Thirty years ago
The recent furore over the high street advert that said an improved sex life could be achieved with a nasal spray (and it wasn’t to do with the size of the nose either) is nothing new. Sex has been used to sell many things, even insurance.
In 1979, Community Care wrote about the Liberty Life Assurance Company, which commissioned an “independent” psychologist to look at attitudes towards insurance. And guess what? So independent was this psychologist that he found the more successful men were with the ladies, the bigger their premiums were (snigger, snigger). Liberty Life claimed: “There is cast iron evidence that many chaps who cut a dash with the ladies effectively put a premium on their powers”. Cast iron? In that case it must be true. Of course there is no evidence of the reverse, ie if you took out a big life insurance policy you would attract more partners (we are entering Sunday night detective series territory where people are killed by their scheming spouses for life insurance).
Yet the independent psychologist could not find a similar “link” among women – maybe on average they had smaller policies.
Twenty five years ago
1984, a much feared year. TVs were filled with Orwell and “Big Brother”.
Community Care did its bit to halt the bureaucratic nightmare and set about exposing the role of the Department of Health and Social Security (DHSS) fraud teams and their big brother behaviour. A memo from the DHSS revealed how teams were bullying claimants, playing hard cop/soft cop in interviews and identifying anyone who had been on the dole for more than four months as ripe for interrogation. The DHSS also noted that the teams were isolated by fellow DHSS workers who complained that the tactics only made things worse. The memo ended with a complaint that the teams’ work suffered because too many staff were going sick on a Monday, especially after their holiday entitlement had run out. In effect, the fraud busters were defrauding their employer.
It was also the year of the Barclay report, a gentler piece of bureaucratic double speak than that of the DHSS.
In the year that we are having another social work taskforce, it’s worth noting the highlights of Barclay. The report said that central to the social work role was “planning” and “counselling”. There was consideration of generic or specialist practice plus a warning that “a community approach is not cheap”.
More words were published about the tasks of informal carers and formal social work practice. It prayed for professionalisation and a general council – eventually these prayers were answered. Of course, in time honoured tradition the report ended with a call to “set up a working group” to analyse field and residential social work.
These themes have been with us ever since. The next taskforce will no doubt also feature planning, phrases such as “a community approach is not cheap” and a call for a working group to be set up.
Not so much Big Brother as Groundhog Day.
Twenty years ago
Backchat likes to see itself as keeping the flame of highbrow culture and learning alight, like the last Romans in Britain after the legions had left, groping through the ruins of Bath’s baths. So it gives me great pleasure to recount an interview with the late John Kenneth Galbraith, Democrat, ambassador and economics expert, on the occasion of his delivery of the fifth Community Care lecture.
It is a fitting time to remember Galbraith as many people believe the coming year will be of 1929 proportions, a synchronised world recession plunging humanity into years of depression. His works have once again become popular, especially the Great Crash of 1929 which highlights the greed and complacency of businessmen, politicians and the media as they ignored the disaster unfolding around them (sounds familiar?).
Galbraith was highly critical of the monetarist orthodoxy then in vogue in the 1980s (ie “markets know best”). He also called for greater control of companies by society and recognised how multinationals were damaging the environment and needed regulation and control.
All very thought-provoking. What would he say if he were alive today?