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Childhood in care author helps launch trainee social worker programme

Jacqueline Walker, whose novel, “Pilgrim State,“ the name of the psychiatric hospital in New York State where her mother was forcibly sectioned, has joined an initiative launched at Brunel University, in West London, to boost social work training, this week [Jan 8]. Her memoir includes actual social work records about her case: the family returned to Jamaica, before coming to England in 1959, as a child of the Windrush generation.

Speaking at the launch, Jacqueline Walker, recalled being “in care“ as a child in the 1960s: “Certainly for me as a child, everyone was talking about 'care,' but no-one asked me what I cared about.“

Ms Walker, who is also a London community worker and a former teacher in schools for emotionally disturbed young people, joined a new social worker training committee in Brunel University, composed of those who use health and social care services, or who work in them as carers. Part of its task will be to help to develop the curriculum for trainee social workers.

The committee is co-led by Dr Lynn McDonald, Deputy Director of Brunel University's social work division.

Seven social work students been working locally, in Yeading Junior School, in Hayes, Middlesex, on placements to learn about community work to help children move from infants school into junior school.

Jacqueline Walker added: “I would like to erase the barrier between those who care and those who are cared for.“

Dr McDonald added that placing a unit of social work students in a school helped the school to respond to recent Government legislation, Every Child Matters, while also addressing the “chronic shortage of social work places“ for students who need practical experience as part of their training.

Jacqueline studied English Literature at Goldsmiths College in the 1970s, later studying black identity in literature. “Pilgrim State“ is narrated from different perspectives: by Jacqueline's mother, Dorothy, and by Jacqueline as child and as an adult. She wrote it three years ago, fulfilling a life-long ambition to write the story, after she was made redundant: getting up at 5.30am every day. She was awarded an Arts Council grant to complete the book.

“Pilgrim State“ by Jacqueline Walker will be published in April by Sceptre. Note to Editors:
For further information, contact Brunel University Press Office: 01895 265585;
Email: Dr Lynn McDonald and Jacqueline Walker (right) at the launch of a committee at Brunel University to help train social work students