From the vaults: a trawl through Community Care’s archives 30/4/09

    Keith Sellick uncovers some past stories and controversies

    Thirty years ago

    A cold wind blows through our memories. It was May 1979 and Margaret Thatcher became prime minister, ushering in 18 years of Tory rule. Parallels will be drawn with today: Labour government on the way out, economic crisis and a desire for change among the electorate.

    Community Care outlined some of Thatcher’s politics, such as short, sharp shocks for young offenders, reducing income tax, eliminating waste and more law and order. A review of the major parties’ election manifestoes pointed to the lack of idealism and shared political territory between the Labour, Conservative and Liberal parties. But there still was a sense of left and right and Tory policies were on the dextral side of the spectrum.

    Shelter said the new government’s policies could be a “mixed blessing”, praising the emphasis on home ownership but was more critical of policies on private tenants.

    The Association of Directors of Social Work, the Residential Care Association and BASW said the change of government provided an opportunity to review the social work profession (as it always does).

    Others were less hopeful.

    The Child Poverty Action Group said it would be a hard time for the unemployed, whose numbers would swell to over three million, while Community Care pointed out the policies may well be used to “rob the poor to help the rich”.

    Parallels there may be, but all historical analogies are limited.

    Twenty five years ago

    The Parsloe report was published. More commonly known as the Review of Qualifying Training Practices, it focused on social work training. Many of the issues covered by the report were the same as those found in the current debate.

    There was insistence on the “vital importance of practice placements”, debate over qualifications and whether they equipped practitioners with the necessary skills and the need for a degree. It even looked at the idea of a “probationary year”, suggesting a “satisfactory year”, where a newly qualified practitioner would, on leaving college, complete a year in post before becoming fully qualified.

    However, seasoned social care professional Terry Bamford did say something in his article on the Parsloe report that would cause consternation among today’s social workers: “Social work is not an intellectual activity”, he said in his article. I suggest any of you fancying yourself as a Renaissance person contact Terry directly. Us dimwits will cower in the corner.

    Ten years ago

    Community Care was celebrating its 25th anniversary.

    The then health secretary Frank Dobson welcomed the occasion, saying: “Community Care’s breadth of field, national and local news, makes it a valuable source of information for many of my colleagues and for social care practitioners.”

    There were some attempts at crystal ball gazing from the left and the right of politics, which included predictions about the changing welfare state, multi-agency working and flexible structures but little about personalisation, which goes to show social care predictions are as reliable as economic ones.

    Here’s to the next few years.

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