All posts by markr

Baby P and the image of care

The only tragedy that counts in the terrible saga of Baby P is the abuse the poor toddler suffered. People losing jobs and heads rolling pale into insignificance compared to the suffering of a human being incapable of escaping his tormentors.

The press need no excuse to lambast the care industry and in this case there has been no shortage of advice on what to do with the social work fraternity.

The desolate image of Baby P staring into a camera will become as iconic as those of Myra Hindley and Ian Huntley. This, in itself is an indictment on care because it is neither the perpetrators nor victims of abuse that should grab the visual headlines. The plaudits and column inches should focus on hundreds of thousands of carers, service users, practitioners, professionals and families involved in day-to-day delivery and receipt of creative and loving care.

We have worked with service users and practitioners in Care Images, and it has been a privilege to document the wonderful work that is going on out there. Pity we don’t hear about it more.

A time for change

Barack ObamaAt Care Images we are not political, nor are we partisan to one or other type of football team. Maybe that’s why Tim and Mark support Bolton Wanderers and Leyton Orient (respectably, not respectfully). But we have a talented photographer Joel Rivlin, who lives in Washington DC and who delivered some wonderful images of Barack Obama in pre-election rally mode (type obama into our search box). Joel has really caught Obama’s strapline of ‘change’ in his images and we wish the President elect well in his new job. Who knows, Joel may well get invited to do a shoot at the White House.

This is a time of change, and we want our images to reflect wider issues which affect policy on social care. Our strapline ‘representing the community’ is not just about the images we provide, it’s a nudge to policymakers to ensure services and provision are what people need.

Making money out of care

Heard the one about this private contractor making billions out of the NHS for computer services that don’t work? It’s a familiar tale of woe. Why, we even had our exam system for youngsters hauled over the carpet a few weeks ago. And then there’s the ongoing debate about funding for the Olympics and athletes and medal counts. On Monday September 8, I am attending the opening of a remarkable new care facility, a 72-bed care home providing general care and specialist dementia care. Nothing special about that, I know, but when you add to the mix rooms fitted out luxury hotel style with plasma TVs, a specialist gymnasium for elderly people, a cinema and wine served with dinner, then you see how these kinds of facilities have changed since I was buying care home beds for an LA around 15 years ago. And this is exactly how it should be. Care should not be seen as a second rate resource where people have to compromise. Private providers of residential/nursing care for all users, children and adults, should strive for excellence along with maximising profit. (I’m sure care home providers would come up with many different definitions of the meaning of ‘striving for excellence’).

The way I see it, provided the service strives for and reaches excellence, and offers value for money (so the care home above will be taking publicly funded clients as well as private), then there is a place for the private sector in care and publicly funded facilities. The problem is that far too often ‘excellence’ is only a buzzword for a very different reality.

I remember the days when care was in-house and where local authority middle management who ran by ideology rather than business acumen. Maybe, just maybe, in the current world of social services, where MBAs are part of the furniture, there is an argument for bringing it all back home.

The image of care

What do you think the current image of care is like? You are clearly going to get different views depending on what you read and where you read it. The day to day lives of carers, paid and unpaid, are rarely covered in the media outside the ‘trade press’ (Community Care magazine and

At we want to hear your views on care. Are you a service user receiving care, or do you provide care? Do you work in the care sector? Do you have a professional or academic interest in care?

Please tell us what you think the image of care is in the UK today. Is the way care is portrayed in brochures in your doctor’s surgery or CABs accurate? How does care look? And is the way it looks different to the reality in practice?

We’ve been ad

If you look in the jobs section of Community Care magazine you’ll see a lot of ads all, more or less, on the same theme. Come to x,y,z to work because a/ we are three-star, b/ housing is cheap, c/ no stress, just rolling fields (even if it’s for an inner city sometimes!) And the pics of children, families, disabled people are supposedly providing the background to why you should work for that authority. As a former social worker, I’m sure service users and practioners will agree that social care is not all ‘smiley, touchy, feely’. It’s often about the struggle to survive, be it through poverty, disability or a thousand other reasons. So let’s get real you design and PR agencies serving local authorities. Tell it as it is, and less of the rolling fields.

Carers; the lifeblood of the community

While we are out at the boozer, or enjoying a game of cricket, or whatever we do in our free time, spare a thought for the people who care for friends or relatives on a daily basis. These carers may well hold down full-time jobs and care at evenings or weekends or even give up jobs to care full time. Some are school students who mix caring with A-levels. They save the government hundreds of millions of pounds and are the unsung heroes of communities across the country.
We’d like a student photographer to capture these amazing people in a shoot for
Please contact us for further details.

The image of care providers

Compare the classified pages of Community Care magazine with another ‘trade’ publication and you’ll notice how different the approach to marketing the ‘products’ are. It seems to me that the care sector does not take a slick enough approach in presenting itself. Interestingly, this may be one of the few areas where the substance of the practice is actually better than the image surrounding it. That is actually good because what matters is the care that service users receive and practitioners give, rather than the hype surrounding it. But only by enhancing the hype will the rest of society begin to appreciate just how valuable a resource care really is to society.


How realistic are images that protray care in the UK? If a newspaper, magazine or design agency wants to show, for instance, the concept of an adult wit a learning disability living independently in the community, there are not many options available. The main problem is that mainstream libraries assume they know what clients want, but they do not know how to supply the right images.
We are constantly told that specialist image libraries are in volgue. But if so, how come there is so little competition to drive peices down? And how come the images do not reflect the concept of care as experienced by practitioners and service users?