Inspired mainly by people like Mark Neary, Sara Ryan and Ermintrude, I started blogging a few years ago along with Elaine James, who is a colleague I have worked with for many years now having first worked together in Halifax. I think Elaine’s writing is clever. Its insightful and provocative and links to relevant work and social work values. Her report writing at work had always intrigued me. She could make the driest of commissioning reports come alive with facts and figures but links to real people and real lives. My writing is essentially clumsy and based on my experience as a social worker. Regardless of our different styles we stuck at it and produced a few blogs for our blog site which we called Last Quango In Halifax. I still think the best thing about the blog site is the title!
I don’t think our blogs have a particular theme other than they are linked in some way to social work or social care or about human rights. I wrote a piece called Someone to Safeguard about a time as a social worker when I just didn’t get it what my job was and made a series of awful decisions that led to Elsie’s immediate unhappiness, distress and premature death. Someone asked me a few months ago if the story was a confessional. I blushed (I blush a lot) and mumbled some rubbish answer but in truth, of course it was. It was an attempt to show not only how awful the system is but how awful I am in it. Well, you try and be from a working class, Catholic background and not find that you endlessly criticise yourself or have copious flashbacks of the horror moments of your life?! But once it was out there people responded to Elsie, they loved tbe story for all its rough edges. And despite all the self loathing of a wolf in sheep’s clothing (Bragg 91) I liked that people liked it. We have gone on to blog about love, unrequited and responded to, hope and no hope.
Along the way we have met and worked with some amazing people. Ian Burgess contributed to the book (although he tells anyone who listens that he didn’t). Ian is both a colleague, he is the lead in the Mental Capacity Act where I work, and a person I have known for over twenty years. In truth I cannot begin to really explain what his relationship means to me so I wont try. We often tease him and tell him he is our MCA technocrat when he is actually without doubt the best Social Worker we have ever met – we just cant tell him that.
We have also been lucky enough to work with Mark Harvey who it feels we just found one night on Twitter and made a lifelong connection. Mark’s appetite for work, social justice and values and his utterly beautiful blogs is astounding. Working alongside him is quite exhilarating as there is nothing that he thinks is undoable. Mark is the sort of man who if you rang in on Sunday night and said ‘Mark, have you heard the revolution is starting tomorrow at 9am on Peckham High Street’ he would tell you that he’s been on it for years, he mobilised people months ago, he’s made all the banners already and every banner was done in partnership with the people he supports and there’s a link to a song that goes with it. Honestly, we are so lucky he will be co-Chief Social Worker for 12 months. And finally we met Hannah. Hannah is our big sister. Caring, funny, wise and owner of the best ever social work education known to the world. The thought of putting a book together without Hannah watching over us and helping us would have been unthinkable.
So between us we have pulled together some of our work. It includes some theory but not enough that you get a real sense we are theorists, thinking we are cleverer than we really are. There are some social work stories in there but they don’t really compare with what you might find elsewhere. There’s some case law in there and our take on it. But whether we are right or wrong about the learning we take from case law, your guess is as good as ours. There’s mention of at least one or two cats in there but no pictures and probably not enough cat talk for the insatiable appetite of the cat lovers out there. There’s a mention of rocket science but none of us are clever enough to expand on it. There are still a couple of typo’s still in there – now that, that is very us indeed! We really hope you enjoy the book. We are sorry for the Twitter saturation about it – we are blaming that on the decision to donate author profits to Stay Up Late so we want to sell as many as we can!
The book is authentically us. Its work undertaken on weekends and evenings. It is not polished. It is not clever. It is not right. But we’ve had immense fun pulling it together and we are extremely grateful for anyone who has shown any interest in it.
Oh and finally, for the social work dog lovers who have had to sit by and let the cat people dominate. The working title for the (never to be written) follow up? Snogs, Dogs and Social Work Blogs.