Posts By / Jonathan Parker

Final Safeguarding Adults ESRC seminar: Fusion in practice

The final seminar in our ESRC seminar series  concerning the development of legal literacy and adult safeguarding was held at the Friends’ Meeting House in London on the 11thOctober bringing together three years exploration of meanings, interpretation and learning from the implementation of the Care Act 2014. The series brought together expertise in adult safeguarding from the universities of Bournemouth, Bedford, East Anglia, Chester and led by Keele University, alongside practitioner expertise from 39 Essex Chambers and PASA-UK (Practitioner Alliance for Safeguarding Adults).

The morning session was chaired by Prof Jonathan Parker, who introduced the retired high court judge Sir Mark Hedley to begin the day by examining professional power and responsibility and the complexities of decision-specific capacity and the need for care, brought to life through a range of often heart-wrenching cases. Prof Paul Kingston (Chester) and Luke Joannou of the Royal British Legion then considered the topical area of safeguarding in the charitable sector that highlighted contemporary demands for good governance brought to the fore by recent cases involving Oxfam and Save the Children. The final session of the morning was presented by Kenny Gibson, the recently appointed head of safeguarding for NHS England. Kenny, only 120 days in post, articulated some of the changes NHS England was making to roll out understanding and improve practice in safeguarding across the workforce.

Prof Michael Preston-Shoot (Bedford) chaired the afternoon session. The Rt Hon Norman Lamb MP, the former minister who ushered through the Care Act 2014 began the afternoon, reflecting on transformative approaches to care and Winterbourne View. He was followed by Prof Jill Manthorpe (King’s College, London) who presented aspects of her research group’s work on whether or not powers of entry would be beneficial for practitioners working in adult safeguarding; a fraught and contested area of practice that raises the importance of debate in this area. Bridget Penhale (UEA) then took us back into the history of identifying elder abuse – a very recent history – showing the political twists and turns, and the ways this has added to calls for a UN Convention of the Human Rights of Older People. The afternoon was completed by Alex Ruck Keane (39 Essex Chambers) who took us back to the beginnings of the seminar programme and the elusive processes in developing adequate definitions to negotiate this complex practice milieu.

As the series drew to a close we have turned attention to sustainability, dissemination and taking forwards the learning. One of the central elements of the three years has been to raise awareness and knowledge amongst the next generation – public, professional and academic – of adult safeguarding and to identify and challenge blurred lines within society. One way of doing so has been to ensure spaces are available for students, at all levels of study. As an example of our BU fusion approach, promoting the interface of research, education and practice, final year Sociology & Criminology student, Andreas Bubier-Johnstone joined the seminar, his interests developing through the degree programme. His reflections are useful:

As a third year Sociology & Criminology student wanting to pursue a future career in Adult Safeguarding I found the seminar overall a tremendous help. On arrival I was greeted by many fantastic minds, and felt instantly welcome. All of the speakers provided me with new and, more importantly, useful information, whether it was from textbook legalities and standard protocols, to their own personal experiences; it was both fascinating, and stimulating. I found the overall diversity of the speakers, something of great interest. Being able to gauge information from different people, and perspectives was a great touch in showing different fields and how they function.

What I took away from the day simply was clarity. I knew after the seminar was over, that I really did want to pursue a career in adult safeguarding. It gave me a new founded drive, speaking to people who are developed in the field really has given me a boost, and hunger to achieve my future career goals. The people who attended the seminar were all very helpful, and provided me with information on how to further achieve my goals for the future.

Jonathan Parker and Andreas Bubier-Johnstone

BU Professor Gives Keynote in Japan

Professor Jonathan Parker was invited to present the keynote address to the Japanese Association of Social Workers conference in Okayama in July. The conference brought together Ministry of Welfare officials, key social work professional organisations and academics from every university in Japan to discuss growing professionalisation in social work in Japan and the Asia Pacific region.

Professor Parker was invited because of his long-standing association with social work in Japan resulting from translations of his best-selling books Social Work Practiceand Effective Practice Learning in Social Work, which have been consistently used in Japanese social work education over the last decade. He has also undertaken research and published with Professor Tadakazu Kumagai of Kawasaki University of Medical Welfare who was also a BU visiting professor.

