The Daily Mail’s xenophobia against overseas nurses

Thanks to Tim Fenton for (a) pointing out the Daily Mail stoking bigotry against nurses who come from overseas to work in the NHS and (b) providing a link I could use that won’t boost their online advertising. Today’s Fail front page screams, “4 IN 5 NEW NURSES ON NHS WARDS ARE FOREIGN”. Filthy foreigners, coming over here, healing sick people.

As is usually the case with such Mail headlines, the report is a mix of empty assertions, half-truths and dogwhistle politics that stoke up racism.

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Shine A Light

What would Not So Big Society do without the Daily Mail? It’s the unfailing inspiration behind many articles as we take to our keyboards in umbrage at the latest affront perpetrated on our profession and especially on the vulnerable people we in our different fields all work with.

Last week they published a piece by a columnist with a long history of antagonism towards social services. It trumpeted the scandal that children are being needlessly removed from their families. It’s familiar fare but not without its dark humour.  Googleads’ faithful algorithm  pops up at the bottom with two ads for companies offering child protection training. This time, though, there’s one difference: the author may have a point.

It’s made with a numbing, naive disregard for the reality not only of professionals but also for the children and young people who desperately need help before their lives are scarred permanently and who need the best possible services. Social workers first round up children who are then corralled into care by a legion of staunch experts (sorry, that should read “experts”).  The middle-classes are now being targeted by a new weapon of unsubstantiated non-scientific jargon. You would call it neglect. Minister Tim Loughton was moved to publicly discredit the piece.

Remove the bile, invective and unsubstantiated assertions (there won’t be much left) and a key question remains: are too many children being taken into care? There is no denying the large increase in care admissions, well-documented since the tremors of the baby Peter effect caused an upsurge in care proceedings. The aftershocks are still being felt and I’m not sure this is necessarily a good thing.

At least the growing debate is breaking out of the confines of the sector into the mainstream, including the political arena. In 2010 Barnardos commissioned a report from the thinktank Demos that concluded more children should be taken into care and at an earlier age. Their CEO at the time, Martin Narey, is now the adoption czar. The influential head of Kids Company Camila Batmanghelidjh feels the state should step in. In another piece from last week, Anthony Douglas, head of CAFCASS the over-worked court social work and mediation service, argues that taking more children into care can be beneficial.

Whichever viewpoint you take, it’s imperative that this is talked about as widely as possible. As Douglas says, “These children need as strong a light as possible shone on their lives.” Yet the context of this debate has still to be established and without it, we can’t progress. The balance between the intervention of the state and the freedom of the individual in regard to child care is fundamental to every household with children. Until this is clarified, social work will flounder at the mercy of shifting tides of opinion and will not be able to protect the children who need to be safe. Never mind the controversy in the Mail or elsewhere about where the threshold lies, we need to know that a threshold exists.

The boundaries are being established not by evidence, policy or government initiative but by the reactions of local authorities to two developments: baby Peter and the cuts. As a professional this makes me profoundly uneasy. I want to know what to do, how to apply the law together with my training and expertise. This has diminished value if  the threshold for care is dictated primarily by factors that have nothing to do with these fundamentals, let alone the actual level of need.

Good social work with children and families depends upon the practitioner having a variety of solutions available in any given situation. These resources range from preventive provision in the community through to the intervention skills of the worker and different types of placement. Hold on to your hats for the revelation that every child, every family, each situation is different so the professional needs to be able to choose what method works for this child, this family at this time. Steady yourselves, there’s more. Things change over time, so different resources might be needed further own the road.

The basic premise, as with so much of good care, is obvious. The problem is, those resources at one end of the spectrum have crumbled under a quake of a different kind, the spending review. Preventative services for children and families are fast disappearing as local authorities consolidate their precious scant resources around statutory duties. Surestart, parenting groups, family centres, section 17 money, therapy – slipping through the cracks into bottomless chasms of oblivion.

