Universal service

Your article on strategies for addressing
youth homelessness revealed, in a very useful fashion, the potential benefits
of the Connexions service as a universal service ("Hidden homeless",
11 April). It is non-stigmatising for young people, which is clearly not the
case for youth offending teams and leaving care services.

Joined-up provision is of critical
importance, but in local areas the lead should not be taken by the more
specialist statutory services, given the risks of alienating both the young
people concerned and housing providers. This article presents ideas that can be
immediately applied.


Practical mental training

Simon Lawton-Smith raises some interesting
arguments against the over-professionalising of support workers
("Professional dilemma", 11 April), and we would be among the first
to argue that the quality of the relationship, and the amount of time, that
mental health service users can have with support workers is critical. We know
it is also one of the aspects that draws people into this work to start with,
and that flexibility is key.

But let us not throw the baby out with the
bath water. The Mental Health Foundation’s Certificate in Community Mental
Health Care – now being run in around 150 different local centres – does not
aim to erect boundaries between support workers and service users or remove the
humanity of support workers. It is a way of ensuring that those with experience
have a chance to strengthen and reflect upon it, hopefully encouraging them to
stay in the field. By ensuring that it remains as practical as possible –
involving both practitioners and service users in delivering the training and
support – it aims to provide real value both to those studying and to service

However, this has thrown up its own dilemma.
There appears to be a shortage of mental health service user trainers. To try
and ensure that training does remain real rather than "professional",
we are currently building a website and database – a mental trainers’ network.
Anybody who should be included in this can contact us on 020 7802 0316 or
e-mail webteam@mhf.org.uk  

Nigel Duerdoth
Director of research and development
Mental Health Foundation

Selling off the safety net

Alison Taylor raises several sensible and
pertinent issues about the risks of relying on the private sector to provide
for the social care needs of vulnerable people (Perspectives, 4 April).

My concern is that while it appears
increasingly obvious to service users, their carers, social care workers and
academics that the policy of "outsourcing" (in effect privatising)
social care provision has serious flaws, the situation, particularly as far as
residential care is concerned, is probably irreversible. Local authorities have
substantially sold off or "transferred" their assets to the
independent (mainly private) sector. If and when the time comes when policy
makers accept that the instability of the market and the principle of profit
are not the way to meet the social care needs of vulnerable people, the costs
of re-provisioning will be prohibitive.

When public assets were sold off at knock
down prices as part of the privatisation boom of the 1980s and 1990s, it was
described as "selling off the family silver". What we see happening
with social care is selling off the safety net. I wonder how many applications
under the Human Rights Act (News analysis, 4 April) it will take before the
penny drops?

Peter Scourfield
School of Community, Health and Social Studies
Anglia Polytechnic University

Listening exercise

In her article about the new national
organisations for social care, including the Social Care Institute for
Excellence, and input from service users (This Life, 11 April), Clare Evans
comments that "the current [Scie] listening exercise seems strangely pass‚
in style as it expects a user to want to travel to distant regional meetings
alongside two professionals in each of the areas".

In January Scie wrote to 26 national
organisations and networks, including organisations of and for service users,
asking them to nominate two to four people to attend each of the five listening
exercise workshops being held across England and Wales. We took this approach
because we wanted organisations of and for service users to determine who they
wanted to advise Scie about our priorities and processes.

As some organisations and networks were not
able to identify participants for all of the regional workshops, we then wrote
to social services authorities asking if they could identify additional service
users and staff to attend the workshops.

In addition, Scie is also seeking comments
and advice through its own website (www.scie.org.uk)
and Community Care’s website (www.community-care.co.uk).
In partnership with Community Care and the Department of Health, there will be
a national conference in July to report back on what we have heard through the
listening exercise.

All this reflects a genuine commitment by
Scie to be open, shaped by, and a resource for service users.

Jane Campbell
Social Care Institute for Excellence

Role models not needed

Michael Cole (Letters, 18 April) writes that
it is my suggestion that black men regard climbing the ladder of success as a
betrayal. In fact, I was quoting black film-maker Lennie James, and he referred
to "many", not all black men.

Neither was I advocating the need for more
role models. On the contrary, I was endorsing James’s view that white society
has to tackle discrimination to prevent so much black talent going to waste.
Cole is right: better pay, good practice and innovation are the ways to attract
young people to social work. And black people are, of course, as varied as that
other group often lumped together – women. But what both share in common in
spite of their differences is the extra handicap of dealing with sexist and
racist attitudes.

Yvonne Roberts

More from Community Care

Comments are closed.