Professor Parker’s keynote address warned of the ‘two-edged sword’ of professionalism and the dangers of recognition by the state, which restrict social workers’ role in resisting government prescriptions for the social control of individuals, families and groups without promoting a concomitant emphasis on human rights and social justice. Using psychoanalytic concepts, he argued that social work is an ambivalent entity in the minds of the general public and government and liable to be hated and blamed when tragedies occur whilst loved and required in times of need. Accepting this ambivalence, social workers need to take forward their resistance agenda by walking alongside those who are ostracised and marginalised.

The keynote was well received and has led to potential developments in UK-Japan funded research.

New edited book by BU academics

As a discipline and a profession, social work builds on a wide variety of methods and techniques for its practice. The broader frameworks of social work methodology guide social workers through the process of developing and creating interventions with different service users, carers and other professionals.

This book aims to provide an overview of current debates concerning social work methods and methodologies from an international perspective. It provides and enables exchanges about the variety of approaches and reflects the knowledge base for bringing social work theory into practice in different European settings and welfare contexts. It is a timely and welcome addition to the literature at a  time when European cooperation and solidarity is much needed.

Edited by Professor Spatscheck from Germany, and Professors Ashencaen Crabtree and Parker from the UK, this book comprises chapters selected from presentations held at the 17th SocNet98 International University Week at Hochschule Bremen and includes further contributions from throughout the SocNet98 network. The work includes a chapter by the editors co-authored with past BU Sociology & Social Policy students Emilie Reeks,  Dan Marsh and Ceyda Vasif.

“SocNet98 – European Network of Universities/Schools of Social Work” provides highly successful International University Weeks for social work students and academics from across Europe to learn from and share with one another. These study weeks have enriched social work education for 20 years and continue to do so.

An evening with Human Rights barrister Professor Philippe Sands

On Tuesday evening, we were most fortunate to host a talk byProfessor Philippe Sands QC, the eminent human rights barrister and Professor of Law at University College London. The evening was a collaborative event between the Westbourne Literary Festival – the ‘Book Binge’ – and the Department of Social Sciences and Social Work’s Centre for Seldom Heard Voices: Marginalisation and social integration.

The talk concerned Philippe’s Sands extraordinary book East West Street: On the origins of genocide and crimes against humanity, which is described as part detective story, legal thriller and part family history. The family connections that Sands identifies with the two Nuremberg prosecutors who developed law relating to human rights and genocide, Hersch Lauterpacht and Rafael Lemkin, are made even stronger when drawing on the close association all three have with promoting human rights and fighting crimes against humanity, connected family histories, places and education. We were reminded, importantly in our current period in history, that the development of human rights in international legislation was undertaken and promoted by the British at the Nuremberg trials. The tradition of compassion, fair play and commitment to human rights that has characterised British society was again emphasised with a warning that we must not lose it.

The talk, and the wide-ranging Q&A held afterwards, was not restricted to the book. Indeed, the consequences of Brexit, Trump’s United States, and world turmoil that allows the rise of the far Right link directly to questions of human rights, abuses of those and to crimes against humanity. Just a few days after the US, UK and French strike on Syrian targets it is not surprising that discussion turned also towards these contemporary events.

The evening was open to the public and a large crowd supported it. Attendees were transfixed by Philippe Sands’ easy yet erudite manner, and our honoured guests, the Mayor and Mayoress of Bournemouth, Councillor and Mrs Williams, were eloquent in their praise of this fascinating, challenging and most timely talk.

Professor Jonathan Parker

Challenging Disadvantage and Marginalisation

Our latest book Social Work with Disadvantaged and Marginalised People (Prof Jonathan Parker & Prof Sara Ashencaen Crabtree) is published by Sage. The work offers theoretical and practice based perspectives and insights into the complexities and importance of working with people at the margins of societies. Everyone who works with people and especially social and community workers need to understand the powers and processes that lead to disadvantage and marginalisation and to develop the knowledge, skills and values necessary to bringing about positive change and upholding social justice and human rights.

