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Monday, 30 May 2016

What does Nicky Morgan have in common with the Welfare Reform Minister?

A Children's Social Worker who went under cover for a Channel 4 'Dispatches programme was asked by Community Care magazine why she decided to take part in that programme as a whistle blower.(1) (2)

Social Work Tutor: Aside from what the producers wanted, what was your aim?‘Vicky’: I am sick (as many social workers are) of people like Nicky Morgan, who has no knowledge of social work, no experience of social work, being appointed as secretary of state and then saying [effectively] “I’m going to fix social workers”, “I’m going to fix social work” and then pointing at social workers. We all know that is a false discourse. It is unhelpful, inaccurate and laden in party political bullshit.
SWT: How much do you think the issues you helped showcase are indicative of social work on a national level?‘Vicky’: The doc makers said they want to present a real picture of the difficulties in social work that social workers are having to deal with. I think to a varying degree they are shared across the country. Some local authorities are better resourced with different demographics that enable them to manage better but the story of social work is being starved of resources.
Does not the Children's Social Worker's analysis of Nicky Morgan's competence as Secretary of State for Children and Education sound very similar to the background of an investment banker as, firstly New Labour's 'welfare reform adviser' and then Conservative Welfare Reform Minister?
For in 2008 that 'welfare reform adviser' who is became Baron Freud, Conservative Welfare Reform Minister after defection and promotion to the unelected chamber, said of his appointment by Tony Blair:
"I didn't know anything about welfare at all when I started, but that may have been an advantage. I was genuinely shocked that the analysis was such a blob, nobody had come up with anything clear. In a funny way the solution was obvious [after a miraculous three weeks research and writing]."(3)
The then CEO of the Child Poverty Action Group Kate Green and others were far from favourably impressed with the investment banker's analysis of the situation and his solution. The BBC reported:
Kate Green, chief executive of the Child Poverty Action Group, said the most recent official figure for incapacity benefit fraud suggests it is below 0.5% [very different from the more than two thirds cited by Freud].
She said: ""Ministers will surely be alarmed that the man charged with major reform of the welfare system and family security rights gets basic facts wrong about benefits that he could find out in a second with a Google.

"His suitability must be under question for the task Work and Pensions Secretary James Purnell has set him."(3)

Meanwhile, Hertfordshire Council's Head of Money Advice observed:
The government’s chief welfare to work adviser, David Freud, said recently: “I worked out that it is economically rational to spend up to £62,000 on getting the average person on incapacity benefit into work somebody will see a gap in the market and make their fortune.”....
Using Freud’s calculation that the state could pay £62,000 for each of the two million plus people on incapacity benefit they put into work, it would amount to anything up to £120bn going from public funds and into the private sector in the space of three years.
As incapacity benefit costs the country £12bn a year, and claimants who move into low-paid work may still qualify for working tax credit and housing and council tax benefit, Freud’s sums do not appear to add up. All of which is rather worrying for someone with a background in merchant banking. But it certainly explains why he believes private sector firms can make their fortune from this kind of contract.
Social workers and advisers who are working with claimants going through the Pathways to Work programme need to be aware of the “payment by results” world that their client is entering. Employment is a valuable and viable target for many of the people we work with and of course, genuine help to move people nearer to finding work must be welcomed. But the work has to be suitable for the person and the person has to be suitable for work – in a contract-driven environment, those facts may get overlooked in the drive for results.(4)
Fundamentally, I would argue, the problem of these outsiders transferring into meddling with the lives of vulnerable people is that they lack the core values of the really helping professions.


  1. http://www.communitycare.co.uk/2016/05/26/dispatches-social-worker-breaks-silence-went-undercover/
  2. http://www.channel4.com/programmes/dispatches - available till 25 June
  3. http://www.communitycare.co.uk/2008/03/11/pathways-to-work-to-help-those-unfit-for-work/

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