Letters to Community Care Feb 26 2009

Hampshire’s report was not swagger

Hampshire Council is surprised to see such a polemical piece carried in the Research Realities section of Community Care and also that the writer, Melanie Henwood, failed to declare her interest as researcher for the Commission for Social Care Inspection report she praises (“The future of adult care services according to Hampshire County Council”, 12 February).

The purpose of Hampshire’s Commission of Inquiry was not, as Henwood implies, a self-styled national research exercise but was a powerful public engagement exercise to work out how we can make a difference to people’s lives in Hampshire.

Of course, councils do not operate in a vacuum, hence the necessity to engage commissioners and stakeholders with a national remit. The commission discussed and formed national recommendations because people in Hampshire also live in the big wide world where, as Henwood’s own research confirms, national rules and regulations impact on their lives.

Don’t the views of service users, carers, and their families in Hampshire count in Henwood’s eyes because they were not gathered by a national organisation? If some of our recommendations correspond with those that have been developed independently by other organisations, surely this concord is something to be celebrated rather than criticised?

The recommendations put forward by the commission offer real solutions to the issues and challenges faced not only by Hampshire Council but by service users, carers, all local authorities, primary care trusts and care providers across the country.

For all concerned this was a worthwhile and satisfying exercise and an illustration of local democracy in action. We are not waiting for new legislation or the green paper but are acting now to deliver what we can to the people of Hampshire. In our view, this has certainly given Hampshire residents added value and constitutes public duty, not swagger!

Ken Thornber, leader, Hampshire Council

Qualifications are not the answer

I read with interest the coverage of Baby P (www.communitycare.co.uk/babyp) but the subsequent review of social work training has struck a particular chord.

I began work when, in effect, there were few, if indeed any, checks made about suitability, other than a dubious police check from the local police station. Training qualifications in children and families was either the Certificate of Qualification in Social Work or Certificate in Social Services. Now there are degrees and postgraduate qualifications but none will train a person to be a competent social worker.

Social work is about experience and no qualification will make up for this. Someone with two years’ post-qualifying experience is not a senior practitioner even if they carry the title.

I have long thought that there should be a probationary period and am pleased that this is being considered. I am reminded of my driving instructor who told me “I will teach you to pass a test, and then you will learn to drive”.

The profession seems stuck in some liberal limbo where all are seen as equal when they patently are not. I believe this is most unfair on less experienced staff. I am not sure any other profession would maintain such a naive position and surely incremental progression should be openly acknowledged and pursued.

Institutions offering the degree must become more rigorous in being the first point in weeding out unsuitable candidates. Poorly performing social workers, new and experienced, must be identified. Management must recognise that simply having a post filled is not adequate.

The profession helps, supports and assists many more families than is acknowledged and I have yet to meet a social worker who is leaving the profession because of a red top newspaper’s opinion. We know what their values and agenda are, and even the viciousness of recent events portrayed over the front pages will not stop the excellent work being done day in, day out.

Name and address withheld

Draconian interventions

In relation to The Risk Factor (“How assertive outreach stopped antisocial behaviour”, 19 February), in my experience, the police and antisocial behaviour teams (ASB) show little understanding of mentally disordered people accused of ASB. Most interventions by these groups are draconian and promised support seldom materialises.

Only 10% of Asbos are balanced by individual support orders. In family intervention projects typically 80% of families suffer serious mental and/or physical disorders but only 11% recieved professional psychiatric support. Incidentally, 47% of the children targeted had ADHD/autistic spectrum diagnoses and 54% were SEN or attended special schools.

FIPs produce no sustained benefits to families.

Professor DP Gregg (retired)

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