This need is reinforced in our present uncertain and insecure times. When the idea of writing this book was first mooted by our publishers we wondered what new approach could be brought to an area that seemed well trodden already in social work. What we found during the process of writing, however, was that there was a great deal to say on this hugely, perhaps fundamentally, important topic, in relation to the transition of social work as a profession operating in a society riven with inequities and divisions.

All times are ‘interesting’ for someone somewhere, but it seems a truism that we are currently living through a time of monumental and deeply uncertain transitions in the UK that will have a decisive bearing on lives and futures. Within the country we see that public services are stretched to crisis point and that public service pay caps are plunging public sector workers and many other working people into penury. We see that poverty is increasing, incomes are falling compared to rising household costs, and social welfare nets offer considerably less security than formerly.

Where then does this leave today’s social work graduates for whom amongst others, we have written this text? They are entering a beleaguered, under-funded profession and it could be said that social work is living through the ‘worst of times’, but, maybe also one of the best, to paraphrase Dickens’ novel A Tale of Two Cities. The knowledge base of social work often constructs the concept of crisis as creating the tipping point to necessary change. We would suggest that this maybe where we currently are in England, we certainly hope so. For while the slow and unedifying helter-skelter journey downwards has taken time, as will the spiralling journey upwards, this can occur and maybe must occur, for the profession to survive. If change does happen and the profession eases itself up to a standing position, bedraggled and in tatters maybe, it should also take matters into its own hands and refuse to serve as political ‘whipping boy’ any longer, in the interests of marginalised and disadvantaged individuals and families everywhere in the England and the UK as a whole. If it fails to do this then it could be that social work in England, at least, will not survive into the future as a recognisable profession that adheres to international standards and values. If such were the case, then that indeed would be counted among the greatest national tragedies of our time.

The power of Bilding!


I was lucky, and honoured, in late October to visit Vechta, Lower Saxony, to give a keynote at the Gemeinsame Werte in Europa? (Common values in Europe?) conference as part of a European-wide celebration of 30 years of Erasmus funding and exchanges. Having acted as part of a European-wide panel on the future of Erasmus – especially post-Brexit – my keynote address dealt with the challenges of ‘precarity’ for many of our citizens throughout Europe and the need for radical social action to confront the increasing insecurities, uncertainties and inequities within contemporary society. It was a plea for European solidarity and action against neoliberal atomisation and its debilitating effects on the communitas, something that resonated with the European and international audience.

Last week my colleague from Universität Vechta, Magnus Frampton, continued the dialogue begun in Germany by offering an important seminar ‘What’s in a word? Bildung and pedagogy: two German understandings of education’ which explored, amongst other things, Wilhelm von Humboldt’s legacy to education. This was important in reminding us that education specifically focusing on the requirements of the economy or business is potentially damaging to the individual. It reminds us that the human and the social is central.

So, as we contribute to developing education, meaning and society, not as a linear project of the enlightenment but as a means of cultivating the self and the social and in shaping and creating anew who we are as human beings, we need to challenge and to question, to resist and make new rather than to be moulded as economic units for those with power. Long may the potential of Erasmus offer this academic freedom!

Jonathan Parker

New edition of bestselling book for BU Professor

The fifth edition of Social Work Practice, BU professor Dr Jonathan Parker’s bestselling book, has just been published. The book takes readers through a step-by-step journey into the four main aspects of contemporary social work practice – Assessment, Planning, Intervention and Review – underpinning these in their relational contexts and stressing social justice and human rights. The book introduces readers to each process in a clear and accessible way, supporting readers to both reflect on and apply what has been learnt in practice across settings and service user groups. The book provides a theoretical foundation from which readers can explore other aspects of social work.

This new revised edition of the book introduces an ‘ethnographic approach’ to social work, fusing research, earning and practice. It focuses on the centrality of relationship and resilience, exploring these critically within the political context of contemporary social work

History and Biography in the Sociology of Welfare: The importance of student fieldwork

Sociology, as an emerging discipline, developed within the crucible of historical studies of changing lives, transforming events and a search for alternative ways to understand history. We see this in the works of such illustrious progenitors of sociology as Tocqueville, Marx, Durkheim and Weber but it has itself been marginalised, even hidden, as social, political and historical events have unfurled and a turn to biography has displaced the historical. Furthermore, historical sociology has taken something of a battering since John H Goldthorpe decried its relevance towards the end of the last century. However, it is perhaps this railing against the historical which has lent itself to a resurgence through such key figures as Barrington Moore, Charles Tilly, Theda Skocpol and Shmuel Eisenstadt amongst others. But what of its place within contemporary undergraduate sociological education?

