Tag Archives: social work

Ethics Alive! The Ethics of SocBots: Imagining Siri and Alexa as the Next Generation of Social Workers

Can Siri and Alexa be programmed with social work values, knowledge, critical thinking, and communication skills? Is this the “new” social worker of the future? Can SocBots learn and adapt to provide better, more ethical services?

Source: Ethics Alive! The Ethics of SocBots: Imagining Siri and Alexa as the Next Generation of Social Workers – SocialWorker.com


Vic Citarella attends a Belinda Schwehr workshop
Last week I attended a day workshop put on by Community Living Magazine led by Belinda Schwehr. It was entitled Adult Social Care Legal Developments. I had forgotten how much Belinda can pack into a day and I am not going to make any real attempt to relay the contents. If you or your organisation want to learn about social care law then Belinda must be the go to trainer.
To give a flavour here are just a few extracts from my notes before I stopped writing and concentrated on listening. You are always sure of a gargantuan handout from Belinda and note taking is superfluous. She is protective with her intellectual copyright but generous to her customers.  So here goes:
  • Legal literacy can only come from realising that every word matters. Hear here.
  • Social work is a surreal sector. Don\’t we know it – not.
  • Grey hair is good in social work. What goes round comes round.
  • It is not legally true that social services is for everybody. Its legally untrue then?
  • Providers can just stay firm and say \”no\”. If only
  • You can\’t moan about fees if you keep taking them and hide the true consequences. Easy to say.
On carers
  • Assessed eligible unmet need. It is people\’s carers who really give them choice. It is what carers are prepared to do. To work this out social workers need to be able to have grown up conversations for which they need to be legally literate. Who is doing carer\’s assessments? Anyone who provides any free support of practical or emotional use is a carer and eligible for assessment. Respite services are users services. Don\’t drive carers into assessment it is daft. Prevention makes more sense as only a few will give up. Necessary care what does it mean? There is no obligation to care. People cannot be made to care. Carers will not stop caring unless they think their loved ones will be alright.
On assessment, care planning and charging
  • Three things that would make your life better – in priority order. Simple advice for being assessed
  • People who know their rights will get more. Squeaky wheel.
  • When care is being \”mediaevalised\” then the law matters. This applies beyond care.
  • The care plan is the bedrock of the clients rights. You better believe it.
  • Outcomes-based planning without inputs gives away clients rights. Its the workers – how many, how long, how competent – that matter.
  • You can\’t charge for something you are not providing. Some will try it on though
  • Local authorities cannot charge the user more than services costs. Charging is not to be used to redistribute wealth.
  • People must not be left without support whilst a dispute is resolved. Shout it from the roof tops
  • Just because it shocks you don\’t think it will shock a judge. Shocking
  • Never say never…say usually. Words matter
  • Social services managers need to be good at the law in order to be strategic leaders. Or know someone who is?
Belinda runs regular webinars if you can\’t get to one of her workshops. Have a look at http://www.schwehroncare.co.uk/

A Major Oxymoron

Vic Citarella remembers the days before there was social care

Listening to former premier John Major sounding off about Europe on TV this week prompted a memory – one that could be completely incorrect, but nonetheless its mine. The recollection being that he was credited to be the first senior politician to publicly use the term ‘social care’ back in the 1980s. Anyway this was what was said back then amongst those promoting the standing of residential, day and domiciliary care workers. Those arguing for investment in status, training and recognition and the professionalisation of social care as distinct from social work. 

It is now 30 years since Major was Minister of State for Social Security – the most likely time when he would have made a speech about the care sector. In that time since 1986 the cause of professionalising social care has made little progress. It probably peaked with the creation of the General Social Care Council in England in 2001. The code of practice was about social care and the intent was to register domiciliary care workers straight after social workers. By the time the GSCC was closed in 2012 the idea of registering any social care workers was long buried under burgeoning bureaucracy and costs. It remains alive and flourishing in the rest of the UK.

Why is social care in retreat in England? Why did the former Social Care Association struggle with membership? Why do the one and a half million people who work in what we call social care still have low skill, low pay and low esteem standing? Listening to Major again something about his stance on Europe and the NHS made me consider the possible oxymoronic juxtaposition of the words social and care. Like, as in, was he a ‘caring Conservative’?

