Social care professionals will be no more
enthusiastic about some of the Prime Minister’s ideas on public
sector reform than the teachers, nurses and police officers he
considers worthy of a mention in his speeches and recent
But we must resist knee-jerk reactions.
Instead, social care professionals must help lead a debate about
how public services can focus on user needs, and ensure that focus
reaches the overstretched and understaffed front line.
To dismiss the link between pay and motivation
is simplistic and patronising, as nurses – or should that be
“angels”, doing the job for love – know well. Enhancing the link
between individual performance and salary does not necessarily mean
performance-related pay of the type which sits easily with sales
targets and productivity.
The danger of individual performance targets
in public service is that they could actually undermine sound
professional judgement. It would be a disaster to cascade the
performance assessment framework, or NHS targets, down to the
individual level. We want individuals who can make independent
decisions which challenge those targets if necessary.
But that is not to say that the issue of
rewarding performance does not need careful examination. There
should be more flexibility to reward exceptional professionals, and
those with substantial experience, extra training or particularly
challenging tasks, by enhancing their basic salaries. It is simply
not logical to deny this while insisting, as many rightly do, that
low salaries are a barrier to motivation, recruitment and
Of course, sufficient investment to achieve
the quality of care that all public sector workers want is far more
important. But even that is not everything. It is ironic that
public sector morale – particularly in social services – has hit an
all-time low despite increased investment under New Labour. The
answer to that apparent paradox may simply be the effects of
change, particularly when unremitting and over-zealously policed.
And that is a lesson Tony Blair needs to learn urgently.
Lord Carlile’s review on safeguarding children
within the NHS in Wales includes a timely call for a complete
revision of the current system.
It is right to state that ownership of child
protection policies should be regarded as a national
responsibility. Child protection is everybody’s business. It cannot
and should not be regarded as solely the responsibility of social
workers. All agencies which come into contact with children must
ensure their staff are alert to potential abuse.
The health service is crucial to the
protection of vulnerable children. Staff often come into contact
with children who would otherwise slip through the protection net.
They are crucial to safeguarding children and therefore the
government’s child protection guidance, Working Together,
must be applied to the health service, as the review advocates. The
recommendations should be speedily implemented throughout the