Letters from readers 10 July issue

Modernisation: what has Devon gained?

I, and my colleagues, are incensed by the articles on modernisation written by David Johnstone, director of Devon social services (“Devon’s plans to change care management”, http://www.communitycare.co.uk/108495 and p31 this issue). I work for Devon and am part of the staff who are being modernised.

We now have waiting lists because the number of community care workers has been halved. The brokers’ in-trays are very full based miles away they don’t know local services, so bizarre mismatching is happening once a service is eventually commissioned.

The pilot studies mentioned weren’t relevant to large parts of rural Devon and the outcomes have not been fully analysed as this process has been rushed.

The public, particularly those in stressful situations do not like call centres. Many mistakes have been made by call centre staff missing information which can only be picked up face-to-face and with in-depth questioning, and, generally, people play down their needs.

What was an efficient local team is now a dispirited group of individuals, half of whom are awaiting their dismissal meeting or being forced to take jobs they don’t want. The other half are part of a “virtual” team, none of whom know what is going on.

Name and address withheld

Our practice assessors are bullies

I am at a very well-established university completing a course in social work and in the last year I have been appalled by the way students have been treated by their practice assessor and the tolerance of this behaviour from practice tutors and other staff.

Others and I have received daily put-downs, racism, homophobic jibes and other discrimination. We have informed our practice assessors about this several times, but this was manipulated to portray us as trouble-causing students and threatened with being “not fit for practice”.

I am not sure what is going on in social work. Moreover, I feel quite fearful for its future because I have learned to believe that the universities are aware of the bullying and oppressive tactics used by assessors but are reluctant to challenge the status quo due to losing the placement for future students.

A recent graduate informed me that at this moment I have no power and therefore should say nothing until I graduate and seek advice at the GSCC. However, we are taught to challenge discrimination and oppression for our service user, yet we are daily ostracised by those who should be instilling social justice.

Surprisingly, this is not a new issue as I spoke to a manager who was placed at my placement as a student seven years ago and received the same treatment. She was so angry that this was still going on, which gave me the courage to share my thoughts.

Name and address withheld

Whitehall window dressing won’t help

It is informative to contrast the elitist call by the great and the good of mental health providers for the government to appoint a Cabinet champion for well-being (“Cabinet well-being champion sought”, http://www.communitycare.co.uk/108602) with the priority of greater involvement in their care packages expressed by mental health service users (“Activists call for greater service user involvement”, http://www.communitycare.co.uk/108628).

Clearly there is a gap between their approaches to getting a better deal for those experiencing mental distress with the providers favouring the failed top-down model and users rightly demanding more say in their lives. I know where the right priority is in mental well-being and it isn’t more window-dressing in Whitehall.

The call for a well-being champion also raises the interesting question of how successfully mental health service providers champion well-being within their organisations, and if it is verified by independent surveys of staff and service users. If they want government to be an exemplar in well-being then they must set the standards and must practice what they preach.

Martin Ball, London

Welfare wrongs

I can fully sympathise with Eric Bright’s predicament as he attempts to navigate his way through an extremely complex benefits system (“Too many forms, too little benefit”, http://www.communitycare.co.uk/108414).

However, your attempts to clarify the Brights’ entitlement to benefits contained an error. Tina may be eligible for a 25% discount on council tax if she is “severely mentally disabled”. However, a carer who is married to the disabled person will not be entitled to the carer’s 25% discount.

Diana Lane, Welfare benefits adviser, Biddulph CAB, Staffordshire

Funding critical and substantial needs

Social workers have to present cases for funding and, because of the sort of severe financial constraints which have led 75% of local authorities to look to meeting people’s substantial and critical needs only, it is possible that a couple will not be allowed to enter residential care together if they have differing needs (“We’ll never meet again”, http://www.communitycare.co.uk/108635).

It is also possible that anyone who enters a care home will not be close to his or her partner and family for ease of visiting as block purchase arrangements prevail.

This presents an ethical dilemma for social workers and I would urge them to use their professional judgement and make the case for people not to be separated or placed far from family members where this is not appropriate. We may not prevail but we should not collude with this sort of poor practice.

There are issues here about the Human Rights Act, the BASW Code of Ethics and the GSCC Code of Practice, but we also have obligations to our employers and their policies and procedures. Will the personalisation agenda with its emphasis on choice and individualised care assist us with these dilemmas?

The government makes all the right noises about this, but I have to express concern about where the money is coming from – some directors are being told at corporate level to enter into more block contracts, not fewer. It appears it is now time for social care to benefit from some of the billions awarded to the NHS over the past 11 years – much of our preventive and more person-centred work will save a great deal of money for the NHS so what about some redistribution?

Ruth Cartwright, professional officer England, BASW


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