Philosophy and Influences

I believe in working quickly - not because I care about government timescales (I don't) but because it's the right thing to do for children. If a child is suffering harm, I don't want to leave them suffering. If a child's future is uncertain, I don't want them to remain in limbo.

Timescales are flawed because they are arbitrary and because they make things take longer (if you give someone a deadline, they will work to the deadline). Timeliness, on the other hand, is vital.

Working quickly isn't the same as 'rushing': people 'rush' when they've left things late and are panicking to finish work at the last minute. Working comprehensively, analytically and quickly means never needing to rush - when I finish a report weeks ahead of schedule, and then realise it could be improved, then I can improve it without having to watch the clock.

I am a methodical practitioner taking a systems theory approach to my work. My inspirations include Jake Chapman, John Rawls, Andrew Turnell, Eileen Munro, Gary Klein, Michael Power and Peter Reder.

I believe that social work suffers a fixation with 'audit culture'. I believe that 'doing things right' is not the same as 'doing the right thing'. I believe that a positive 'output' is not the same as a positive 'outcome'.

I believe that a top-down New Public Management style can encourage good record-keeping and following processes, but that recording everything we've done, and following a rigid procedure, is not the same as doing something well. Local Authorities, like all organisations, need to be accountable, but should be assessed on their professional judgement, not their inflexible adherence to process or dogma.

This isn't an argument against processes, but an argument for much more intelligent processes that recognise the inherent complexity involved in protecting children from harm. What policy-makers see as a flow-chart is, in reality, a raging torrent with the occasional whirlpool...

I take a holistic approach to the job: if someone is in poor health, their work will suffer. I am (to my knowledge) the first social work lecturer to emphasise the importance of diet and exercise alongside more well-established skills such as reflection, analysis, and empathy.

I dislike the 'presenteeism' rife in western corporate culture, which has infected the public sector: we place too much value on how many hours someone works and not enough on both the quantity and quality of work done. While some roles (eg on a duty desk) require attendance for specific hours, most practice should be focussed on doing something well rather than spending unhealthy numbers of hours doing it. This doesn't mean cutting corners: the most efficient workers, in my experience, are also the ones spending most time with children and families. Efficiency means spending less time in the office, particularly on duplicating tasks, and more time face to face, working with people.

My holistic approach to social work also focusses on attitudes and motivation: I have long believed (and seen) that a social worker with limited skills, but a caring attitude to the job and a genuine desire to improve their practice and do good work, can become a much better worker than someone who starts out with more skills but lacks motivation or empathy. The skills and knowledge are important, but they are more likely to improve if the attitude is there. I therefore emphasise:

as the basis of good social work practice. In my mentoring and training, I explore what each of these mean and how to develop and maintain them in practice settings.