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Support is not ‘mundane’

Proposals
for a new type of "support, time, recovery" (STR) worker in mental
health are about meeting users’ top priority needs, not relieving qualified
mental health staff of "mundane tasks" (In Focus, 6 September).

What
can be more important than providing users with the practical support and
personal time to help them recover a meaningful life? Survey after survey shows
these issues to be the top priorities for people with mental illness.

STR
workers are neither a new concept, nor to be unqualified. Thousands of people
already work in these roles in voluntary sector services, often commissioned by
social services, as well as support staff in statutory teams. The Workforce
Action Team report suggests recognising their importance, clarifying their
role, and introducing coherent training programmes for them.

Shortages
of skilled staff are such that we must make better use of specialists including
approved social workers. But this must not be a status battle, or we will have
lost the objective of better services before the start.

Let’s
have a full debate about the STR role – including the voices of your many
readers who will already be performing it.

Cliff
Prior
Chief executive
National Schizophrenia Fellowship


Show them the money

Nigel
Duerdoth (Letters, 20 September) is absolutely right to point out that new
"support, time recovery" workers could be a positive addition to a
fully trained and skilled mental health workforce.

If
the government accepts the mental health workforce action team’s
recommendations on STRs, it would be a fatal mistake to undervalue or underfund
such staff. The workforce action team estimated the need for 10,000 STR staff
in England. We conservatively estimate that this will cost £145m, which would
need to be found on top of the £329m already promised to mental health by the
government. Quite simply, will the money be there?

Simon
Lawton Smith
Head of public affairs
The Mental After Care Association

Smacks
of hypocrisy

The
announcement, commented on by Yvonne Roberts, (13 September), that Scotland may
restrict corporal punishment for children seems to herald a half-hearted
attempt to deal with an important issue.

Much
of the reporting has highlighted the threshold when a child reaches his or her
third birthday, but ignores the fact that it is illegal to assault adults. This
legislation would effectively create an age band within which physical coercion
would be acceptable.

What
is the justification for this group of people being treated differently to the
rest of the population? This legislation will highlight the absurdity of this
discrimination against a disempowered group.

Beyond
the right of parents to physically punish, there is a widely held view that
child rearing is underpinned by adults having the right to have their own way
by using physical, economic or other superior powers. Yvonne Roberts’s concerns
about the emotional intelligence of adults who hit can be extended to all who
rely on coercive measures.

The
total abolition of corporal punishment is something that is hopefully on the
way for the whole of the UK. This legislation in Scotland would be a small,
albeit equivocal step in the right direction.

Roy
Grimwood
Independent consultant and trainer
Market Drayton
Shropshire


Smacks of interference

The
Scottish executive’s proposal (News, page 8, 13 September) to ban smacking
children under the age of three and to make it illegal to hit children of any
age on the head, should be viewed with grave concern by social workers north
and south of the border.

This
proposal has little to do with the prevention of violence against children, and
a lot to do with criminalisation of parents.

Ironically,
this is the result of an ongoing crusade among professionals and organisations
who object to parents having the autonomy to exercise discipline and to punish
their children as they see fit. They like to promote the erroneous notion that
smacking equates with assault, abuse and violence.

Caring
parents who administer a smack in response to a child’s wilful defiance with
the objective of discouraging unacceptable behaviour, are certainly not
behaving violently. They are surely chastising their children reasonably.

That
campaigners cannot distinguish between discipline through smacking and
deliberate violence against children, says a lot about their prejudices and
outlook, as well as the low opinion they hold of the majority of parents and
adults. As social workers know, parental abuse of children is the exception not
the norm.

Social
workers are supposed to support parents, not police them and undermine their
increasingly fragile confidence in exercising authority.

Brid
Hehir
Health visitor user involvement co-ordinator
London


Home closures crisis

At
the National Care Homes Association (NCHA) we are clear that national
government is failing to allocate enough money to local government to fund
long-term care (News, page 5, 6 September), leading to so many home closures in
the independent sector.

Unless
the government takes action within a matter of weeks the trend is likely to
accelerate because of the imminent increase of more than 10 per cent in the
national minimum wage and the new national standards from next April, which
will carry a heavy financial burden for almost every care home in England.

Members
of the NCHA value their staff and want to be able to pay them according to
their true worth but until local government is in a position to pay a realistic
fee this will not be possible.

Nadra
Ahmed
Chairman
National Care Homes Association

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