‘I believe in the value of social work’: launch editor looks back as Community Care turns 50

Sharmeen Ziauddin interviews the first editor of Community Care, who also happens to be the chairman of the brand's owner, publishing company the Mark Allen Group

Photo: Community Care /Jamie Hodgskin

This is the first in a series of interviews celebrating Community Care’s 50th anniversary. We will be speaking to key figures who have shaped the last 50 years in social work and those who will shape it in the years to come.

Mark Allen is the founder and chairman of the Mark Allen Group, a publishing company which employs more than 500 staff and publishes more than 100 titles, including Community Care.

Fifty years ago, the same Mark Allen, then a young journalist working in Manchester, responded to a job advert at a publishing company and became the editor of a new social care magazine.

On 3 April 1974, the first ever issue of Community Care was published. The magazine covered the gamut of social work and social care including child protection, adoption, mental health and services for disabled and older people.

To mark Community Care’s 50th anniversary, I sat down with Mark and talked to him about the origins of the magazine, the value of social work and how he nearly became a social worker himself.

Photo: Community Care/Jamie Hodgskin

The early years

Social work had always been close to Mark’s heart. Before he began his degree in social studies at Durham University, he took a gap year. During this time, he took part in many voluntary projects, including helping young people in a remand home and going to Italy on a volunteering trip.

Even at university, Mark got involved with the International Voluntary Service, where he started a group to help psychiatric patients and engaged in painting and decorating the houses of elderly people. The group amassed a 100 student volunteers.

“Social work was very much what I wanted to do but I’d become interested in writing,” he said.

Mark was soon put off from becoming a social worker by a particularly awkward interview for a social work course, which encouraged him into choosing a different career path altogether.

“I got back to Durham and that night I was so cross, I wrote my very first job application to go into journalism, and that’s how I became a journalist rather than a social worker. I’ve often regretted it, I have regretted it because I believe I have a social conscience, and I believe in the value of social work.”

The beginnings of Community Care

After a few years working as a journalist in Manchester, Mark saw a job advert looking for a team to launch a new weekly social work magazine. He applied straight away for all 11 of the editorial roles that were available and, at the end of the interviewing process, was offered the role of editor.

“[When] the job at Community Care came up, it was absolutely heaven sent as far as I was concerned,” said Mark.

A few months later, in April 1974, Community Care was launched.

Mark remained as editor for a few years and then moved on, creating the Mark Allen Group, a family-owned media company, in 1985.

In 2017, Community Care was up for sale and Mark took up the opportunity to reunite with his favourite publication.

Though the magazine closed in 2011, Community Care continues to keep social workers informed and up to date with latest and most significant developments in the profession, online, alongside a suite of products to help professionals improve their practice and careers and employers develop their workforces.

How has social work changed in 50 years?

The future of social work

About the future of social work, Mark said: “I would like to believe people will understand the value of social work.

Social workers have got enormous value that a lot of the general public does not appreciate.”

Writing a book

In 2021, Mark published his debut novel, a psychological thriller called Life Term. Mark told me the story was partly autobiographical in that the random incident of sexual abuse on a river bank that the main character endures happened to him as a young boy.

About his experience, Mark said: “Most of us in our lives have uncomfortable or bad experiences and I’d like to believe I’ve used what happened to me in a positive way. I wouldn’t change anything.

“What happened to me at the time seemed pretty awful. I had some very lonely years, it was never dealt with and I couldn’t put it into any context, but it was my life, it was my story.

“I don’t think of myself as a victim in any shape or form. Everything I’ve ever done is a direct result of my background, the drive that I’ve had, for good or for bad, the desire to be successful, the desire to help people I suppose, particularly young people, that’s all driven by my background and what happened to me.”

Mark Allen is the chairman of the Mark Allen Group, which also owns a number of titles covering children’s services, such as Children and Young People Now and Nursery World.

Photo: Community Care/Jamie Hodgskin

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