Consider how far social care is a truth particularly in our times of personalisation and individual care planning. Most people want their care to be private rather than social I suspect. Consider the contradictions in the need for companionship and activity alongside the need to go to the toilet, go to bed, get up, wash, dress and be fed. The one involves groups of people and the other is – or should be – just you and the care worker. Consider many people’s preference to have support rather than care.

Perhaps, with hindsight, it was a mistake to coin the term ‘social care’. Residential, day and domiciliary care had the benefit of less ambiguity, more exactness.  It still does – people know what you mean if you say you work in a care home, a children’s home or if you are a Home Help or work in a day centre. Precision in terminology can put pressure on politicians, be understood by the public and attract investment.  With that comes professional respect and standing for the practitioner.  So out with the Major minor oxymoron of social care and let’s think about the major key alternatives.

Early Parenting Lessons for Business Leaders?

Sue McGuire considers spin-off benefits of online learning

I’ve recommended FutureLearn’s free online courses before and I continue to be astounded by their quality and thoughtfulness, and so am happy to alert you to another of them. I’ve just completed the ‘Caring for Vulnerable Children’ course which is hosted by the University of Strathclyde Centre for Excellence for Looked after Children in Scotland (CELCIS).

It’s all done online and at your own pace; and what’s great about these course forums isn’t just the materials, but the opportunity to comment, reply and discuss responses with hundreds of other students from all over the globe – great for thinking and new ideas. No doubt it will be repeated if you are interested.

The first week of the course dealt with the issues of assessing of risk, vulnerability and ‘good enough parenting,’ highlighting the tensions between a ‘more traditional’ (my words) ‘community social work’ that recognises and works to address some of the structural inequalities affecting a family’s environment and the present state of affairs of a more surveillance oriented concentration on the relationship traits and deficits of the family.

The course argues that this has arisen from the many reviews that have taken place over the years from Maria Colwell to Peter Connelly, plus a growing culture of risk aversion. I would add in our sometimes scandalous media blame-culture and myth-making.

The second week was a real eye opener for me, offering a potted history of child development theory. A fantastic presentation by Dr. Laura Steckley introduced me to Bion’s concept of Containment, and it is this that has motivated me to write today. I hope I am not completely misinterpreting this often pejoratively-used word in my attempt to explain it – but know for certain I will be teaching grandmother to suck eggs at this point!

Containment theory proposes that in the course of parenting, especially in the earliest baby phase, a process happens in which the baby’s inability to manage its own needs, for food or dryness for instance, gives rise to emotions of panic and fear.

As the parent interacts with the baby to meet those physical needs, the parent also transmits an emotional response of reassurance that problems are manageable – that they can be contained. This assists the growth in understanding of the external world to the baby and a belief in the manageability of things, which enables the fear and panic response to be contained. Done well by parents this obviously has a lifelong benefit.

The theory is not only helpful in understanding and encouraging good early parenting, but can be used to help older children, young people and even adults allay tantrums, terror and troubles in later life caused by the inability to feel things are containable.

However it was a passing remark of Dr. Steckley about another application of the theory, which made me want to blog about it. She mentioned that the concepts have been subsequently applied in all sorts of relationships and settings – including education, social work and consultancy. It\’s even been applied to business.

That remark got me thinking about the many anecdotes I have heard from friends and colleagues working in all sorts of businesses and sectors, but most especially in today’s Health and Social Care sector.

Here we see a high degree of anxiety and stress at the moment; target-driven, subject to increasing competition and marketplace pressures, scrutinised by external organisations with their own targets and political pressures – it seems to me that the current management and leadership style is to hector and drive.

The theory of containment suggests a lack of rational and creative thinking, poor self-belief and inability to ‘hold things together’ which result from poor containment could be the downfall not only of the people within it but of the business/organisation itself. These are the ways of thinking that have led to the Mid-Staffs hospital crisis and the alleged doctoring of statistics to cover up poor cancer treatment performance at Colchester (which subsequently was blamed on bad management and not corruption).

Maybe it’s about time our political and sector leaders learned something from the containment model’s vision of good ‘parenting’ skills?

PS: Having finished this course am now just about to start week one of another hosted by the University of Los Andes, on the great Gabriel Garcia Marquez. Look forward to some more thoughts on leadership styles from his wonderful ‘One Hundred Years of Solitude’ – will keep you posted! 

