Community Care asks what the Social Work Taskforce’s members bring to the table and gauges outside opinion
compiled by Natalie Valios and Derren Hayes
Chair: Moira Gibb
Position: Chief executive, Camden Council.
Experience: She qualified as a social worker after a short career in teaching. After working in social services departments in Newcastle, Surrey and Ealing, Gibb went to Kensington and Chelsea in 1988. She was president of the ADSS in 2000-1 and received the CBE for services to social services in 2001.
What she brings: Camden is under no overall control so Gibb is used to dealing with political in-fighting and managing personalities.
Member: James Reilly
Position: Director of community services, Hammersmith and Fulham Council.
Experience: Has spent 12 years at the London borough, the past five running adult services (incorporating regeneration, housing and communities). He chairs the Adass older people’s committee and its London area group. He has also worked in the NHS and the voluntary sector.
What he brings: He has a broad experience of health and social care and track record in raising standards. An advocate of partnership working.
Member: Professor Sue White
Position: Professor of social work, Lancaster University.
Experience: She qualified as a social worker in 1984 and worked in council children services until moving into academia in 1995. Professor of health and social care at Huddersfield for five years before joining Lancaster in 2007.
What she brings: Well known for child protection research, White will be expected to take a broad view on the issues that have been highlighted by the recent Haringey and Doncaster cases.
Vice-chair: Bob Reitemeier
Position: Chief executive, The Children’s Society.
Experience: His career began in the early 1980s as a secondary school teacher in the Peace Corps in what was then Zaire. He has more than 20 years’ experience in the voluntary sector, mainly in Africa. Joined the The Children’s Society as operations director in 1998.
What he brings: He has said in the past that he has no qualms about criticising services and trying to change the practice of the state when necessary. His outspokenness could be refreshing.
Member: Anne Beales
Position: Director of service user involvement at mental health charity Together.
Experience: She has worked for a number of London councils as a qualified social worker. Before joining the Together charity, she was the director of the Capital Project Trust based in West Sussex. She was awarded an MBE for services to mental health in 2007.
What she brings: A self-confessed workaholic, she has been a user of mental health services so can see the issues from both sides of the fence.
Member: Richard Jones
Position: Executive director of adult and community services at Lancashire Council and vice-president of the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services.
Experience: He qualified as a social worker in 1984 and has held a range of practitioner and management posts. He has been at Lancashire since 2004.
What he brings: He once told a conference: “Sometimes we as agencies are guilty of becoming far too preoccupied with internal structures, values and processes.”
Member: Neil Wragg
Position: Chief executive, Youth at Risk.
Experience: Wragg spent five years in the military before qualifying as a social worker in 1990. He was a senior manager in charge of community development at Enfield Council before becoming Youth at Risk’s head in 1994. Awarded an MBE last year.
What he brings: A focus on crime reduction and youth offending. And innovation – anyone who develops a ballet dance project for hard to reach young people must be prepared to challenge convention.
Member: Bridgit Robb
Position: Professional officer, BASW England.
Experience: She worked in frontline practice before specialising in social work education. She was involved in developing the social work degree and its predecessor the Diploma in Social Work. She sits on the Children’s Workforce Development Council and has run training courses for academic institutes.
What she brings: Education, education, education. Her specialist training knowledge should help identify links between failures in practice and deficiencies in basic skills.
Vice-chair: Andrew Webb
Position: Corporate director, children and young people, Stockport Council.
Experience: He worked in social services since 1976, became head of children and families at Knowsley and later Cheshire.
What he brings: His head for financial matters could come in useful. But what will he make of Deidre Sanders? When talking about opening up family courts to the media he said: “If the media had a track record of responsible action we would give this whole-hearted support. But the fact is they don’t.”
Member: Kim Bromley-Derry
Position: Vice-president of the Association of Directors of Children’s Services and head of children and young people’s services, London Borough of Newham.
Experience: Previously executive director of children and young people’s services at South Tyneside Council, he worked his way up from a social worker.
What he brings: He works for the host borough for the 2012 Olympics, so he’ll understand the importance of partnership working with stakeholders.
