I was born and grew up in the thriving metropolis that is Coventry. This is one reason why I am fascinated by the paintings of the great George Shaw. I moved to the North West to study as a post-graduate at Manchester University.
I originally trained as a probation officer. It is so long ago that not only did trainees qualify as social workers but they were also generously sponsored by the Home Office. In the first year of my course , I received a £200 book allowance. After working as a probation officer, I was civil servant – a job I was totally unsuited for and not very good at – but I did meet Mrs. Cummins whilst working in that office. I moved back to social work and worked as a mental health social worker in Central Manchester before taking up academic posts. I joined the University in 2003 and became a Senior Lecturer in 2006. I have been the leader for both undergraduate and postgraduate social work programmes. In a move that surprised a lot of people – myself included – I was appointed the Acting Director for Social Work Education for a period last year.
My main research revolves around the experiences of people with mental health problems in the Criminal Justice system. This includes all areas of the CJS but I have focused on policing and mental illness. I argue the CJS has become, in many incidences, the default provider of mental health care. In the area of social theory, I am influenced by Wacquant’s analysis of processes of advanced marginality.and the development of the penal state analysis of the development of mental health policy has applied Jonathan Simon’s notion of “governing through crime” to the history of community care. I am currently working in two areas : the history of anti-psychiatry and social work’s response to poverty.
I have just completed a book that examines mental health issues across the CJS. This is due for publication in March 2016. I explore the way that the failure of community care policies have led to more people with mental health problems being drawn into the CJS. This is not only unjust but puts their health at greater risk. The book argues that the use of imprisonment has to be reduced and that the only way to do this is by rediscovering the principle of dignity. All those caught up in the CJS are our fellow citizens if we start from acknowledging this fundamental point then we would devise completely different responses to offending.
I am now working with colleagues, Sarah Pollock and Valerie Houghton on research that will examine the implementation of the Care Act in HMP Manchester. I am also involved in an evaluation with Kate Parkinson of a local project that is aiming to reduce the numbers of vulnerable young people who are “missing from home”.
With colleagues at MMU, I have been working on a series of papers about TV crime drama. These include discussions of the representation of stress in cop drama but also research that explored retired officers’ views. Like all right thinking people, I am slightly obsessed with the Wire – they teach a course on it at Harvard so we should do the same at Salford.
I am a reviewer for a number of journals, on the editorial board of the Journal of Adult Protection. I also write regularly for the Conversation, and the Socialcareelf and Mentalcareelf blogs. I suspect that I am best known across the School for having the clearest desk in the department and for that Elf video.
Ian Cummins, Senior Lecturer in Social Work
School of Nursing Midwifery, Social Work & Social Sciences