This is the link to FutureLearn’s course: https://www.futurelearn.com/courses/vulnerable-children

Sideways Innovation

Robert Templeton of Well Street, Better Care and Health takes a sideways look at innovation

Innovation is a term widely used by government and industry, as well as in health and social care – and undoubtedly, in the run up to the General Election, all the political parties will be discussing innovative ideas and policies. Perhaps they’ll even use the reliable shorthand for the whole process, blue sky thinking, to identify the way they’ve come up with such ‘breakthroughs’.

Alas, in the real world, innovation is a lot more common that that metaphor implies. The problem; delivering its benefits is a lot more of an issue. It’s implementation of the good idea that’s the obstacle, not never having one.

But why is it so difficult to get innovative ideas to work in practice? There are perhaps three ways I’ve found to explain why ideas that look great on paper fail when implemented locally: Top down, Context and Suitability.

Top-Down Approaches 

One of the biggest roadblocks for innovation in health and social care is that the services such teams provide are for the most part funded at the national level. As a result, new ideas often first get traction centrally, which drags along an expectation that the front line will implement them. This creates a policy-to-practice gap, in which good ideas too often fall – largely because local health and social care organisations are unable to accommodate the change without significant risk.

Furthermore, without buy-in from frontline staff and service users, there is very often insufficient positive incentive to change. That’s a big reason why we see time and again new policy ideas are often short lived, too susceptible to changes in the political landscape. This ’top-down’ approach frequently leads to ‘badge engineering,’ in which services fundamentally remain the same – but are rebadged by latecomers to fit the latest policy Zeitgeist.

Is there a way out of this one? I think that taking a collaborative approach and expanding the number of people that contribute to innovation helps a lot. Innovation works best when everyone is involved with creating and implementing ideas that lead to success. A good example of this is the Think Local Act Personal (TLAP) initiative – a national partnership of more than 50 organisations committed to transforming health and care through personalisation and community-based support. The partnership spans central and local government, the NHS, the provider sector, people with care and support needs, carers and family members – and is a great case study of just what I am talking about, innovation that works.


To sell innovative ideas, it is vital to have examples of how they work in practice; for example, how a new way of working has positively changed someone’s life, or how this new approach saves money. There’s a problem, here, though; what works brilliantly in one context might not in another – and while case studies and examples definitely have a place, there is a risk in oversimplifying the narrative and ignoring the context in which the services are delivered. False impressions may get created.

This is a crushingly familiar snag with pilot schemes, which work in the context of the pilot area(s) but seem to fail when implemented nationally. Indeed, context is king when considering integration of health and social care services. As we all know, since the mid-1970s, greater health and social care integration has been the aspiration of successive UK governments. Despite this, progress has been glacial. Exceptions do exist (Torbay, North East Lincolnshire) and these examples get trotted out again and again as clear signposts to show how integration works. However, neither offer a ‘one size fits all solution’ to integration. Both areas are small and have a unique set of circumstances that led to the establishment of integrated services. This is well discussed in an evaluation of Torbay by the Kings Fund (2011), which makes the telling point that there is no ‘textbook’ to guide the process of health and social care integration because local context – especially the interplay of people, relationships and processes – are key variables.


Innovation often flourishes when money is available to groups of individuals who are organised and determined to make a difference. Short-term money for proof of concept is a good thing, but the obstacle here is deciding how such pioneering individuals and projects get supported and sustained in the long term.

An example of this is the independent social work practices for adults. In November 2010, the then-new Coalition Government announced £1m to pilot adult social work practice outside of local authorities. The outcome was six successful Social Work Practice pilots and ten Social Work Practice Pioneer Projects, all centred on people who use the services. Many involved in these projects took great personal risks by coming out of local authority employment to work for a social enterprise and there’s some real breakthrough here.

But it’s really only been in a very small scale. And the challenge for such social work practices is the same for all small innovative organisations… they may be able to prove concept – but are they sustainable in a competitive environment? Public sector procurement processes are often the stumbling block, of course. And although they can be circumvented for the purposes of a pilot, in the longer term procurement as it stands in the sector does still tend to favour larger organisations which can provide a variety of services, have economies of scale and business development functions, all of which easily outcompete smaller groups of dedicated individuals. Again a ‘one-size fits all’ approach to commissioning stifles innovation, forcing as it does an over-emphasis on winning new business above delivering great services.

