Watson committed himself to following up the issues; ‘What I am going to do personally is to speak out on this extreme case of organised abuse in the highest places. At the core of all child abuse is the abuse of power. The fundamental power of the adult over the child. Wherever this occurs it is an abomination. But these extreme cases are abuse of power by some of the most powerful people. Abuse of trust by some of the most trusted. It is a sickening story, but one which – like the truth about Jimmy Savile – is now going to be told’.

The mainstream media have almost completely and consistently blanked all these issues. Some people have been raising these matters for twenty years and there have undoubtedly been many cover-ups. This is the first time – through the social media – that the national picture is being systematically collated. Police investigations have generally been limited to localities and though some police and social workers have long asked for a national child protection investigation team this has never been set up.  Even the Savile inquiries are being held separately and we are told there is no evidence of a network… but the evidence needs to be examined, collated and analysed across all the areas of the country and range of institutions.
The following people are among others on Twitter raising these issues;  
Liz Ramsay (NAPACNI)  

There are two blogs which are collating and presenting information.

This is murunbuch’s blog and it is highly professional – mainly a collation of press cuttings and dvds going back to the 80s which is informing survivors, journalists, politicians,  and the general public. As a result more information is coming forward and informs the police where appropriate. This site is attracting a lot of interest. I realised from this blog that Lambeth child abuse scandal was happening at exactly the same time as I was involved exposing Islington child abuse scandal. Yet the connections were not made. For instance, only through this website have I learnt of one residential worker who worked in both authorities children’s homes. There never was a police investigation to make such links. When I went around the country in the 90s and met the social workers in Hereford and Worcester, for instance, this was largely on my own initiative or in response to particular police officers requests who were trying their best to investigate across area boundaries.
This blog includes Operation Greenlight which is being complied by a historian to list all children’s homes and collate information across the UK. The comments added into these blogs of course also provide interesting information.
Exaronews website costs a small fee to access. Generally their breaking news articles are picked up by the few tabloids brave enough to run with some of the stories. These are probably newspapers none of you read but this is where the news is getting out. The Guardian, some of you may know, have been subject to criticism for their two articles recently which were on the subject of  child sex abuse (‘paedophilia’) ( see:  

BBC (1993) The Secret Life of a Paedophile. Inside Story documentary. Available from:

Hames M (2000) The Dirty Squad. The inside story of the obscene publications branch. London. Little Brown

Payne S and Fairweather E (1993) Country house hideaway of disgraced care chief. Central figure in Evening Standard news investigation. London. Evening Standard. 6th May.

Watson T (2012a) Prime Minister’s Question. Available from:

Watson T (2012 b) A little more background on today’s PMQs.

Watson T (2012c) Ten days that shook my world. Available from:

AGM 2013: Convenor’s Report, Steering Committee and motions

Convenor’s Report: ‘This has been another successful year for SWAN – as shown by the size of our conference (our main event of the year).

The following are the key points for conference to note. A couple of points need to be formally voted on.

1. This year we have had a dedicated media team taking control of our Facebook and Twitter presence. This has worked well.

2. The steering committee now meets 4 times a year via tele-conference.  Now we have the hang of this it is working very well! Rich chairs the meetings and they have been very fruitful.

3. Steering committee meetings are open to the 10 elected committee members, plus one rep from each swan group, plus a member from each relevant affiliated group (at present that is Autistic Rights, shaping Our Lives, and, from now, DPAC). All have equal voting rights.

4. This year we have launched the new journal and we also have a new series of booklets coming out with Palgrave.

5. We have extended our international network. We have groups in Ireland, Greece, Canada and Australia. We have sister organisations (though not called SWAN!) in Hong Kong, Hungary and developing relationships in Turkey.

6. One of our founder members Vassilios Ioakimidis has been elected second to the European Association of Social Work

7. As convenor I have been invited to conferences in Middlesbrough (NE SWAN), Huddersfield, Bradford and Leeds. I have also spoken on our behalf at the Brain Injury SW conference. Last year I was invited to speak to a similar orgaisation to us in Brazil.

8. We had a very successful intervention at the international federation conference last July in Sweden. Our meetings was so big we had to hold it in the cafe!

9. The steering committee agreed to affiliate to Unite the Resistance. This needs formal approval this morning.

10. We have an offer from Durham University to host next year’s conference on behalf of NE SWAN. This will mean holding the Conference in June. This needs formal approval this morning.

In solidarity


Treasurer’s Report 2013 and AGM minutes with motions are attached from this year’s conference.

Steering Committee 2013-14:

Michael Lavalette – National Convenor
Iain Ferguson – Treasurer / Membership secretary
Rea Maglajlic – SWAN International Secretary
Jane Phillips
Terry Murphy
Vasilios Iokimides
Dan Morton
Maria Pentaraki
Kerry Cuskelly
Karl Knill
Sue Talbot
Bob Williams-Findlay
Rich Moth
Peter Beresford
Mark Baldwin
Simon Cardy
Barrie Levine

Proposal to be voted on at next teleconference – expand the steering committee to 17 members.

