Letters to Community Care 5 February 2009

BabyP: We share the pain felt by others

Sometimes when tragedies occur in children’s and adults’ services, such as the recent cases of Baby P and the man with learning disabilities who starved to death in a hospital, the immediate response by the media and those in authority tends to be outrage and vilification of a profession.

However, what some journalists and politicians conveniently forget is that we are human beings first and also members of the public.

Therefore, when we switch on our radios and hear about the dreadful suffering of children and adults our primary instinct like millions of others is to shed tears. When the computer-generated images of Baby P were first shown, all I could see was my own child who is also a toddler and shares the traits contained in the depiction, despite coming from a different ethnic background.

What I say to some of the Sun journalists and those who have signed its petition is that we also share the pain felt by many as a result of Baby P’s death.

In fact, we would like to ask you to join us in campaigning for improvements to child protection services for children in England and in the legal system so that the pitiful conviction rates for those who commit offences against children rises. After all, the reason social workers work in child or adult protection services is to try to prevent human suffering.

Nushra Mansuri, professional officer, England, BASW

Sad to read details of Rickwood case

It saddened me to read part of the judgement of Justice Blake when ordering a fresh inquest into the death of 14-year-old Adam Rickwood, who died at Hassockfield Secure Training Centre in August 2004 (“Judge slams YJB for ‘failing’ in restraint duty”, news, p5, 29 January).

Paragraph 58 of the judgement, Justice Blake outlines the law in relation to the events leading to Adam’s death.

“According to the evidence of Ms Murray and Mr Gardiner, Adam was not causing, threatening or inciting violence to property or others…the physical interference with Adam was a breach of Rule 38 and strictly an assault on him…­further, the use of a pain-complaint nose distraction ­technique on Adam was unjustified, disproportionate and a breach of Rule 37 of the STC Rules. It can now be seen that, not only was there no lawful authority to do any of this to Adam but doing this to him was subjecting him to at least degrading treatment contrary to Article 3 [of the] ECHR [European Convention on Human Rights].”

Reading this made me extremely sad and distressed that a child in this country had been subject to such unlawful treatment – for all intent and purposes “in our name”.

The recent government report into restraint by Andrew Williamson and Peter Smallridge recommended that the continued use of some pain-causing restraint techniques was justified in a limited number of situations.

Justice Blake, however, in paragraph 51 of his judgement is clear: “The authors of the Smallridge and Williamson report to the ministers were very much mistaken if they believed that the requirements of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child were irrelevant to the limits of restraint that could be used in the UK.”

Pete Bentley, Northumberland

Taskforce omission

A senior social worker from adult services is on the Social Work Taskforce but no children’s social work practitioners (“Taskforce members state priorities for profession”, news, p7, 29 January). A mistake, surely?

On CareSpace, social workers seem more concerned about who is on the list (an agony aunt) than who is not. Shame on the taskforce if a children’s practitioner has been omitted and more shame on our profession for wasting energy.

Roy Perrett, Birmingham

No prizes

I was flattered to find a youthful photograph of myself on Backchat’s Face from the Past (27 November). I told my sister, but she had already seen it and e-mailed Community Care hoping to win a prize. So you can imagine her disappointment that the prize had been awarded to a social services director.

Dame Elisabeth Hoodless, Executive director, CSV

Valuing People Now

Valuing People Now’s response to personalisation refers to commissioning as a crucial component. It states that commissioners are “changing how they work and what they decide to buy, and getting better at listening to people” (“Funding gap sparks doubts over Valuing People Now”, news, p7, 22 January).

At Brandon Trust we have been involved with commissioners who are genuinely imaginative about how they establish person-centred services. This is not about a one-model-fits-all exercise instead, it focuses on being prepared to change the resources to reflect local and individual circumstances.

This does not involve naïvely believing that simply saving unnecessary support in one area (for example, 24-hour residential care for those who need less) is enough to pay for 24/7 support in individualised tenancy-living for someone with complex needs.

Rather, it is about wholesale reconfigurations stripping away obstacles like the Cabinet Office Code of Practice and replacing them with genuinely different ways of doing things or creating an environment in which outdated public service staffing models give way to highly valued champions in community inclusion.

Joining up the implications of all the threads running through Valuing People Now (better commissioning, developing the workforce, advocacy, access to leisure services and so on) produces a radically different kind of social care from the one we have had in the UK. The new model is better described as social inclusion. “Now” is the additional word in the title of Valuing People and “now” is when we need to act.

Lucy Hurst-Brown, chief executive, Brandon Trust

Letters published in the 5 February 2009 edition of Community Care

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