Letters to the 16 October 2008 edition of Community Care

Readers’ views on personalisation, social workers’ pay structure, bureaucracy

letters published in the 16 October 2008 edition of Community Care magazine

I did not train to be an expensive typist

I echo the view expressed by Margaret Austen (“I won’t prioritise paperwork”, letters, 25 September), on what constitutes social work professionalism.

One’s ability to accurately assess a child’s need for protection, security and alleviation of deprivation, through working in partnership with other professionals, is less valued than one’s skills as an administrator.

I have been a social worker since 1981 and have worked as an agency worker for different local authorities.

The leadership of the profession seems nowadays to be more interested in fulfilling the demands of performance targets, predetermined by people who either have no, or very little understanding of human relationships.

My recent experiences have shown me that social workers are too afraid of challenging managerial decisions to stand up for the needs of children and families in their care and team meetings.

Supervision sessions are dominated by managerial bullying. I have also noticed that any social workers voicing an opposite opinion to the management are branded as troublemakers.

All this, coupled with the fact that social workers are carrying a case load of between 25 and 50 complex cases does not make for a quality service.

I believe there is an urgent need for General Social Care Council to ensure that realistic quality assurance measures are implemented, enabling social workers to provide a service that is valuable to children, families and the community.

I have noticed in recent years that children and families departments have lost a considerable amount of support staff and support services, and at the same time experienced an increase in red tape.

As a result of this social workers are spending up to 80% of their time in front of computer screens instead of in personal contact with their clients. Social workers are in danger of becoming very expensive administrative assistants.

If social work wishes to claim its rightful place with other professions, the leadership needs to rethink its strategy and become more supportive of practitioners.

Jan Alam, Birmingham

Time to reform our bad pay structure

It is now five years since the government recognised social workers with professional status, regulated by the General Social Care Council. Qualification for new social workers is now at degree level with training more intensive, varied and demanding, especially in IT, than ever before.

However, the pay structure has remained unchanged for decades, which suits both government and councils alike.

At the council where I work, new social workers start at increment 26 to 28 and it could take a social worker 10 years to get to the top of the pay scale.

A pay structure that reflects the new qualifications and training is desperately required. The structure could have a starting point of increment 33 for level one social workers, with an ability assessment by the team manger before advancing to level two.

In all it would take seven or eight years, taking into account college and university, for social workers to be fully paid for the position they hold. Under the present system it is 14 years to attain the same increment.

The council I work for employs care managers at level three, who were formerly home care managers with no social work qualifications. Their increment level is 34.

Although they cannot undertake safeguarding cases their level of pay is higher than a level one social worker and also higher than some experienced level two social workers.

A Smith, Sheffield


Has social work gone down the pan?

I couldn’t agree more with Colin Slasberg, (“Depends what you call social work”, letters 25 September) in his attempts to hold the social work profession accountable for the failure to deliver the benefits of “the original vision of the community care reforms of tailor-made supports”.

Well-practised care management included all the elements of the best that social work has ever had to offer, including Peter Beresford’s definition that it is “concerned with supporting people’s independence and self-determination though the social approach that centrally underpins it.”

In particular, it treated people as equals who were entitled to the best possible professional service from those who had been trained to help them exercise self-determination in the expectation of improvement and an absence of fear.

If the personalisation agenda can deliver where the social work profession failed it will benefit everyone involved. It may, however, prove to be a buck-passing, cost-cutting exercise that is insufficiently regulated and poorly understood in relation to long-term planning.

In this case, social workers will rue the day they refused to be judged by any results except those of their own definition.

Christine Moss, independent social worker, Dorset

Join us for a virtual jamming session

The Cyberjam Club (www.youtube.com/CyberjamClub) was set up to encourage musicians from all over the world to collaborate.

We are very interested in contacting groups/associations that are concerned with helping people who have disabilities.

All that is required from a “jammer” is that he or she sign up as a friend on our Youtube channel. This gives free access to jam with any of the videos we keep in our favourites section.

When that member has completed his “cyberjam” we will post that video in our videos section. Cyberjamming is very simple and requires only a web-cam to begin with.

Our channel allows musicians who otherwise might not be able to get out and play the opportunity to collaborate with people around the world.

Ian McMeekin, Motherwell Ian Patton, Canada



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