Fewer resources mean that children come into care later therefore their problems are more entrenched. Also, there’s more weight given to the option of care because there are fewer alternatives. It becomes a self-fulfilling prophesy.

Then, once in care, we come across another element of the debate, the crisis in foster care as we struggle to  find enough high quality placements to address complex need.  To borrow Ermintrude’s recent remarks in regard to adult care, there isn’t a crisis in foster care. Rather, “there is a well foreseen and ignored gap in the funding and provisioning of needs in the sector.” And so care doesn’t work,. the system is failing children and we are trapped in a cycle of failure of our own making.

The Mail is the amongst the first to criticise social workers for not acting when children have been abused but this is more than the classic ‘damned if you do damned if you don’t’ bind that blights our profession. Social workers act on behalf of our society. We are public servants. If society isn’t sure what we should be doing, then neither are we and that is no good to anyone.

Those Evil Argie-Lefty-EU-Miliband-Occupy-Feminist Aggressors!

It’s Christmas Eve, so let’s have an off-topic giggle.

Yesterday, the Daily Mail published an absolutely hilarious alternative history article, supposedly looking back from 2012 when Argentina have…yes, you’ve guessed it…re-invaded the Falklands. Along the way they manage to come across every right-wing bugbear and nightmare. Our Brave Boys and *shock* Prince Harry are defeated and humiliated, not just by those dastardly Argies, but also the EU, Barack Obama, the Occupy Movement and feminists.

Ah well, it’s Christmas, so I guess they wanted to serve their readers with every bit of fear they ever wanted, and also give the rest of us a good laugh. So, let’s dive in to this “terrifyingly plausible” dystopia.

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Daily Mail Autism Sweepstake

And so the Daily Mail continues its mission to troll the entire nation…Today, they ask,

Is the changing role of women in our society behind the rise in autism in the past 30 years?

Oh well, I suppose it makes a change from vaccines.

There then follows what looks to me like a pretty flagrant misreading of a theory by Simon Baron-Cohen. The Mail’s idea is that brainy men are marrying other brainy women instead of some pretty simpering girl, and because brainy = autism, they’re producing autistic babies.  If that  sounds completely ridiculous to you, then you’ve understood it perfectly.

So, let’s have a sweepstake. What will the Daily Mail announce as the cause of autism next? The BBC? Irish travellers? People who live in Islington? Give your suggestions in the comments thread. Whoever predicts the right answer (or alternatively, whoever comes up with the funniest answer) will be declared the winner.


Caption Competition: Daily Mail and Mental Illness

Following my post yesterday on THAT awful Daily Mail article about mental illness, it looks like the Fail have at least partially responded to all the people condemning it on Twitter. They’ve removed the incredibly triggering self-harm image from the webpage.

People were condemning the article, not only for the self-harm pic, but also for having an utterly patronising and outdated view of people with mental health problems. So, naturally they’d want to replace the photo with something that avoids all those stereotypes that they’ve been accused of propagating.

Oh. That’s, erm….much better?
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Daily Fail on Mental Illness

There’s an article from yesterday’s Daily Mail that’s been causing quite a bit of discussion on Twitter, particularly from Mark Brown (editor of One in Four magazine, which I can’t recommend highly enough), Dawn Willis and Ali Quant.

Before I link to the article, I should warn people that they’ve stuck a VERY triggery self-harm photo slap bang in the middle of it. If you’re okay to handle that, the article is here.

This may have been simply due to low expectations, due to it being not only in the Daily Mail but written by Harry Phibbs, but I was actually expecting this to be a lot worse. There’s a germ of a good article in here, trying to make a decent point about the need for a balance between inpatient and community provision of mental health services. There’s other worthwhile points about how voluntary sectory agencies can do a lot to help people with mental health problems to improve their quality of life. The trouble is, even when Phibbs is making a valid observation, his language and tone is so utterly hackneyed, antiquated and downright condescending that it ruins the points he’s making. I’m referring to language such as this:
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