It is very depressing that a worker can be suspended after
speaking out on a television documentary, and this has far-reaching
implications for the profession.
After all the scandals and inquiries, haven’t we learned
anything? At a time of increased workloads, pressures, stress, lack
of resources, budget constraints and recruitment difficulties, we
now have, to cap it all, another high-profile inquiry into the
death of a child who was clearly let down by the “system”.
And what do we get in this brave new world? A highly experienced
worker suspended for highlighting his concerns about children. So
much for the “responsibility” of the profession to blow the
whistle. Would you?
Don’t cover up problems
I was saddened to see that Brent social services intake manager,
Edward Armstrong, told the Climbie Inquiry that he closed 190 case
files because the Social Services Inspectorate was about to
Surely, if staff were walking out because of the pressure and
frustration of their workloads, an inspection would have been an
ideal way to get past the management and show the reality that case
files are piling up on desks. A neat and tidy desk does not show
the reality, so why do teams put added pressure on themselves by
going along with what the managers want the inspectorate to
With this in mind, I am totally behind Charles Faber of Cardiff
who was suspended after speaking out about the dire situation he
and his staff face because of lack of resources.
I don’t think suspension is the answer. Edward Armstrong should
be given counselling for the guilt he must be feeling (as any of us
would) and then compensation from his managers for feeling this
guilt in the first place. Charles Faber should be left to do the
work he is so desperately trying to do. I am only glad that his
budget didn’t stretch to a nice big carpet for him to sweep things
You quote an assistant manager referred to as “Mr Brown”, who
believes that the assessment form has become the tail that wags the
dog. Would that it were. The dog of service needs rejuvenating
whether by application of posterior pressure or otherwise.
For older people’s services we can apply the pressure through
the National Service Framework, intermediate care, and the single
assessments. Come out of the closet, Mr Brown, and join with your
health colleagues in taking control of the assessment process.
It is tempting to cling to forms in times of pressure. They then
become an end in themselves, contributing to neither service
commissioning nor user satisfaction. What do service users want out
But the tools are there. Person-centred care and assessment to
an appropriate depth and level of detail are the competencies
required. The article concluded with positive evidence from
children’s services. We now have the best opportunity yet to do
this for community care.
Intermediate care co-ordinator, Newham Partnership Older
The reasons for the Social Services Inspectorate finding that
most local authority work schemes are focused on people with
learning difficulties and people with mental health are fairly
obvious when you look at the analysis of employment rates for
different groups of disabled people in the Labour Force Survey.
I quote: “Employment rates vary greatly between types of
disability. They are lowest for people with mental illness and
learning disabilities.” Without wishing to downgrade the employment
needs of people with physical disability, they do not have to
suffer the same degree of stigma as people with mental health
problems and learning difficulties. They are also given a mostly
excellent service by the Employment Service, who are geared up to
provide the physical adaptations they need to work. It is to the
credit of social services departments that they put their efforts
where there is the greatest need.
Institute for Applied Health and Social Policy, King’s
Ageing and life quality
You make the point that people with learning difficulties who
are placed in residential homes for older people do not have their
quality of life taken into account. This has been the complaint of
those of us who work with, and for, older people for many
Residential care for older people is, unfortunately, very much
out of sight, out of mind. The reason I took such offence at this
article was not that it was, very legitimately, demanding better
services for people with learning difficulties, but that it
accepted the poor standards and diminished quality of life that
many older people in residential care face.
It accepted, indeed reiterated, the distressing loss associated
with moving into residential care, and talked about such homes
being suitable for the “prematurely ageing”. What does this mean?
Age is not a disease.
Many older people are forced into residential care because a
combination of increased physical (or mental) frailty, poor
housing, lack of community care services and inadequate social
networks make it impossible for them to remain safely in their own
home. They too deserve to have their quality of life taken into
Age Concern Surrey