In an attempt to introduce today’s BU undergraduates to the important interdisciplinary fusion of the social, the biographical and the historical we have developed an innovative exploration of the histories of social welfare that students take in their second year of full time study. This involves the broad study of social and political welfare initiatives through to the Poor Law, its reform and the implementation of the Welfare State, retrenchment and contemporary attacks on welfare and those who claim benefits. So what? You may say. This is similar to most programmes of study charting welfare policy. However, two specific aspects mark out this module. The first is the assessment, reported elsewhere, which requires groups to explore the experiences of characters in specific historical periods through the construction of a narrative. This allows students to enter into the social and political worlds of individuals in need of social welfare and support.

The second innovative aspect relates to the continuing strands running through our explorations – we take Richard Lachmann’s approach to historical sociology to understand how the present, and future, is contingent on the past. Throughout the course, we examine seemingly inconsequential events leading to change, and why ‘transformative’ events, such as the introduction of the British Welfare State in 1948, occur when they do. Moreover, we embed this learning in a hands-on fieldtrip to the historic market town of Sherborne. Though a visit to the historic St Johns’ (two of them) almshouses, the architecturally stunning abbey, students are exposed to the religious beginnings of charity and alms, the turn to the Parish and the body politic in dispensing poor relief and an appreciation of the overt discrimination between deserving and undeserving. Indeed, they experience that the ‘poor are always with us’ and also they are stratified in society by those with power. As one student stated:

The trip … showed us how throughout history policies have changed, yet some have remained the same as 600 years ago. It made us appreciate and value history more. We learned how the welfare state changed with time to adjust to the environment and the social conditions (war, economic state, health condition of people etc).

The students undertaking this trip have experienced the importance of an historical sociological approach to social welfare policy and application marrying this with the contemporary focus on biography and merging analytic thought, and an appreciation of the affective. This was particularly evident in discussion of the contemporary foodbank provision which religious and lay people undertake to offset some of the hardships experienced by those requiring benefits today:

I also found it interesting how the food bank is run. I think it is so lovely that the people of Sherborne deliver the food bags to the people who cannot come to collect them. I have never heard of anywhere else that does this before and think it shows just how close a community can be and that we should all work together to help each other.

This takes historical sociology into a contemporary arena in which the biographical is included, and offers the students a chance to bring in the personal and to reflect on experiences whilst acknowledging the historical and the structural:

I was really surprised to find out that there are people still living in the alms houses today! I was not expecting that. I found it really interesting how there are still so many similarities to how it was ran when it began to how it is ran now. Before the trip my understanding was that to live in the alms houses wouldn’t have been a nice experience but from the trip I was able to understand that it was actually built with the intention to help people and that is exactly what it did and still does today. I made connections with the histories of social policy and welfare when I understood that the people who came to live in the alms houses were the ‘deserving poor’.

Jonathan Parker (Department of Social Sciences and Social Work), Nezhat Habib and Bonnie Brown (students on BA Sociology and Social Policy programme)

Sherborne Abbey

Sherborne Abbey

BU Professor gives plenary at Milan conference

On Thursday BU Professor Jonathan Parker delivered a plenary address to I Convegno Internazionale ‘Social Work Education’ Innovazioni ed Esperienze Milan conference(The International Conference on Social Work Education: Innovations and experiences) in Milan, Italy. Having represented the UK higher education sector when vice chair of the Joint University Council Social Work Education Committee body and drawing on wide research, knowledge and experience of the reforms in English social work education he presented the dangers of replicating England’s changes before introducing innovations that offset some of the risks.

