Letters to Community Care 19 November 2009

‘BASW has misunderstood ICS improvements’

BASW has misunderstood the purpose of the ICS Improvement Guidance issued by the DCSF (“BASW brands ICS a failure,” 5 November). As deputy chair of the Social Work Task Force I have been working closely with the DCSF to help it change its approach to ICS.

The guidance and simplifications that have been issued are an important first step in an improvement process which must empower local authorities to take full responsibility for their IT systems and for ensuring that they help social workers to do their jobs well.

There is a fine balance to strike between a central government-led policy and local government reforms. We looked at this closely during our analysis of the system and determined that locally driven improvement programmes would be far more successful that central prescription.

It would appear from the article that there is nothing in the BASW analysis that the Task Force’s fieldwork didn’t already find. As the only system used by social workers to record the vitally important details of their case work it would have been foolhardy, even dangerous to suggest that the system was simply switched off while improvements were scoped.

We need councils to work with the workforce to drive local changes during a transitional phase. The Task Force is happy to continue working with BASW, who will undoubtedly recognise there is no simple solution here.

Andrew Webb, deputy chair, Social Work Task Force

Evicted teenager in Risk Factor: don’t blame mum!

I am disappointed by your recent Risk Factor (22 October) the tone of which is scathing about parents who evict children. The mother of the young person in this article is criticised for “reneging on her parental responsibility”. The father isn’t mentioned, which I find sexist.

Presumably, we had a single mother struggling to cope with her son’s cannabis use and depression. I’m sure this was very difficult for the mother, living with this 24 hours a day.

We hear that Henry “instinctively” felt Kyle’s mother “ought to be given a chance” to be involved. I am concerned that she may have picked up on his attitude towards her.

It is too simplistic just to lay blame at the mother’s door. A practitioner has to have an understanding of the dynamics in the whole family and consider feminist and systemic approaches to the situation. Are we looking at a woman who has been so disempowered and worn down that she didn’t know how to cope with her son’s problems?

Henry talks about the son having low self-esteem. Maybe the mother has too. I have lived with a young person of 16 who had depression and was using cannabis. I am a qualified social worker and I can tell Henry that it isn’t easy. I totally accept that the outcomes for young people who are evicted from family homes are very poor and this is a huge concern.

However, I believe this is a sad reflection of the systems in society and the availability of drugs. There have been fundamental changes in society that have led to this. It is too easy to blame the parents.

Name and address withheld

Critical review found wrong target

Carolyn Cousins seems to be looking for a different book when she critically reviews Fostering a Child’s Recovery, which I wrote with Mike Thomas (Reviews, 22 October).

She says that our short history of fostering is a “quick tour”. This is deliberately so, because the book isn’t about the history of fostering; we set out merely to offer context.

She says that the therapeutic model is “not explored in enough detail”. But the book is about placement not therapy. But we explicitly draw on the therapeutic model in Reaching the Vulnerable Child, which I co-wrote with Janie Rymaszewska, and which, as shown by its subtitle, Therapy with Traumatised Children, is a detailed exploration of that subject.

Terry Philpot, Limpsfield Chart, Surrey

Beware latest plan for Cafcass

The government is thinking of changing the law so that Cafcass can be helped to pretend to meet its key performance indicators, rather than ensuring that children subject to public law proceedings actually have a guardian from the first to the last day of proceedings (“Cafcass legal change mooted”, 5 November).

Such was the expectation before Cafcass existed, even during surges in demand, so it can be achieved, but clearly not by Cafcass. This proposed change in the law can only damage the life chances of children.

Michael Griffith-Jones, London

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