Falling from a blue sky 

My point is that innovation rarely falls from a ‘blue sky.’ The best, most sustainable innovations, often come from the hearts and minds of those who work in or receive services. The trap in searching for the next centrally led ‘big innovation’ is that we miss good ideas already under our noses, I fear.

Is there an answer? Perhaps what is needed from any newly elected government is not new ideas but a strategy constructed in such a way as to foster and nurture grass roots innovation to flourish at the frontline?

That would be a Big Idea I’d vote for, don’t know about you.

Self neglect – Jackie Hodgkinson asks: when does a social worker say enough is enough?

Self neglect is a term that social workers are very familiar with. It often causes concern for both professionals and concerned neighbours and family. I can recall, within my social work career, many individuals who chose to live at home, in a condition that was considered by professionals as unacceptable. Was this their informed choice and was it in the best interests of the individuals? This depends on who you ask?

What is unacceptable? And who are we as a wider society to define how someone should or should not live, often those individuals had been what were considered as “eccentric” or “a bit different”. Using the definition of mental capacity as defined within the Mental Capacity Act 2005 would deem these individuals to have capacity to make what we may consider as unwise decision. Within society we make judgements based on how vulnerable we perceive a person to be.

Champagne lifestyle

If a young executive chose to spend their salary on a champagne lifestyle and then could not pay the bills at the end of the month would anyone pass judgement on this choice? If that person was a 79 year old man with motor neurone disease who enjoyed betting on horses and sometimes didn’t leave enough money for 3 meals a day, home care providers would instantly contact social workers with a safeguarding alert or his neighbours would be stating that he should be in a home! And asking how can we let someone live in this way.

The public expect that the adult social care department should protect all from harm and danger, regardless of the capacity of the individuals to choose how they live. Social work teams receive many phone calls from families or friends stating “it is a disgrace how you let people neglect themselves you should do something to stop it”. This implies we have the power to impose services and support on any unwilling recipient. A greater awareness of our statutory duties and the limitations of these perceived all-embracing powers is required to educate the wider public regarding when we need to intervene.

There needs to be more publicity on positive risk-taking, where social workers actively promote the human rights of the disadvantaged. We often see the potential in individual’s strengths or protective factors within them or their lives, where others see only problems.

Risk averse

In these risk-averse times, it is important to hold onto the concept of choice and respect for decision making. In my opinion as a social worker, it’s intrinsic to what social work should be about and is core to social work values. This requires a recognition at all levels of management and within wider society.

The Department of Health official definition of self neglect is the inability to understand the consequences of that failure. That definition of self-neglect excludes the individual who makes conscious and voluntary choices not to provide for him or herself. The person who denies themselves certain (accepted) basic needs as a matter of personal preference and who understands the results of that decision is ruled out.

Self-neglect implies a lack of wilful intent. Self-neglect is an act of omission. There is no perpetrator. Unlike perpetrator related abuse and neglect, self-neglect is not treated as a wrong-doing or a potential criminal act. Capacity is a highly significant factor in both understanding and intervening in situations of self-neglect. Decision-making autonomy by those who have capacity is widely recognised and respected. There is strong professional commitment to autonomy in decision making and to the importance of supporting the individual’s right to choose their own way of life, although other value positions, such as the promotion of dignity, or a duty of care, are sometimes also advanced as a rationale.

Research into self neglect

SCIE Report 46: Self-neglect and adult safeguarding: findings from research, examines the concept of self-neglect. The relationship between self-neglect and safeguarding in the UK is a difficult one, partly because the current definition of abuse specifies harmful actions by someone other than the individual at risk.

The perceptions of people who neglect themselves have not been extensively researched, but where they have, emerging themes are pride in self-sufficiency, connectedness to place and possessions and behaviour that attempts to preserve continuity of identity and control. Traumatic histories and life-changing effects are also present in individuals’ own accounts of their situation

What can we social workers take from research? Evidence demonstrates that self neglect is reported mainly as occurring in older people, although it is also associated with mental ill health in both older and younger individuals. Social workers when assessing levels of risk need to take into consideration both the inability to care for oneself as opposed to the unwillingness to self care. The other key determinant is the individual’s capacity to make the decision and understand the consequences of this action. The social work response will vary, dependent on these key risk determinants. Professionals will have a tolerance to someone who chooses to self neglect as a life style choice, perhaps that is how they have always lived. I once assessed an older person who chose to eat out of date food to save money even though they had £500.00 in the bank. Professionals, understandably, have a greater level of concern regarding those individuals who have made life style choices but due to onset of mental impairment struggle to understand the consequence of those actions.

