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Social work on trial

Social work on trial: The Colwell inquiry and the state of welfare

Ian Butler
Mark Drakeford
Copyright Date: 2011
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  • Book Info
    Social work on trial
    Book Description:

    The public inquiry that followed the death of Maria Colwell had profound implications for the developing profession and practice of social work in the UK. This book describes the politics, professional concerns and public interest - both local and national - that surrounded the inquiry and its aftermath, and shows how the concerns of this landmark child abuse case have still failed to find a satisfactory resolution today. Social work, then and now, remains 'on trial'.

    eISBN: 978-1-84742-869-1
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-ii)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. iii-iii)
  3. Sources
    (pp. iv-iv)
  4. Acknowledgements
    (pp. v-vi)
  5. Preface
    (pp. vii-viii)
    Ian Butler and Mark Drakeford
  6. ONE The second week of January 1973 ...
    (pp. 1-18)

    The news headlines on the morning of Saturday 6 January 1973, were little brighter than the prospect of the short, misty and chilly day that lay ahead.

    In Belfast on the previous evening, two 15-year-old boys shot dead an 18-year-old as he was putting air into the tyres of his car at a service station on the Shore Road. Another 18-year-old was shot in the abdomen and thigh outside his house in Hannahstown, South Antrim. In Portadown, a grenade was thrown at a Roman Catholic priest and 10 shots were fired at a passing bus on the edge of Belfast....

  7. TWO November and December 1972 ...
    (pp. 19-58)

    Maria’s death now had to be accounted for and not just by the police and the prosecuting authorities. On the Whitehawk Estate there was anger; at first directed towards Pauline Kepple who, on release from police custody, had returned to 119 Maresfield Road. At Maria’s funeral, she had to run the ‘gauntlet of taunts’ and cries of ‘bloody murderess’ (Argus, 25 and 26 January 1973). This anger had not abated by the time of the verdict at Bill Kepple’s trial and Pauline had, briefly, to move out of the family home:

    The word “murderer” has been scrawled on her front...

  8. THREE The state of social work
    (pp. 59-90)

    This ‘right to know’ was listed by Frederic Seebohm as a persistent example of a series of what he considered to be the social ills of his time. In a speech he made at the London branch of BASW in 1977, commenting on the fate of the report he had written in 1968,The report of the Committee on Local Authority and Allied Personal Social Services, he said:

    I am still fascinated by the complex nature of society and regret that we have not got further than we have in understanding the basic causes of distress, nor found any simple...

  9. FOUR The public inquiry
    (pp. 91-128)

    We noted in Chapter Three earlier the expressed anger of the Kepples’ neighbours and their concern to find out what had happened to Maria Colwell. However, just as the mere facts of a case may not be sufficient to fuel a scandal, neither are demands for an explanation, no matter how forcefully made, necessarily sufficient to secure an inquiry. As we have argued already, for this to happen, there has to be also a clear resonance with wider social and political constituencies of interest. Those interests were to meet face to face on 18 May 1973, when the Member of...

  10. FIVE Social work on trial
    (pp. 129-160)

    The Colwell Inquiry had established early on that it was prepared to criticise ‘the contemporary standard’ of social work practice where it offended against ‘ordinary standards of social or moral concern’ or went ‘against accepted tenets of commonsense’ (DHSS, 1974a, p 45) (see p 115). Far from being an established profession that might have regarded any such criticism as an affront, on principle, we have argued in Chapter Three that social work, neither in function nor administrative form, was in any sense established within the contemporary welfare state of the early 1970s. Nonetheless, within social services departments, despite the bureaucratic...

  11. SIX Afterwards ...
    (pp. 161-192)

    If social work had been on trial during the Colwell Inquiry, the final verdict on the profession was to be delivered elsewhere and much later. In this chapter, we describe the immediate and medium-term consequences of the Maria Colwell Inquiry and begin to consider the influence it had, ephemeral and lasting, on social work in particular and the welfare state more generally. We begin with the production of the Inquiry report itself, and its immediate reception in Whitehall, focusing on the struggle that went on inside government to craft a response to the recommendations made by the Inquiry team. We...

  12. SEVEN The trial continues ...
    (pp. 193-214)

    Mrs Castle was, of course, to be profoundly disappointed in her hope that such tragedies as Colwell could be prevented in the future. It is beyond the scope of this book to describe each and every one of the notorious child deaths that have occurred since (but see Reder et al, 1993; Munro, 2004). Nor is it our intention to provide a comprehensive account of developments in social work practice or welfare policy since the 1970s that have taken place by way of response to such deaths (but see Hendrick, 1994, 2003; Butler and Drakeford, 2005). What we intend to...

  13. APPENDIX 1: Maria Colwell – synopsis
    (pp. 215-218)
  14. APPENDIX 2: Maria Colwell – a chronology
    (pp. 219-220)
  15. References
    (pp. 221-232)
  16. Index
    (pp. 233-240)
  17. Back Matter
    (pp. 241-241)