Bamford states ("Dare to be different", 11 October) that "the
culture of the NHS is not one of empowerment". Having both worked
previously as social workers, and now for the NHS, we would take issue with him
on one or two points.
branches of the NHS, such as health promotion, also employ the values of
"self-determination, participation and empowerment", being aware of
the links between self-esteem and the ultimate health of individuals and
communities. Such values are gaining ground within public health and are now
being seen in partnerships with local communities, such as local Sure Start
participation in planning and service delivery is growing and is well
established within primary care mental health services. We recently completed
some research into how newly formed primary care organisations are involving
the public in their decision-making. We found evidence of commitment to
establishing links with local communities and involving users and the wider
public in the planning process. We interviewed nurses, GPs and other board
do see traditional paternalistic attitudes and values as barriers to effective
public involvement. They also see constraints in the current pace of change
within health and its accompanying pressures on health-care workers, and in a
shortage of the appropriate knowledge and skills. Some have recognised that
social services have experience and expertise in how to effectively engage
individuals, groups and communities. These are seen in a positive light and
some are beginning to work together to utilise this experience.
Irving and Mick Bond
North Derbyshire Health Authority
No help from Unison….
was very interested to read the letter from Dave Draycott, Unison senior shop
steward (18 October), recognising invaluable work undertaken by the union at a
local branch level. I am an education social worker with a local authority and
my experience could not have been more different.
authority where I work has a lease car contract with its staff that is
punitive, oppressive and discriminatory. A period of serious illness during the
term of the contract is punished, after six months, by the usual halving of
salary, but also by the doubling of employee contributions to the car leasing
my case, already being a part-time worker and thus with the prospect of quarter
pay, I calculated that my reduced salary would just about cover my new lease
payments, although it might be necessary to add a small contribution from my
savings to enable me to stay in the employ of the council.
had suffered heart failure and had eased back into work after eight months, to
be met with the demand for £303 in "fines" for being ill for so long.
I took myself to the local Unison branch union office and said that this
contract was discriminating against those who had no control over their level
of sickness. It was nothing more than a tax on the sick and must be challenged.
was met with a total lack of interest, understanding and empathy. When I
complained about the contract, the response was: "Well, you signed it
didn’t you?" followed by "don’t know what you’re upset about, you
were going to leave last year anyway." A true statement, prior to
renegotiation, but massively irrelevant.
the national union is even less helpful than this, then trades unionism will be
dead in 10 years.
….and little ambition
I have to disagree with Dave Draycott’s view (Letters, 18 October) that social
workers need to be in Unison.
a senior shop steward for public sector union Nupe in the 1980s, I campaigned
against our absorption into the "National Association", arguing that
branches would lose their distinctive social services focus as part of a
one-size-fits-all local government trade union.
recently, working within the NHS I have become increasingly conscious of how
our profession is under-represented and unrecognised compared with the power
and influence wielded by the royal colleges within both health and social care
contrast to the medical professional bodies, Unison has neither the need (I am
afraid there are not enough social workers) nor the imperative (social workers
are neither on the blue collar cutting edge nor are they on the receiving end
of substantial government largesse) to consider the needs of social work as a
profession or its practitioners as individuals.
fact, Nalgo and its successor Unison have shown that their commitment is to the
majority "local government" worker with a consequent levelling down
of ambition, whether you are a social worker or a typist.
do not mean this in an elitist sense. I am quite prepared to support action to
support other workers, but if we are going to improve the quality of social
work we have to focus specifically on the conditions of work for social
workers, and this means status as well as pay!
achieve this we need a professional body as well as a trade union. As a
republican I may baulk at having a royal college, but we must move away from a
situation where the interests and views of the social work profession are,
allegedly, represented by elite groups such as the Association of Directors of
interests need to be represented by professional bodies that are able to
contribute knowledgeably to social policy as well as to the development of our
profession and ultimately to the improvement of services for our clients.
is the time for all social workers to come to the aid of the professional. We
can keep our trade union and our principles, but we need to grow up now and
enter the real political world, both for ourselves and for our clients.
Trent Children’s Task Force