Following the introduction of the Seebohm report I returned to Kingston Children’s Department in possession of certificates of qualification as both a Child Care Officer and as a Social Worker. Like Local Authority Welfare Officers and those of other similar agencies I was, in 1971, absorbed into the new Social Services Department.
I cannot imagine that it was Lord Seebohm’s intention that we should all become generic social workers overnight. The report had called for the departments to carry generic responsibility in order to improve coordination. What generally happened was that staff like me who had concentrated on children and families were to become individually responsible for older people and those suffering mental or physical ill-health or disabilities. We were led by people who had come from just one discipline. Although at Croydon I had resisted being termed a Social Worker and insisted that I would always be a Child Care Officer I soon became grateful for the foresight of Wolf Blomfield and his team who equipped me better than most who were not trained in the generic mode.
Keen to apply some of the principles I had learnt, I introduced innovations like office interviews where appropriate, thus encouraging client self motivation; respectful time keeping, and reliable appointment times. I demonstrated that if someone knew when to expect you on a home visit they would be less likely to create emergencies. Since we had no allocated office interviewing rooms I needed to be quite inventive in finding available space and keeping it private for the duration of office meetings. The Children’s Officer, John Riley, was most accommodating of this young upstart who still thought he could change the world.
It was in the joint departmental preparation meetings that I first met Giles Darvill, who remains my longest standing friend.