Comprehensive risk assessments are core to all interventions. A balanced approach is required to ensure we are not foenough is enough.

cused simply on keeping people safe at all costs; all risk assessments should be person-centred, taking into consideration previous lifestyle choices. They should promote independence, choice and autonomy. They should also be reviewed regularly. Care plans should be lifestyle sustaining. Potential harm has to be balanced with potential benefit. Working in a multi disciplinary team, virtual or otherwise, enables us to gather evidence to make those decisions about when statutory intervention is required. We should check things through a mental capacity lens frequently. The profession needs to engage with the public about people’s rights, the wider duty of care and when

Jackie Hodgkinson is an independent social work practitioner and trainer

Social work goes into hospital

A couple of weeks back I was in and out of our local hospital on daily basis as my father was poorly. Learning to use the rear exit for easy access to the car park I noticed this sign which I snapped and tweeted, \’Hospital #socialwork – life in the NHS portakabin\’.

Whilst not trending as such it created two separate flurries of activity – considerably more than my normal response rate

Was it because social workers are amusingly ‘way out’ or because their offices are actually frequently located in a portakabin in the car park? Both interpretations brought about knowing chuckles from tweeters across the land.

It did strike me though that if we are to secure the benefits of integrated health and social care (as intended in the Care Bill) then social workers should be:

• located at the heart of hospitals not outside in temporary office accommodation in the car park

• included in the governance of hospitals at practice management level to advocate for patients, argue the corner of the profession and make the case for resources

• have access to the excellent support facilities of a hospital – administration, equipment and training budgets

Over the years I have been involved with hospital social workers in several major hospitals and they were always led by a ‘Principal’ grade located on site. My guess is that is no longer the case. Perhaps it would not be too ‘way out’ to reconsider professional leadership of hospital social work as one feature of the integration agenda that will help realise some of the benefits for the users of hospitals.

Let Me Know

Whatever your question the answer is the workforce. A turn of phrase oft used by the former Chief Executive of the, already lamented, Children’s Workforce Development Council gives rise to a few questions of my own.

Question: How will a 25% saving be made on social care budgets that are 80% spent on workforce costs?

Question: When policymakers say we must focus on early intervention and prevention what do they actually mean in practice?

Question: Do personalised services imply a personalised workforce?

Question: Is safeguarding becoming ‘job creation’?

Question: Why is what should be safest service (residential care) the most regulated and that which poses most potentially harmful risks (privately employed personal care arrangements)the least regulated?

Question: Should compliance inspectors at CQC and their opposite numbers at OFSTED rejoin the social care workforce?

Question: What is going on with the College of Social Work?

Any questions? There remain plenty of organisations to address them – too many some say – but sadly not one with a specific set of answers around integrated children’s services.

One thing that is certain is that, thanks to the National Minimum Dataset, we now know more about the social care workforce than ever before. Surely it is time to start using that data to start answering a few questions and stop the often devastating swings of the pendulum that see workforce initiatives follow scandals and crises – only to wither away during times of ‘other’ priorities.

The social care workforce has enough inbuilt dichotomies and paradoxes of its own – paid/unpaid, regulated/unregulated, professional/vocational, relationship/task, adults/children even life and death – to have to deal with the us and them of politics. The sooner policy makers really permit a sector-led approach to answering the workforce questions the sooner we will all secure improved benefit from the 2 million plus people working to care and support adults and children in the UK.

