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Early Intervention: Concept, Context, Realities and Prospects – Is this the time? – By Nushra Mansuri

In some respects, the concept of early intervention is almost like the Holy Grail to social workers; many of us would dearly love to be engaged in it, recognise the merits of working upstream but in today’s world, opportunities for social workers to be involved in early intervention appear to be beyond our grasp particularly of course, in statutory social work which is so heavily prescribed and restricted in its scope that social workers have to constantly guard against becoming perfunctory.  Some have described early intervention as a luxury that social workers cannot afford to commit time to, yet, this seems to be the greatest paradox of all, given that the more we can do to intervene earlier then in many cases, this will ultimately result in some situations not reaching crisis point.   Hackney’s reclaiming social work model is surely proof of that but in spite of that the majority of other local authorities in England are not following suit.

Nevertheless, perhaps there is some light at the end of the tunnel given that we have recently had Graeme Allen’s review on early intervention  together with Dame Clare Tickell’s review of early years and of course the Munro Review which promotes early help. Early intervention could be key theme of next spending review, Cameron indicates 02/12/2011 Children and Young People Now.   I certainly would not give our Prime Minister the credit for this as it is really all about the efforts of Graeme Allen MP.  I recently attended a seminar at which Graeme Allen spoke about his vision for early intervention and I have to admit that was the first time for a long time that I had been inspired by a politician.  (I told him as much afterwards, and to his credit he took it in good humour!)  One of the urban myths that really needs debunking of course is the monolithic view of social work in England and the failure to recognise its contribution in all its forms in the third sector as well as in the statutory sector.  I worked in both the statutory and voluntary sector as a frontline social worker and found it frustrating that whilst I am convinced I got the job for a large well known children’s charity because of my social work skills, this was not necessarily recognised by the organisation in terms of promoting the profession.  I think that we need to get a lot better at shining a light on the valuable contribution social workers make working in communities in whatever form it takes.  A colleague of mine recently attended a ministerial summit which considered the role of a designated social worker in Children’s Centres so perhaps Government is  beginning to wake up a bit to our potential to make a difference.

Nevertheless, having said all of that, it is very difficult to get too carried away in the stark economic climate that presently besets us which following last week’s budget has a distinct air of gloom.  Whatever happens, I think that social workers also need to reclaim the territory of early intervention which I feel has been wrestled away from the profession progressively in the last decade or so.  (As a social worker who trained in the twentieth century I feel very passionately about this cherishing the days when we had mixed caseloads and more opportunities to do community work.  I therefore, long for the revolution espoused by Munro where bureaucracy knows its place and relationship based social work is in the ascendancy)  We need to work at a grass roots level with service users cultivating authentic partnerships and demonstrating the value added that social work knowledge, skills and values bring.  I do not think that we can afford to allow others to make the decisions about the future of social work as this has not always served the profession well as we know from past experience.  When feeling particularly hard pressed, I like to remind myself that we are part of a global profession and next year is particularly poignant on that subject given that the UN Habitat is asking the international social work community to work with them on a global agenda addressing issues such as human rights and social equality, environmental change and sustainable social development, global social transformation and social action.  Sometimes it is good to touch base with the bigger picture.  Social work is definitely about engaging with the human condition and struggle experienced by thousands upon thousands of people on a daily basis.  This requires us to energise ourselves to rise to the present challenges and come together in support.  Could 2012 be the turning point in getting back to our social work roots?  Who knows, but it’s definitely something worth fighting for.

Nushra Mansuri (@BASW_UK) is the Professional Officer for BASW (British Association of Social Workers).

Topic:    Early Intervention: Concept, Context, Reality and Prospects

Date:     Tuesday, 6 December 2011

Time:    20:00 to 21:00 GMT  (15:00 to 16:00 EST)

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The debate hashtag is:  #SWSCmedia 



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