NSPCC must focus on the front line

Independent social worker Joan Rowland says
managerialism has got the better of one leading children’s

It was with a heavy heart that I read that
NSPCC staff were angered by job losses and scrapping of local
projects (News analysis, page 18, 29 November). For the majority of
my 13 years with the NSPCC until 1998, I considered myself to be
fortunate. I was given encouragement to assist in developing
services to children and families and I received excellent
training. I was surrounded by like-minded professionals who wanted
to provide appropriate services to children in need of protection.
But that was in the beginning.

When I was first appointed there were no tiers
of management and the director operated an open-door policy.
Between the director and myself there was one regional manager. In
those days, the NSPCC was built on the strength of its front-line

By 1991, I tried to resist the disillusionment
that had begun to creep into my daily thinking. I could see growth
in the middle and senior management sectors of the organisation
while on the front line, teams were being culled. There was an
explosion of middle managers, the director became a chief
executive, and instead of having one director, eight regional
directors replaced him.

I tried to understand the management
philosophy. I cast aside my doubts that the word “protection” was
no longer appropriate within the title because such thoughts were
heresy. True there was growth in the form of a telephone helpline,
but I knew what happened to the calls from the public who requested
NSPCC intervention. They were passed on to overstretched social
services departments for investigation because that was a service
that had long since been abandoned by the NSPCC except in those
specialist areas where kudos would be gained.

The current chief executive Mary Marsh has
inherited a voluntary organisation that has lost its way over the
past 10 years. It has become more interested in its own perceived
status than the service it was set up to provide.

Like many others, I want to believe in the
strength and influence of the NSPCC in child protection services
and I look forward to witnessing future positive changes in its
strategies. Once I can see this happening, I will willingly become
a supporter again but while they continue to cull their direct
services, I do not intend to pay the salaries of their over-staffed
management tier. Money I put into their tins will be for developing
direct services to children. And I feel that I speak for the
majority of the public.

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