Guest Blog from John Burton at The Association of Care Managers: In Defiance of Compliance

A care home that is run simply to be “compliant” is unlikely to be a good place in which to live or work. Compliance is alien to the ethos, principles and good practice of the social care profession and residential social work 

Compliance, the principal tool of measurement used by the Care Quality Commission, has no place or validity in the life and work of a care home. It is a negative and submissive concept. Nothing ever grew and developed, no initiative, no advance was ever made by compliance. Compliance is static and change is dynamic. The notion of compliance could only be of use to check important but secondary technical services to the home, and such checks should be made by suitably qualified and experienced technicians. For example, the lift must be properly maintained, medication managed well and accounted for, and food stored and prepared safely, but such compliance is not the primary purpose of a care home. 
Those of us who were trained and qualified as residential workers or residential social workers – trained to practise, manage and lead – received a thorough grounding in such areas as human growth and development, loss and change, social psychology, group processes, community and institutionalisation, leadership, ethics, ageing and society, social work methods, social policy, counselling, dependency and power relationships, family and individual therapy, etc. etc. We were encouraged to enquire, to challenge, explore, and debate ideas. We thought, read, and argued. We were not taught “compliance”. Courses differed and, of course some were better than others, but I very much doubt if any residential social work course ever mentioned “compliance”.
No, I’m wrong. In the early 70s, when I did my qualifying training, the word compliance described a worrying aspect of, for example, a child whose infancy and early years had compelled them to keep their heads down and to find a way of surviving the hostile and persecutory world around them. These days, we might take compliance in an eighty-year-old resident of a care home to indicate that they may be being abused, bullied or medicated, and they had attempted to avoid further pain and humiliation by withdrawing into themselves and being “quiet”, compliant and unnoticed. “No trouble.”
“The creativity that we are studying belongs to the approach of the individual to external reality . . . Contrasted with this is a relationship with external reality which is one of compliance, the world and its details being recognised but only as something to be fitted in with or demanding adaptation. . . in a tantalising way many individuals have experienced just enough of creative living to recognise that for most of the their time they are living uncreatively, as if caught up in the creativity of someone else, or of a machine.” D.W.Winnicott, Playing and Reality.
Care homes are caught up in what the machine of CQC has created – compliance. We will break free of the constraints of compliance only if we start acting like professionals and leaders of our care communities. We must stop acting like quiet, frightened, compliant children, anxious to please by fitting in with the rules and restrictions imposed on us. We must grow up, join forces in taking responsibility for our own profession, and lead the development of care homes as highly valued local centres of care and support.
Over ten years, the national regulators have turned social care upside-down. Instead of the needs of users instigating the form and operation of care services, and those services, led by the registered managers, being designed and managed at a local level to meet those needs, the regulators have imposed their misinformed and blinkered design for care. This top-down approach has in turn spawned a new layer of quality-assurance, management and consultancy which is now seen as essential to prove to the regulators that providers are compliant. And this self-perpetuating arrangement flourishes alongside the cosy pretence of personalisation. Compliance-centred is the very opposite of “person-centred” care.
It seems extraordinary that while those at the head of this appallingly wasteful and dysfunctional system have had the advantages of sophisticated management training and mentoring, they seem incapable of understanding their part in it.
According to Paul Hoggett (University of the West of England), social work/social care professionals need the capacity . . .
  • to tolerate and contain uncertainty, ambiguity and complexity without resorting to simplistic splitting into good/bad, black/white, us/them, etc.
  • for self-authorisation, that is, the capacity to find the courage to act in situations where there is no obvious right thing to do
  • for reflexivity, that is, to take oneself as an object of inquiry and curiosity and hence to be able to suspend belief about oneself; all this as a way of sustaining a critical approach to oneself, one’s values and beliefs, one’s strengths and weaknesses, the nature of one’s power and authority, and so on
  • to contain emotions such as anger, resentment, hope and cynicism without suppressing them and hence to be both passionate and thoughtful. 
What do we think Tom Kitwood would have made of this compliance culture? Would it not fit perfectly with his description of a “malignant social psychology”? Is it not understood at any high level in Government, Department of Health or CQC that the malignant effect of compliance does not merely “filter” softly down to the way residents in care homes are treated, it is – albeit unwittingly – aimed directly at them and blights their lives.  
When senior members of CQC are cornered, and when they cannot bully their way out of the corner, they resort to the excuse that they have no choice and are merely following the orders given them by government but are short of resources, and “give us time – we’re a young organisation”. Such excuses are a betrayal of professional ethics.  
As social care professionals and leaders, registered managers must take their cue from their own professional standards. We must support each other, learn from each other, and always put our clients first.  
John Burton, ACM

In tribute to Ian Mallinson

It is now five years since Ian Mallinson passed away. I am very pleased that Janti asked me to say these few words at this Masterclass and annual Birmingham seminar where we in the SCA remember his contributions to social care. Now what to say about a unique man that some of you will have known better than me, some of you will have just heard his name and wondered, whilst others may not know of him at all.

