The tyranny of cut and paste

April 2017 - on hearing about cut and paste in McCabe case: I studied social work between 1976-1980 and one of the key, enduring skills then taught, was to prepare a customized, written record based on one’s engagement with people with complex individual and social needs; in due course, such detailed narratives became important records for informing case histories, and for use in reviews, case conferences and judicial processes, as the need arose. 

    In the decades since completing my training, I have worked as a social worker, I have also worked with social workers through my other professional roles, and continue to do so, and because of various personal matters I had direct relations with about sixteen different social workers over time. In addition, I lectured to social workers at University level, including a three-year full-time stint between 2008-11. 

    Over this period, I have seen a distinct change in the way in which this recording skill has become framed; increasingly social workers are taught to abandon the customized narrative in favour of assessment frameworks that tick-box individual need and circumstance. There is more focus on pre-established categories than on providing contextual insights. In effect, new assessment frameworks have designed out personal narrative, and individual stories stopped getting told, stopped getting heard. While I am aware that in the past too much focus on individual stories contributed, at times, to poor assessment, I believe that the essential problem then was the absence of adequate on-site training, supervision, management and governance, all of which, we are told, are now remedied. In the new, transformed arrangement however, the tyranny of cut-and-paste form-filling is taking over!    

Gentl© Barry Cullen 2018