From the vaults


 The Conservatives should take heed. This month 30 years ago, the general secretary of the then National Union of Public Employees made a strong plea for money to be pumped into public services rather being spent on facilitating tax cuts. We can guess where he would have told George Osborne to shove his inheritance tax proposals announced at the Tory Party conference.

 In October 1977, the then director of mental health charity Mind Tony Smythe suggested that every MP should mark mental health week with a visit to their local mental health hospital. Many would say his point is just as valid today. With Parliament conveniently re-opening the day after World Mental Health Day this year, I wonder how many MPs used their last day off to visit mental health services in their area?

 The new wider remits of today’s breed of adults’ social services directors would have been scoffed at by their counterparts 30 years ago if the reaction to proposals for one London director to take on responsibility for car parks and refuse collection at his council is anything to go by. Kingston’s social services director described the plan as “absurd” – a sentiment one imagines he might have echoed had he been asked to take on swimming pools, adult learning or culture.


 “The voluntary sector is not only a service provider, but a pioneer in adjusting to social change, a catalyst where statutory services are unable to deliver and an engine for policy change.” These words could have come from today’s government with its recent push for more third sector involvement in delivering public services. However, they were spoken 20 years ago by Vivien Stern, then director of rehabilitation agency Nacro, and now Baroness Stern. Yet more proof that today’s “new ideas” are often just yesterday’s old ideas regurgitated. Better luck this time!

 Some things never change. Warnings in September 1987 from the Northern Health and Social Services Board that residential care staff in Northern Ireland would continue to feel undervalued unless they were paid the same as field social workers clearly fell on deaf ears not only there but throughout the rest of the UK too.

 New Approaches to Juvenile Crime, which comprised eight organisations including the British Association of Social Workers and the then Association of Directors of Social Services, urged the government 20 years ago this month to phase out custody for juveniles. That worked then.

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