I googled the term ‘vicarious trauma’ – I think it means suffering from the suffering of others – ‘the cost of caring’; predictably it’s an occupational hazard for our 999 first responders, police, fire, ambulance etc. Continuous exposure to the pain and fear of survivors can manifest in two ways: either the affected worker is in a state of perpetual arousal, or the opposite; they’ll shut down – avoid thinking or talking about the upsetting events; both these states seriously impair judgement.
The publication, this week, of the distressing case review into the death of two-year old Lauren Wade, makes it clear that the extent of her neglect was obvious: squalor, starvation, lice infestation etc. This makes me wonder, yet again, how many of our front-line child protection workers are afflicted with a kind of compassion-fatigue-burnout. If I’m correct, the blame lies with agencies which employ social workers – and fail to provide regular, independent, personal supervision – where they can explore the impact of work on their professional and personal lives. In my opinion, such support/appraisal should be a non-negotiable pre-condition of deployment in the field.
More than our other ‘crisis responders’, social workers are trained to build empathic, emotionally connected relationships; but opening themselves to the pain – of often very difficult lives – makes them particularly vulnerable to what’s now called ‘vicarious trauma’. Especially with regard to child protection, they will routinely be handling hostile emotionally fraught situations. Until politicians and managers agree to fund the personal ‘supervision’ of front line caseworkers – child protection will remain unsafe.
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I’ve long been aware of the remote danger of a no deal Brexit – but now I’m reacting physically! – fight/flight has been activated – thoughts of running away. If I was young, I’d apply to renovate a derelict cottage on Ulva – off the west coast – flee the mainstream. Over the years, I’ve always felt that, underlying all political debate and conflict, there was a primary pact – to keep us all safe and ‘provisioned’. But I’m watching people now who have abandoned this – who will wilfully harm the public good; politicians whose personal ambition has them in a state of frenzy. Shopping this week, I bought some extra tinned stuff; part of me is preparing for a siege. Owen Jones thinks a General Election could be on the cards.
I have no historical enthusiasm for citizens’ assemblies nor the brainwaves of Gordon Brown – but I think the plan he proposes for how to move on Brexit has much to commend it: suspend Article 50, to allow a structured process on national consultation. This blog by Jim Gallagher on the Constitution Unit website, explains Brown’s five point plan in detail.
Throughout last year, journalist Aditya Chakrabortty travelled around the UK visiting local projects that are reviving communities, in the face of austerity and neglect: homes, transport, food, the pub, the park – local people leading. This link is to a Guardian page – which, in turn, links to full articles on twenty different projects which are pointing the way for communities.
Rightfully this week, this slot should recognise Rabbie’s birthday – but I must acknowledge the death on 17 January of Mary Oliver – whose poems have frequently ended this bulletin – Obituary from NY Times. Whilst I loved the nature/wildlife theme of her work – I also loved her attitude to being a human being.
“You do not have to be good. You do not have to walk on your knees for a hundred miles through the desert, repenting. You only have to let the soft animal of your body love what it loves. Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine. Meanwhile the world goes on. Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain are moving across the landscapes, over the prairies and the deep trees, the mountains and the rivers. Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air, are heading home again. Whoever you are, no matter how lonely, the world offers itself to your imagination, calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting – over and over announcing your place in the family of things.” Wild Geese by Mary Oliver.
The work of P4P focuses on seeking to support social enterprises and third sector organisations to better access public procurement and other contracting opportunities and, in doing so, build partnerships and consortia. This includes looking to learn from best practice elsewhere and see if successful approaches from other areas could be replicated here in Scotland. In this vein, P4P is undertaking a learning exchange to Greater Manchester to look at models being implemented in both Preston and Rochdale via their Community Wealth Building approach to local economic development – which seeks to maximise local government spend through local organisations as opposed to those from outwith the area. The visit will also inform P4P’s ongoing research into social enterprise cluster models – which is being supported by Scottish Enterprise.
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In recent weeks, this bulletin has featured the work of Joseph Stiglitz and Dr Katherine Trebeck – both of which focus on ‘wellbeing’ – and how economies must work for both ‘people and planet’. ‘Wellbeing’, itself, is a term increasingly used in relation to the work of social enterprises and, of course, all third sector organisations. It is also a term used more and more by Governments across the globe as they consider how they prioritise their budgets. This week, we feature this leaflet by the Carnegie UK Trust – ‘Wellbeing: What’s in a Word’ – which covers their work in this field over the last decade. Yesterday, in Edinburgh, Scottish Govt hosted a Public Health Reform event touching on this very theme. See full Agenda.
As the ‘corporate elite’ gathered in Davos this week – promoting, amongst other things, ‘social change’, a couple of articles from Anand Giridharadas (Winners Take All) reminds us that ‘The master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house’. One is an interview in New Statesman mag – and the other is this week’s Long Read in the Guardian.
The Social Enterprise Academy has been on the go since 2004 – and now supports around 2000 people each year through its series of programmes on leadership, entrepreneurship and social impact learning and development. The majority of their learning and development programmes are delivered by practitioners – people who have faced the challenges of running and leading social enterprises and other third sector organisations. They are now on the look-out for a new tranche of such practitioners to join their existing ‘pool’ of facilitators to help with the delivery of their programmes. If interested, see full details.
Again on the local people leading theme, this story in the National shows the difference local people can make in revitalising their community. Back in 2004, Lochgelly, in Fife, was voted the ‘Worst Place to Live in Britain’. The article charts the work of three local women, working in the community since 1998, who resolved to step up their efforts and transform their town. Their hard work was rewarded in 2016 – when Lochgelly won the title of Scotland’s Most Improved Town in the annual SURF Awards.
This week’s bulletin profiles a community enterprise, based in West Lothian, that works to promote the social, physical and economic wellbeing of the Craigshill community in Livingston. Craigsfarm Community Development Project (CFCDP) was originally established in 1967 to deliver services and projects on behalf of the local community. 40 years later, CFCDP is now host to more than 12 local organisations delivering a regular programme of community services; youth clubs and activities for all sections of the local community. In 2016, via asset transfer, the community purchased and refurbished Craigsfarm to provide a fit-for-purpose, modern facility for the whole community.