In an effort to ‘raise the quality’ of social work education, and to respond cynically to popular pressure, successive UK Governments, particularly in England, have imposed standards and regulatory frameworks that have curtailed the capacity of universities to educate students according to their specialist interests and research areas. Rather than focusing on pedagogy, universities have allowed employer organisations to set the agenda. They have increasingly restricted their curricula and by so doing have co-created, with various governments, a social work that is predominantly concerned with protection and safeguarding. Addressing a wide audience including the current president of the International Association of Schools of Social Work, Professor Annamaria Campanini, Jonathan Parker focused on the dangers of transferring these models and replicating them rather than promoting social justice and relational social work practice. He called for education that championed passion and joy in teaching and learning, was student-centred and actively challenged the corporate homogenisation of education. He suggested a focus on ethnographic practice in education, learning and onward into social work practice could offer a way forward and was needed.

Two other British academics, Professor Peter Beresford and Dr Pamela Trevithick, provided plenary sessions on service user involvement in education and relational skills. The conference was keen to learn about the innovations in and the problems of the English sector and to promote relationship skills and wisdom not the rigid application of standards that have crossed into higher education from the adoption of neoliberal market practices.

Jonathan Parker

BU Success in EU Horizon 2020 RISE Collaboration

A six nation collaborative EU bid, led by BU’s Sarah Hean and including Carol Bond, Jaqui Hewitt-Taylor, Sara Ashencaen Crabtree and Jonathan Parker has been successful in securing funding for a four-year project exploring meaningful, appropriate and effective ways of assisting the rehabilitation of people in prison with mental health problem. Sarah is currently completing her highly successful and prestigious Marie Curie-Sklodowska fellowship at the University of Stavangar, Norway, returning to BU in January 2017.

Reoffending is a problem in Europe and internationally. Offender rehabilitation strategies to reduce reoffending focus on limiting key risk factors (e.g. unemployment, substance misuse) which are so often mediated by the individual’s mental health. Levels of mental health are much higher in the prison population, which therefore limits the effectiveness of rehabilitation strategies.

Professionals in mental health and prison services constantly need to find new solutions to the bespoke needs of each individual offender with a mental health issue. Leaders in these services need to transform current working practices in a process of continuous quality improvement to keep up with the changing needs of the offender population, the development of new technologies and the changing landscape of service provision. However, people who have offended also need to take responsibility for their rehabilitation and play an active role in developing solutions to their own needs and challenges. In other words front line professionals, offenders and leaders need to be innovators.

This project therefore seeks collaborative and effective relational work and knowledge exchange between professionals from mental health, prison services and individual offenders. At present collaboration between prisons and mental health services is limited. New models of interagency working are required in which social innovation and collaboration processes are made explicit. In the fields of developmental work research, practice development and social innovation, there is a range of successful models of collaborative working and innovation that have had positive outcomes in other practice contexts. The methods include the ethnographic ‘change laboratory’ methods in development work research, the Ajkaer model of social innovation and collaboration based on a ‘diamond model’ of innovation already applied to working between prison officers and prisoners, Practice Development Units developed and extensively applied in the field of health and social care organizational change with a national reputation in the UK and competency based educational models focused on developing integration, collaboration and social innovation competences in the workforce. The academic members of the consortium have international reputations in the application of these models and will apply these to the rehabilitation of mentally ill offenders specifically and to the interagency working required between mental health services and prison services exploring which of these models might be most effective in transforming interagency working practices in offender rehabilitation or whether an amalgamation or hybrid model combining the strengths of these might be more appropriate.

Connecting histories of welfare

Profs Jonathan Parker and Sara Ashencaen Crabtree undertook their annual field trip to Sherborne Abbey and St Johns’ Almshouse (Yes! The apostrophe’s in the right place, it refers to two Johns.) on Monday. The trip is held for Sociology & Social Policy students studying the histories of social welfare.

This year was particularly valuable as the students are producing group narratives concerning a range of characters and scenarios from history involving research into policy, legislation and practices to contextualise their stories. Seeing at least six hundred years of active community welfare and care through the almshouses, and tracing back Sherborne’s history to the time of Alfred the Great – who initiated a precursor to the poor laws for his people – the students were able to see the lived experiences and histories written about in their own research. This was brought sharply into the present day when it was revealed that the Sherborne foodbank programme serving a population of little over 10,000 people is delivering in excess of 1,000 food parcels each year! Students gained great insight into the connecting strands of welfare at formal and informal, state and charitable/third sector levels.

Sherborne