New ADSS president David Behan, answered your questions
put to him by Community Care website editor David
Question: Some sections of the voluntary sector
will be taking a hard look at their future role in the light of the
government’s cross-cutting review and other recent developments.
Your thoughts on the future of the voluntary/statutory
David Behan: There is a real opportunity to
debate the outcome of the cross-cutting review of the voluntary
sector. The review makes a number of important points on the
development of the capacity of the voluntary sector. My thoughts
are about the importance of local authorities seeing the
relationship with voluntary organisations as a partnership in the
future of our communities. We can redefine the relationship with
the voluntary sector, and move away from one where we distribute
grants to a relationship where we work together to invest in the
communities we are there to serve.
Q: Why is there such a variety of solutions to
the problems of drug and alcohol addictions, which in one way or
another impact on the most vulnerable?
DB: The problems over the past few years have
been about focusing on the amount of drugs and alcohol that is
among us. We didn’t have the resources available to us, but over
the past few years we have more money made available.
Drug action teams are now able to commission services and that
has managed to really allow local communities to develop solutions
to substance misuse. The area where I work in Greenwich we have
invested significant resources in the development of a new drug
treatment service which is making a real difference.
There is a tremendous amount of energy going into commissioning
services and also into prevention work.
I think we have got a clear plan and resources which allow us to
drive forward some real improvements.
On the issue of alcohol: a number of areas have drug action
teams which also include alcohol services.
The evidence shows that alcohol is a significant problem
particularly among young people and many people are misusing both
alcohol and drugs. But there is less money available nationally for
people who misuse alcohol. We need to develop integrated
Q: I am 49-year-old disabled woman and I also
suffer from severe depression. I hear a lot about ‘care in the
community’, but here in Bromley, south London, the care seems to
have come out of the community and those with mental health
difficulties are being left to sink or swim.
Only those in crisis can access community psychiatric support.
Surely if there is added money being poured into the NHS did we
ought to be feeling the benefit. So why are there so many of us
being left without the support we need to prevent us from going
into crisis and costing the country by having to be admitted into
hospital? Surely it is better to put the money whether it is needed
into patient services rather than lining the pockets of yet another
level of management.
Bromley, south London
DB: It is difficult to comment on individual
cases, but I will ensure that the message that Joan is sending will
go to the director of social services for Bromley.
The underlying principle of the question is about the adequacy
of resources for mental health services. I am only to aware of the
problems that we have got in delivering and developing services
which are sufficient to tackle the needs of people who are mentally
It is vital to stress the importance of mental health remaining
a priority in NHS services. There is some evidence that
historically it has not always been viewed as a priority and
investment has suffered.
The national service framework for mental health represents a
real opportunity to continue viewing mental health as a priority.
It is also very helpful in emphasising the importance of preventive
work to stop people’s conditions deteriorating.
Q: I came into the profession at the age of 32,
I had left school without any formal qualifications and was
accepted on the CQSW course as a mature student. It is now becoming
apparent that colleges and universities are expecting prospective
students to have some formal qualifications. This will sadly mean
that we will not attract some very suitable candidates who have a
great life experience, into the profession.
I am very concerned about this change of strategy given all of
the vacancies we are now facing, and the fact that I am a practice
Can you please let us know what your views are on this trend,
and also, how you see the way forward for attracting new people
into social work?
Iain Craig, social worker/practice teacher
DB: I think this is a very important question.
I really do welcome the three-year graduate qualification for
social work. It is absolutely essential for the future of social
work that the qualification remains as a graduate level
qualification, and it is equally important that there is a
qualification structure in place.
The workload that we place on social worker today is immense,
and if people are going to respond to the challenges then we need
to ensure that people have appropriate skills for what is a very
But Iain raises important questions. Some of the best social
workers I have come across in my career have not had formal
qualifications, and some social workers that have doctorates have
not necessarily been the best social workers. So we do need to
ensure there are a variety of routes into social work and that
people with a wide experience are available to work.
We need to be clear though, about the skills and competencies
that people should have to undertake what is a very difficult and
challenging job. People must be able to develop the appropriate
skills to undertake the work.
An improved qualification system is key to improving the quality
of work. Taking people from a variety of backgrounds is key to
ensuring we have a suitable workforce within social care.
Q: Do you think local government could take on
some responsibility for primary care commissioning, as suggested in
the recent IPPR (Institute of Public Policy Research) report?
DB: The government has said all children’s
services should be commissioned by local government and the ADSS
would welcome that.
The IPPR’s report really brings us back to this question, which
is not particularly new, because local authorities have had this
responsibility in the past. I think it is important that we have a
debate on these issues.
Many authorities have arrangements for the joint commissioning
of services, for example, with people with mental health problems.
But looking forward over the next few years then singular
responsibility for commissioning services, community leadership,
and responsibility to promote the welfare of communities, should be
within one organisation.
It shouldn’t be imposed from the top as an automatic solution.
We need local flexibility to meet local needs in a most appropriate
way. New ways of working come out of local decisions and
decision-making. One size doesn’t fit all, and there have been a
range of different arrangements that will fit local circumstances.
What suits a county authority won’t suit an inner city