Botched consultation

Your title of “Beauty or beast” for the
article about the launch of the National Care Standards Commission
was indeed apt (page 28, 21 March).

The NCSC provides the opportunity to promote
high standards in social care. However, there is also the spectre
of heavy bureaucracy drowning those aspirations.

Anne Parker stated that the NCSC will draw
“regulatory absurdities” to the attention of government. It is
unfortunate that there are absurdities in the regulations because
it adds to the task of the NCSC. It is also galling for those
agencies that highlighted these problems during the consultation
phase and during the passage of the bill only to see their comments
ignored in the drafting of the legislation It would have been a
better start if the consultation phase had been effective.
Barnardo’s experience is that the opportunity to create legislation
that works for all providers was lost at that stage and that leaves
a legacy of problems to be sorted out over the next few years.

Barnardo’s and others said in the consultation
phase that this legislation was not suited to the nature and
structure of national voluntary organisations. Those comments have
not been heeded and we are now faced with a system that will
require considerable revision to deliver the improved standards
that the commission was set up to achieve.

It is also a costly service with the fee
structure proving particularly expensive for voluntary
organisations. For example, we face the possibility that some of
Barnardo’s senior managers could have to pay the registration fee
several times where they are responsible for line-managing several
services that require registration in their own right.

The role of children’s rights director is
another area where it is important that there should not be a delay
in implementation. The children who will be better safeguarded by
the exercise of the functions attributed to this role do not
deserve to have to wait for a bureaucratic system to be smoothed

Liz Garrett
Head of policy

Think about abortion

Your issue of 21 March contained articles by
Bob Holman (Perspectives) and Yvonne Roberts on the subjects
“culture of violence” and teenage abortion.

I wish to challenge people to consider whether
or not unborn children are human beings. If you conclude that they
are not human then violence towards them may be justified for
whatever reason. However, you are more likely to be convinced that
they are indeed unique, sentient human beings like the rest of

People who are deeply concerned about abortion
are not necessarily right wing. I am driven to respond to the issue
of abortion because I see it as violence against children and
indirectly against women and men; how can people not be hurt by
this course of action? If you reach the conclusion that unborn
children are human beings then surely this is the ultimate child
protection issue, whatever your political stance.

Paul Langford

Users offer best value

Marian Allen and Alyson Morley’s articles on
Best Value reviews (“Benefits of bean counters”, page 34, 14 March
and “Performing for whom?”, page 36) mention the involvement of
service users in consultation and the accountability of the review
process to the public.

Long-term users of community care services are
key stakeholders in the process and have the expertise to play a
much more active part in carrying them out.

With the help of a research grant from the
Joseph Rowntree Trust a group of service users in Wiltshire have
demonstrated the effectiveness of completing a user-led Best Value
review. The service users reviewed the direct payments process,
about which they had particular expertise. After reviewing in depth
the whole service under the areas of assessment and care
management, support service, internal finance and administrative
systems and general policy issues, we presented the Best Value
report to the council. The subsequent action plan was jointly
developed and it was agreed that the project group should monitor
its implementation.

The service users found the experience
positive. At first the bureaucratic processes and timetable
disheartened them but as the project developed their confidence
grew and they felt valued for their work. The council welcomed the
review and made it available on its web site at


The experience of the project group underlines
the point that service users are entitled to more say in the
process than mere consultation as the passive users of

Clare Evans
Co-project director

Help for veterans

As the media looks back at the Falklands War,
which began 20 years ago, it is important to note that all
ex-service personnel who have suffered physical or mental illness,
in war or peace, have a government agency dedicated to their

This War Pensions Agency can be contacted
either on their Freephone Helpline: 0800 1692277, or by e-mail at:
, or on the internet at

In addition there is local support available
through the War Pensioners’ Welfare Service offices’ whose
telephone number can be obtained from the War Pensions Agency. The
help provided by dedicated staff is free and confidential.

There could be many veterans who have not
approached either the War Pensions Agency or the War Pensioners’
Welfare Service to ask if they might be eligible to make a claim
for mental or physical disability occasioned during their time in
uniform. There are no time limits on claiming: however, in their
own best interest, any veteran who believes that she or he might be
eligible to claim should contact either agency or welfare service
without delay.

Peter Clements
South West War Pensions Committee

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