Book review: King Welfare

King Welfare

Martin Weinbren

Jumping Fish

ISBN 9871907219184

Novels about social work are rare, so I was keen to see how this book presented the realities of the modern profession, writes Joy Bounds. It centres on a Midlands-based child protection team and tells the story of Jake, a young social worker.

His clients include a baby whose mother may have Munchausen’s syndrome, a teenage boy unwanted by his parents and a family with multiple problems – all familiar to social workers who will enjoy the sideswipes at the bureaucracy that affects such work.

Jake’s colleagues are a mixed bunch; friendships and antagonisms flourish, as they do in all teams.

Jake’s story is a good one; at one point he becomes embroiled in a professional issue that sees him suspended. He has some personal difficulties too. But the novel has serious problems of structure and perspective. Perhaps the fact that Weinbren is a social worker leads some situations to read like case records. Jake’s colleague Lakshmi’s abuse by her boyfriend, for example, does not arouse the horror that a fully imagined character should.

Particularly unreal, I felt, was the portrayal of older people: one is a bully, one a child sexual abuser. There is much to be proud about in social work, but sadly Weinbren conveys little of that in his novel.

Joy Bounds is a retired social worker

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