A guest blog post by Kate Morris, Professor of Social Work at the University of Nottingham. Kate is one of the authors of Re-imagining Child Protection: Towards humane social work with families. In this post Kate reflects on her recent visit to Aotearoa New Zealand and the similarities between politically motivated reviews of child protection services in England and NZ.
As this collection of child welfare reforms gathers momentum, what pictures are forming in people’s heads about the causes and solutions to child abuse?
The Ministerial appointment of an ‘expert panel’ to oversee the development of a ‘future CYF operating model’ supported by a ‘Detailed Business Case’ is a deeply disturbing turn for those concerned with the future of social work practice in Aotearoa / New Zealand. Statutory child protection is carried out by social workers. I am concerned by the panel composition which features no child protection social work practice expertise or experience. Most of all I am uneasy about the intent which lies behind the rhetoric of modernisation, efficiency, and the emotive panacea of a child-centred approach to practice. This intent remains obscure but as Bob Dylan once suggested, “you don’t need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows”.
In these media savvy days political pronouncements are almost always focussed on managing media. During elections media management is particularly intense with resources invested in promoting vote winning messages whilst sullying the reputation of others. Once in power, and with a respectable majority assured, governments turn to the business of pushing their real political agenda. Media management between elections includes tactics such as timing political announcements to minimise critical reaction, wrapping politically sensitive policies in good news stories, and using slippery semantics to conceal or make palatable politically controversial policies.