chapter  Six
10 Pages

Maintaining agency: a therapist’s journey

WithSue Richardson

My professional journey started when I entered social work in 1966. By specializing in child care and family work, I became a de facto specialist in child abuse and protection. In 1986, I was appointed by Cleveland Social Services Department as their Child Abuse Consultant, a post created in the wake of a high profile public inquiry into the death of Jasmine Beckford (HMSO, 1985). I was given a strong political and professional mandate to tackle child abuse, and I was filled with a sense of agency. Together with the paediatricians, Marietta Higgs and Geoffrey Wyatt, I was a key figure in the 1987 Cleveland child abuse crisis, when what was then an unprecedented number of children were medically diagnosed as having suffered sexual abuse. Our efforts to bring this to attention and to protect the children precipitated a public outcry of disbelief, orchestrated by the media and one local MP, and led to the Butler-Sloss Inquiry.