Letters to Community Care 19 March

Readers views on training placements, paying service users, and regulation of social workers


Letters published in the 19 March issue of Community Care magazine

Cut paperwork and start training

It is all well and good to make social work a Masters level qualification as suggested by Ed Balls,  6 March, www.communitycare.co.uk/110909), but surely the first priority must be to enable students to have placements in child care settings during their training.

How can directors of social services refuse to appoint people to posts without statutory experience when they are not providing them with the relevant practice learning opportunities? (12 March, www.communitycare.co.uk/110956). Why is social work the only profession that expects its students to learn about practice in settings where social workers are not employed?

If the only positive reform to come from the Baby P tragedy was that it became a compulsory part of the professional social work role to participate in the training of students, as it is for doctors and nurses, this would significantly improve the quality of output from social work programmes. For this to happen, the bureaucracy and paperwork associated with today’s placement supervision would need to be drastically reduced.

Jenny Weinstein, education consultant, London

Users must be paid for their expertise

I was disappointed to read that paying service users for their time is still the exception rather than the rule, but perhaps it is not surprising given the constraints of the current benefits system (news, 5 March, www.communitycare.co.uk/110879).

If we want to create services and ways of working which are truly person-centred then involving service users in training is vitally important.

Paying someone for their time is part of showing that their contribution and expertise is valued, and that it has been acknowledged that they could have chosen to use their time elsewhere.

It can also provide people with a little extra income and help raise the self-esteem of someone who may not be in a position to seek full-time paid work, or who may be having trouble securing a job.

At United Response, people we support receive payment for a variety of activities including assisting with staff and board training and interviewing potential managers and trustees. There are admittedly certain activities where it would be inappropriate to pay service users, such as for their involvement in recruiting their own staff, but we do try to remunerate people wherever possible.

Unfortunately, however, the complexities of the benefits system mean that it is becoming ever more difficult to acknowledge a person’s contribution in this way. When the National Minimum Wage was first introduced the people we support were able to work for 5.5 hours a week without disruption to their benefits. But over the years increases in the minimum wage have outpaced the £20 disregard and today they can only work just over three hours without their benefits being affected.

Service users are experts in the field and as the personalisation agenda moves forward, it is only right that people should be paid for their expertise. Raising the disregard to a more realistic figure would help this to become a reality.

Su Sayer OBE, United Response

Protecting staff is not regulator’s job

John Davies calls for the General Social Care Council to represent social workers (Frontline Focus, 5 March, www.communitycare.co.uk/gscc-davies). From the 19th century professional regulation was controlled by the professions themselves, often excluding the public from having a say in the setting and maintaining of professional standards.

My organisation, Witness, and many others called for this to change and last year the Health and Social Care Act ended this history by abolishing elected representatives to regulator councils and by ensuring that at least 50% are lay members.

It is of course vital that social workers have a strong representative body, especially in the face of media attacks, but this is not the role of the regulator, whose primary focus is public protection.

John Davies’s “nightmare come true” for those investigated is often the only form of public justice that people whose trust has been breached by registrants have available to them.

The people we support through GSCC conduct procedures often report that their experience of the violation of professional boundaries has been recognised and their stories, so often silenced or minimised, have been heard.

Jonathan Coe, Witness

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