Member: Diane Mallett
Position: Principal care manager, Barnsley Council adult services.
Experience: Mallett has 13 years’ social work experience in adult and children’s services, is a practice teacher and has undertaken the post-qualifying award in safeguarding. Her work developing self-directed support and Barnsley’s individual budget pilot probably brought her to ministers’ attention.
What she brings: As the only practising frontline social worker she’ll offer a practical perspective on the realities of doing the job.
Member: Helga Pile
Position: Unison national officer for social care.
Experience: She joined Unison in 2006 after eight years as policy officer at the GMB union. She is a trustee of Skills for Care and a member of the King’s College Independent Advisory Group on social care workforce research.
What she brings: Hardly an ardent supporter of public sector reform, Pile has in recent years criticised the government over foundation schools, personal budgets and social care pay. She is prepared to challenge established views.
Member: Deidre Sanders
Position: Agony aunt for The Sun newspaper.
Experience: None in the way of social work, but is a trained counsellor and sex therapist. Has been advising the The Sun’s readers since 1987. She has written numerous books, including Women and Depression.
What she brings: A layman’s view of social services. It will be argued that her lack of professional knowledge is offset by an interest in child protection – she is patron of the Family and Parenting Institute and The National Association for People Abused in Childhood.
Member: Maxine Wrigley
Position: National co-ordinator, A National Voice (ANV).
Experience: Wrigley is a former service user and for the past eight years has run ANV, which campaigns on behalf of looked-after children. She was awarded an MBE in 2005.
What she brings: Passion and commitment in spades. Her first-hand knowledge of how social services work – she lived in care until she was 18 – means she instinctively knows what’s important to looked-after children. Her experiences give added credibility to her views.
Member: Celia Atherton
Position: Founder and director of Research in Practice, the largest children and families research implementation project in England and Wales.
Experience: A trained social worker, she practised in several departments before joining the Family Rights Group. In 1996, she set up Research In Practice, and was awarded an OBE for services to children and families in 2007.
What she brings: Research In Practice’s research into conduct disorder should mean she can keep the taskforce in check.
Member: Sue Butcher
Position: Head of service in the children and young people’s directorate, Gloucestershire County Council.
Experience: Qualified as a social worker in 1992 and has worked her way up through the ranks at Gloucestershire, becoming head of service in April 2006.
What she brings: Butcher sits on the Gloucestershire Safeguarding Children Board. There were 40 unexpected child deaths in Gloucestershire in 2007 so she is used to dealing with crisis situations.
High hopes as the taskforce sets sail?
Sector leaders give their views
Mike Wardle, chief executive, General Social Care Council
“The taskforce has been asked to look at some of the most fundamental issues facing modern day social work. It’s vital that those facing the day-to-day realities of social work are at the forefront of this thinking and able to inform any changes that might take place. We are pleased that the membership reflects a focus on frontline practice and that people who use services are also well represented.”
Hilton Dawson, chair, National Academy for Parenting Practitioners
“There are some excellent people here with good representatives of the frontline workforce and people who have been and can speak on behalf of service users. Deidre Sanders is an inspired choice, she has a powerful engagement with people and will introduce a different angle to discussions. No doubt some organisations may feel left out but it’s good not to have a parade of ‘usual suspects’.”
Peter Beresford, chair of service user controlled organisation Shaping our Lives
“It is difficult to overstate the importance of this taskforce. That’s why the omission of any representative from an independent adult service user-controlled organisation seems so reprehensible. The inclusion of Deidre Sanders is an insult, both to social workers and the memory of Baby P. Can you imagine them daring to do this if the focus was medicine or the law?”
Duncan Macaulay, social work director at Orkney Council
“I hope the taskforce refers to Changing Lives [the 10-year vision published in 2006 for Scottish social work] because it seems a number of the issues, for example recruitment and retention, have been tackled here as well. It would have made sense to have the inspectors there. I fear the inclusion of The Sun’s agony aunt could detract from the real issues.”
Community Care coverage of the taskforce:
Published in the 5 February 2009 issue under the heading Up to the Task?