26.5.14

Response to Professor Ray Jones article on Michael Gove's proposed privatisation agenda for Children's Social Work Services

Ok firstly Professor Jones is to be thanked for putting his thoughts on this issue with such clarity. He clearly does not labour under any illusions that private capital is anything but bad…well not even bad but…EVIL!
Capitalism, he considers is characterised by ‘venture capital’ and practically best illustrated by the usual suspects-Serco, Atos and G4S.
However I will propose that such an analysis, though passionately expressed, is far from accurate, not only in its characterisation of ‘Capital’ as corrupting and incompetent, using only such examples as will prove his own point, but that he has ignored completely any of the recent developments in social entrepeneurialism including radical and local not for profit initiatives that are changing the landscape of big, soulless, corporations running essential services in social care and health.
‘Capital’ is not inherently evil, in fact it is not inherently anything other than energy. It is how capital’s energy is directed that takes it into the landscapes of morality.
The fact is that Local Authority Children’s Services tend to mirror the very worst examples of organisations that the professor cites. They are hierarchical, top-down, command and control structures that operate on the basis of targets and performance. Staff are disempowered and overwhelmed with myriad requirements to fulfill the needs of higher management. Complaints are endemic among users. The human resource environment is oppressive and uncaring with process driven solutions to emotion based issues.
In addition the work itself is hugely demanding both emotionally and intellectually and physically.
I have always thought of social workers as heroes, finding solutions and transforming children’s life chances despite their organisations rather than because of them. Subversive heroes rather than rule-followers. Spanners in the works rather than cogs in the machine!
I strongly feel after many years as practitioner and leader in frontline services that Children’s Social Work is well overdue for a change and that may well be found in a diverse private sector subject to the disciplines of the market but inspired by up to date organisational and entrepeneurial thinking.
Think about the Integral models inspired by Ken Wilber and an Integral Social Work Practice that embraces real world models of social and human functioning celebrating that diversity and complexity. Think about visionary leaders and entrepeneurs creating new businesses and organisations that not only deliver outstanding services but are joyful places to work. Think about a business where integrity precedes profit but where profit is accounted for. Read ‘Reinventing Organizations’ by Frederic Laloux (20140) and see the examples of companies like the Patagonia Clothing Company and our own Ecotricity that are applying new models of business that privilidge and support human growth and potential.
I am not suggesting that privatisation is some great good and I share the concerns about incompetence arising from greed or plain stupidity in the examples noted. But for the future’s sake can we not get out of this constant spiral of negativity and blame that has infected Social Work for the past half century and start to embrace new models of delivering services that, in their core nature are at the root of what it is to struggle with the very nature of being human.
It was Einstein, I think who said, we cannot solve the problems of the future with the same mindset that created them.
Apologies for going on so but I guess that shows how useful your article has been Ray! I like the cat being put among the pigeons!
Best wishes,
Tony.