 In these circumstances I did what many of you may do. I Googled him and in doing so I realised that this was something that Ian would have appreciated. In so doing I lighted upon the theme of what I want to say about Ian today. Although it is only five years since Ian’s death, with his illness, it is all of ten years plus since his last major publication on social care practice. For those of you that don’t know that was the 2000 Personal Care Planning in long term social care of older people – empowering service users – written with Susan McClean. As an aside, and I am getting diverted from my chosen theme here, this publication is still available from SCA and was and is ahead of what a lot of social care organisations are practicing even now.

In the preface it says “personal care planning is about workers jointly identifying needs with service users and then finding ways of meeting them. The personal support plan, defined by a named worker in conjunction with the service user, helps to provide a framework that gives a sense of clarity and focus to the activities of all involved”. I hope that says enough to give you a flavour of his work.

Now in the 10 years since that Mallinson/McClean publication Google has exploded alongside other technological advances and social media. In 2000 the information revolution and knowledge economy was just being ignited in the UK and it is only now just beginning to explode and change our world, including social care, forever. What would Ian have made of this? What would he have made of there being 5 professional Dr. Ian Mallinsons on LinkedIn, pages and pages of Ian Mallinsons on Facebook and many people with Twitter accounts who own up to being Ian Mallinson. Well I tell you what he would have loved it. You see Ian was an early adopter. Ian had a steam driven computer in the loft room where he lived and worked at Policy House in Bourneville – this was the place that most of the thinking and creation of Ian’s work for the SCA took place – before we even knew what a home computer was. He had CDs while the rest of us were still buying Vinyl and what an eclectic collection – jazz, choral, classical and rock/folk. There is no doubt in my mind that Ian would have a top of the range iPod, iPad and phone if he were around now. He would have switched to Mac no doubt about it and probably would have tackled the technical side of home computing as well.

I think Ian would be a driving force in social media and social care today. He would be promoting best practice through Twitter, running forums on LinkedIn and challenging leaders, managers and academics with a popular blog. The blogosphere was made for Ian’s knack for joining theory and practice and working alongside people on the ground to get the messages out far and wide. I think Ian would have invented a keyworker App by now that we would be debating the ethics of using and discussing how this can benefit service users and the risks be minimised. For those of you that don’t know keyworking was Ian’s middle name and as Janti said to me yesterday – you can’t get more person-centered than keyworking.

Yes Ian would have liked being googled, he would have liked that Social Care Online (SCIE) has 24 of his publications listed and that you can buy his books on Amazon. He might have even taken issue with the fact that apparently his most read book – Keyworking in Social Care – is now ranked 1,416,711 in books sold. He would have expected us all to do something about that. Ian believed in credit where credit is due, gave it and expected it in equal measure, and hated plagiarism and academic snobbery.

Those of you lucky enough to have been tutored by Ian at Bourneville College know that he would not have been fearful of social media. He would have been building it into learning and best practice, he would be using it to benefit his students and getting them to address how technology could improve quality of life for service users. He would be fighting to get a voice for people, for himself, in
the busy world of social relationships on the Internet – he would addressing the issues of communication up front. As a distinguished man he would have found a way to distinguish himself and those around him.

I have concentrated on one particular strain of thought that hopefully does justice to Ian’s memory. If you do Google Ian you can read all about his achievements in social care and other fields. In particular I would commend Joan Becks memorial piece to this event in 2007 published in SCAs magazine and available online or Natalie Valios’s item in Community Care 2000 when Ian was Association President.

However for me the inspiration in Ian was not about looking back, however valuable that maybe, but in forever looking forward and side ways as that was the type of man he was. I was lucky to have been his colleague, collaborator and conspirator for some 15 years and just thinking about what he would be doing today excites and inspires me still. He would probably be preparing an electronic wallchart of the forthcoming changes in legislation in social care – now there’s an idea worthy of Ian.

(I gave this address at the annual Ian Mallinson masterclass in September 2011)