Resources from SWAN Conference 2013

1. Roger Lewis (Disabled People Against Cuts) – Disabled People, Austerity  and Welfare Reform in a Global Economic Crisis – Stoking the fires of resistance

2. Jeremy Weinstein (SWAN London) – The Meaning of Madness for Radicals in Social Work

3. Anna Gupta and Sue Clayton (Royal Holloway University) – Separated children seeking asylum and their transitions to adulthood

4. Colin Slasberg – Learning from the failures of the Government’s self directed support and personal budget strategy

5. Roger Green (Goldsmiths College) – What is to be Done? Universities and the voluntary and community sector working together to support working class communities: The role of research

6. Ruth Appleton (Sante Refugee Mental Health Access Project) – Refugees Welcome Here

7. Kerry Cuskelly (SWAN Ireland) – Social Welfare and Privatisation in a Globalising World

8. Simon Cardy – Alternative Social Care Futures: Racial Social Work in Practice

9. Lund University / PowerUs – Mend the Gap: a teaching method for a mobilising social work

10. Sarah Banks – In whose interest? Action research on debt in poor households on Teesside

11. Mally Chandler and Joe Greener – Atos assessments: an ethnographic exploration

12. Anya Chaika – Invisible England blog (raise awareness of Holding Therapy in the UK):

13. Tom Henri (Goldsmiths College) – The two dogmas of social work:

14. Jean Robertson-Molloy – Movement for an Adoption Apology BBC footage:


Veronica Smith – Movement for an Adoption Apology


Jean Robertson-Molloy – Movement for an Adoption Apology


Helen Jeffries – Movement for an Adoption Apology

Welfare Reform: less social policy than cynical psychological manipulation

What they are really about and what they exacerbate are the most casual kind of social stereotyping of people on benefits. This has deliberately drawn on and sought to foster public fear, loathing and ignorance. Thus the architects of these reforms, from David Cameron and Iain Duncan-Smith downwards, say that they have public support for the harsh cuts, restrictions and tests that they are imposing. ‘We’ are wheeled on to legitimate them. However, if there is some truth in this suggestion of public consensus, it is hardly surprising, given the phoney images the reformers routinely conjure up of ‘work-shy scroungers’, ‘problem families’, exploitative immigrants, irresponsible teenage mothers, malingering long term sick and disabled people. These images are then magnified and endlessly repeated by the  right wing media which now predominates in the UK and operates in unhealthy alliance with government.

However the groups who the welfare reforms are actually affecting wholesale and who are living in a growing state of terror, are groups of long term health and social care service users and their families. These are groups that few members of the public probably want to attack and who they can often identify with as neighbours and members of their own families. People with learning difficulties, long term mental health service users, people losing their jobs after being diagnosed with life-limiting illnesses and conditions, people with complex  and variable conditions, have all been finding out that these reforms are directed against them and learning  how arbitrary and unfit for purpose they are. Add to this the growing numbers of people being pushed onto benefits as business after business goes bust, full-time jobs diminish and unemployed numbers rise  For every family the tabloids attack and pillory as headline news for having ‘too many’ children or living in ‘high-cost’ housing, there are tens of thousands whose only ‘failing’ is that the labour market is either not strong enough or flexible enough to accommodate them.  

Britain’s class system, however, still seems powerful enough to mean that most of us ‘know our place’ and are still more ready to condemn people more like ourselves who are having bad times, than the over-rich bankers, cabinet members, media proprietors and other hangers-on, who have got us into the economic mess we are now in and are still amazingly profiting from it. Instead these groups have so far faced minimal statutory comeback and public disquiet has largely been ignored by our political masters. In more than one way, we really do seem to have returned to the Victorian Britain of ‘It’s the rich that gets the pleasure and the poor what gets the blame’. Fortunately, there are still vestiges of democratic structure left in the UK and we can see them at work in the petitions now being signed, the parliamentary debates demanded (and sadly often poorly attended) and the high proportion of successful appeals that continue to result from the welfare benefits review systems in operation. But sadly the full enormity of the present welfare reforms is only likely to make itself felt for most people when it actually affects them – and unfortunately, for many others, that is likely to be too late.

In the neo-liberal laboratory: Birmingham’s Children in care and Social Impact Bonds


While the options of the Victorian workhouse of making money from destitute children, from picking oakum  to selling orphan’s into apprenticeship, are not currently open to Local Councils, other and more ingenious ways of making money from 21st century vulnerable young people are in the making.

The Workhouses have closed but the cost of the ‘poor’ was and remains a political obsession, with ‘troubled families’ and ‘looked after’ children being increasingly seen as a particularly costly burden to the Council tax payer in these ‘times of austerity’.

