Sixty Second Interview with Ruth Cartwright
By Amy Taylor and Mithran Samuel
Cartwright is professional officer for the British Association of Social Workers England. We caught up with her to find out her views on the adult green paper and what it means for social workers.
How do you think your job will change as a result of the green paper reforms?
My job as Professional Officer (England) for BASW may not change very much, but the jobs of the social workers with whom I am working and in contact are likely to change considerably. I think some of these changes may be for the better as there will be more focus on the needs of the service user and on enabling the service user to have as much control as possible over flexible and individual services. The move towards joint working especially with health colleagues will continue apace and social workers need to be clear about and proud of their own contribution to multi-professional working.
What do you understand by the term ‘care navigator’?
The ‘care navigator’ will assist the service user and carers to access the services best able to meet their needs. It is not clear whether this person will be the social worker or another person. ‘Care navigator’ seems to contain some of the advocacy elements of the social work role, and also involves the giving of advice and information to the service user. Social workers currently often act to help service users and carers find their way around various systems, so I think this role should stay with them, with independent advocacy also available as required. It is of concern that systems will still remain so complex and bureaucratic that people will need ‘navigators’ to guide them through.
Have social workers become largely gatekeepers of services as the green paper claims?
In my recent experience of adult social care services this would seem to be becoming the case. Much time and effort is given over to assessing and evidencing eligibility for services, rather than exploring individuals’ need and wishes.
Former community minister Stephen Ladyman has claimed that direct payment users should not have to run CRB/Pova checks on their employees because this is a curtailment of choice and freedom. Do you agree?
I am very concerned about this. There is evidence that some adults who need care are exploited and abused by those who should be providing that care and the CRB/POVA checks are a way of ensuring that people who are known to have acted abusively in the past do not get the opportunity to abuse others. Service users have found these checks to be hugely time consuming and they thus appear to be obstacles to getting the service they want. I accept that people have the right to take the risk as long as they are informed about the nature of that risk and have weighed up the pros and cons for them.
The government has said that the proposals will be cost neutral for local authorities. Do you agree?
I do not see how that could possibly be the case. If, as we are assured, people with high level needs will not be neglected or have services reduced and people with lower levels of need will also begin to receive preventive services, more resources will be needed as for a time we will be doubling up on services. Ultimately this level of cost may go down as the preventive work enables longer term savings to be made, but there seems to be a view that if we assist people who are at the beginning of a chronic illness say, they will not need as much help in the future. Of course, they should receive assistance as soon as they need it, but it will not necessarily prevent their condition deteriorating and care needs increasing. Much grief and distress will have been prevented by earlier intervention and quality of life may be improved, but money will not have been saved. Money should be shared with social care by Primary Care Trusts, working together to commission the services members of local communities need.
How do you think the cultural shift required amongst professionals in order for service users to be given full control over services can come about?
I think this will require a far greater culture shift from colleagues from the health professions and from senior managers in social care than from social workers! Social workers will be delighted to be able to put their qualifying training in empowerment into practice.
Do you think anything significant is missing from the adult green paper that you would have liked to have seen included?
The main thing is resources. I understand Liam Byrne, community care minister, has said that he will put forward the case for more resources, and it is to be hoped that this happens as the green paper has raised expectations among service users, carers, and social care staff which must be met.