From the vaults

There have been many changes in social care not least that which is close to everyone’s heart: the standard of food, drink and hospitality at conferences. Here are some of the highlights from the past 30 years

ADSS and succcessors

Woe for those who turn up at the annual ADSS conference. One scribe shudders at the memory of rubber chicken, limp sandwiches and wine reminiscent of the vat of Malmsey that killed poor old Duke of Clarence in 1478 (some unkind wag suggested he was still in it). But our correspondent particularly remembers the time about 10 years ago when the conference after-dinner speech was Derek Nimmo, the actor known for playing priests. Nimmo was less than saintly and his non-pc speech brought forth a cacophony of jeers dand catcalls.

The trick is to go to the smaller conferences. The recent Adass spring seminar won the food plaudits for one staff member. She writes: “I was most impressed with a Cheshire cheese and gammon ham toastie with onion marmalade – good size portion, filling and tasty.” But you had leave seminar’s early: “Unless you were in the first wave of delegates out of the workshops you had to pick over the remnants so I had egg mayonnaise sandwiches, which had an aroma of tuna to them as they had been squashed up too closely to the fishy offerings.”

Wine however was a good Chenin Blanc and evening entertainment a top notch blues band that played into the early hours of the morning with Liverpool director Tony Hunter getting up and singing a few numbers.


Thirty years ago, the standard of cuisine at BASW was not helping delegates digest weighty conference matters. In fact, one delegate remarked that the only good thing about the cooking was that someone else was doing it. Meanwhile, the drink was unimpressive. A delegate, known for his enthusiasm for real ale and being a top SSD bod, had to spend the conference sober because of the lack of decent ale on offer – remember this was at the start of the real ale and wine revolution. The end of conference disco featured Abba on the turntable, which led one social worker, allegedly a former go-go dancer, to say of the DJ “he must think we’re all peasants”. Harsh, but most probably true.

BASW this year impressed with good food and drink plus a disco in a gay nightclub at the end, according to our cub reporter armed with his notebook, camera and penchant for muck-raking.

Community Care events

Just to show that journalists are human, 10 years ago we had a christmas party in a church hall in central london: nibbles, guests from social care and plenty of booze. While upstairs was the Christmas get together of Alcoholics Anonymous, so we thought it wise not to invite them in.

The Community Care awards were always a fine time to see embarassments: the children’s director who was so drunk that, after putting his arm around two members of staff and trying for a christmas kiss, he slid off his chair into a stupour on the ground. Out cold, his “friends” – we know who you are – put him in a taxi to attend another drunken function.

And who can forget Jimmy Carr, the king of the awards-hosting circuit (Viz magazine used to run a Jimmy Carr photo competition of him at industry awards, the man was very busy), who was heckled a few years ago for making jokes about mental health users and gypsies.

It’s not all grim sandwiches and excruciating speeches, everyone loved Tony Robinson compering a few years back and one of our more seasoned reporters speaks well of the catering at the recent personalisation conference, which featured excellent grilled cod, side salad plus complementary tea and coffee.

So you see social care is improving.

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