The explicit intention of the Government’s Troubled Families Programme is to reduce the high costs these families place on the public sector each year. ‘The government is committed to working with local authorities and their partners to help 120,000 troubled families in England turn their lives around by 2015. We want to ensure the children in these families have the chance of a better life, and at the same time bring down the cost to the taxpayer.’(1)

Birmingham Council is piloting a payment by results (PbR) scheme for children entering care under the Governments Troubled Families programme, with the dual aims of cutting care costs and trialling the financing of privately provided services through Social Impact Bonds (SIBs). 9 other local authorities are involved in this national pilot. The procurement for the payment by results contract opened in the New Year with tendering due to start at the end of March.

Birmingham’s Payment by Results scheme is to be focused on the most ‘costly’ group of young people, children in care. By a recent count there were 1,937 looked after children in Birmingham. (2)
Throughout the country Local Authorities view a reduction in the number of children in their care as the key means to significantly reduce and cut their social care budgets. The previous Children’s Minister cited that there were ‘five thousand children and young people in residential care, costing £1 billion a year. This works out at an average of £200,000 per child per year.’ (3)

The aims of the Birmingham scheme are likewise to reduce the costs of children in care:

The Children in Care [CiC] Placement Budget at £71.3M is a substantial part of the budget – and as part of the Council’s budget savings plan a £6.72M saving is to be realised by maintaining control of the size of the CiC population and changing the profile of placement so that more young people are in foster care which will promote better or equal outcomes at lower cost. (4)

There are a range of opportunities for private companies to tender for, including recruiting to the pool of internal foster carers, to interventions to speed up the throughput  of some young people to get them out of care, and to provide to support children on the edge of care within their families. This initiative will potentially strengthen the already significant role that the private sector plays in the provision of residential and foster care placements to the Council.

What is new is that Birmingham’s children in care are also to be subject of an experiment in the financialisation of public services. A key component to this payment by results pilot scheme is that it is linked to finance through social impact bonds. Companies tendering should be able to access investment through SIBs.

So what are Social Impact Bonds?

‘SIBs are new funding mechanisms which were designed to address the gap in ‘working capital’ that may have prevented providers from delivering or commissioning preventative services. Most SIBs work in the following way: Investors buy bonds or other financial products in preventive programmes and the money is used to fund service delivery up front. If the provider delivering the service achieves the agreed outcomes then the bond issuer (usually a government department) repays the bond money to the investors, with interest. An intermediary will usually be in place to link commissioner, providers and investors.’ (5)

Much as Private Finance Initiatives funded by private capital, were used to re-build much of the public sector infra-structure under New Labour, this Government is exploring the means to use private capital to fund investment in social policy initiatives in the context of massive cuts in social care, Social Impact Bonds are one such initiative. Here is an evaluation of PbR by NSPCC which enthusiastically embraces the potential of SIBs:

SIBs and OBCs [Outcome-Based Contracts] therefore have the potential to provide much-needed resources for the delivery of early intervention programmes. The cost of the programmes need only be found if and when the outcomes and related cost-savings have been achieved, thus shifting risk from Government onto investors. (6)

Deploying Payments by Results funded by SIB is experimental and unproven in Children’s social care.  The success or otherwise Birmingham’s pilot will be significant for any future roll out of this approach.

Payment by results schemes are being pushed by Government Ministers across the public sector but they have a lamentable track record and limited evidence base.   The Public Affairs Committee found that Private companies providing payment by results placement’s under the Work Programme were ‘creaming and parking’ the unemployed. (7)

As a methodology of providing public services a key criticism is that they provide opportunities to Private companies  ‘game the system’,  that they reward ‘ organisations for producing data about targets; it rewards organisations for the fictions their staff are able to invent about what they have achieved; it pays people for porkies.’ (8)

While we can argue about how the outcomes for children in care are to be measured in the context of a payment by results scheme, our fundamental objection must be to oppose this further opening of the public sector and of the needs of vulnerable children to opportunities for private profit. We must also ideologically object to the definition of vulnerable young people as a costly burden on the public purse.

Public policy is being increasingly perverted and politically driven by ‘austerity’ rather than by advancing the overriding objective of promoting the welfare of all our children.



1. Taken from webpage of GOV.UK website

2. p 5. Children in Care, Payment by Results & Social Finance. Market Event  1st February 2013. Birmingham City Council

3. quoted at p30  The Shadow State – A report about outsourcing public services by Social Enterprise UK


5. p 2 NSPCC strategy unit briefing Payment by results: opportunities and challenges for improving outcomes for children

6.  ibid

7. The Third Sector online.  22nd February 2013. Public Accounts Committee calls on the government to tackle ‘creaming and parking’

8. The Guardian. 1st February 2013.  Payment by results – a ‘dangerous idiocy’ that makes staff tell lies by Toby Lowe