Letters to Community Care, 7 January 2010

Resignation is always an option

I was appalled that the advice to social workers struggling with anxiety and depression (“The road to recovery”) did not include the obvious advice of “resign and find a less stressful job”.

Too many of us get caught in the trap of struggling on, trying to prove to ourselves that we can cope, when it is not that we ourselves are at fault for failing to cope, but that the job itself is unmanageable.

Long hours, poor resources and heavy caseloads do not make for a long-term sustainable job, but employers will continue to exploit dedicated workers – and watch them burn out – until we ourselves vote with our feet.

I’ve never met an ex-local authority social worker who regretted having left, but I know a few who wish they had resigned much earlier.

Sylvia Rose, social worker, Devon


Taskforce proposals in an era of cuts

It’s worth remembering that the Social Work Task Force was set up after the hysterical press coverage of the death of Peter Connelly in Haringey. Similar investigations and inquiries have followed the deaths of many children since Maria Colwell’s in 1973. There will be more.

Unusual this time is the attempt to catch up with the missed opportunities of previous reports into the training, recruitment, and working conditions of social workers at a time of unprecedented economic crisis and plans to cut services.

The taskforce recommendations may have been accepted in full by this government, but the next one will mount the most savage attack on public services since the Thatcher administrations of the 1980s.

The funding will not be there to implement any of the recommendations, and no amount of grandstanding by a proposed college of social work will protect children any better in future or secure funding to improve social worker retention, morale, fair workloads and high-quality supervision.

Steven Walker, senior social work lecturer, Anglia Ruskin University


The use of restraint in residential care

There are many other factors that must be taken into account when considering using restraint in care homes as well as the legal and procedural issues (“The use of restraint in care homes).

The emphasis must always be on clear, respectful and proactive communication between staff and service users – the human element that goes alongside record-keeping and legal interpretations.

Staff should be supervised and supported in such a way that toxic cultures do not lead to abuse of power over the residents.

Care providers must be supported to commission staff training which reinforces the use of restraint practices that make the environment safer for staff and safer for patients. This means choosing accredited training that is non-pain compliant and is flexible enough to meet the needs on intentional and unintentional assault.

Care home residents are among the most vulnerable in society – they deserve the most careful provision of respectful support that we can provide.

Tim Cooke, chartered psychologist


The link between wealth and health

Dr Linda de Caestecker, director of public health for NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde, recently called on medical professionals to consider a pay cut to help create a fairer society. She is right to highlight the relationship between health inequality and broader inequality in our society. Scotland suffers the curse of inequality and the cost of our failure to address it.

Inequality in health is inextricably linked to inequality in wealth, so much so that we can reliably predict the educational and health outcomes of a child in the poorest area from the moment he or she is born.

The challenge we face is in three parts: reducing the gap between the very top and very bottom; improving the mobility of people by ensuring merit is more powerful than birthplace; and accepting that economic growth alone will not by default result in a fairer society.

Barnardo’s Scotland sees the effects daily of poor health, poor chances and poor motivation on children and families. Our prisons, care system and health service are the parking lots for the problems of inequality and we must address it.

Simon Watson, Head of developments , Barnardo’s Scotland


Cutting edge ad

A sad commentary on the state of social workan ad for anti-stab vests on page 2 of the 3 December issue of Community Care.

Lori Goossen, organisational development consultant

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