Letters to Community Care, 4 February 2010

Doncaster’s top managers failed too

Following the Edlington case the media has questioned how Doncaster Council could have allowed the two boys, and their other brothers, to remain in a household where they were themselves abused and experienced chronic neglect.

The issue of when and how to intervene in families where there is continuing neglect is contentious and yet another of the difficult decisions having to be taken by social workers and their managers. In fact, when they committed the terrible assaults the brothers were living with foster carers.

It is all the more difficult, however, for practitioners to make difficult judgements if they are within an organisation which is in deep trouble. The current interim director of children’s services himself has called the department in Doncaster “broken”. But why?

Firstly, one danger with having government by a single mayor is that defects in the services may be hidden from other councillors and the community. Secondly, the structure of the council, which allowed children’s services to be reorganised and managed by a combination of an executive mayor and a children’s services director who came from managing a frozen food firm, is a recipe for potential disaster.

Thirdly, one consequence of the chaos was that experienced practitioners and managers left, recruitment was difficult and high vacancy rates persisted. This left the remaining workers with even heavier workloads.

It would be very unjust now if, as promised by the current interim children’s director, Doncaster Council sought out those who had “mishandled” the case, even if they have since left the council’s employment.

Doncaster Council needs to quickly do some learning itself. Rather than punishing its own workforce, it should spend time looking at the failures in governance and top management. Then it might be able to establish the credibility to assist its frontline workers, rebuild their confidence and, if need be, their competence.

Ray Jones, professor of social work, Kingston University

Religion no better than astrology

The world of social work has fully embraced the concept of respecting the cultural identity of the clients that we serve. I don’t think there is anybody who could argue this is a bad thing.

Except that the issue of respect in relation to religion is something I have been struggling with for some time. I am an atheist; a few months ago I may have referred to myself as agnostic out of politeness, but the scales have finally fallen from my eyes. I find the notion of belief in God, from whichever religious viewpoint you view the deity, as only slightly more credible than the belief in horoscopes.

Please don’t misunderstand me. I have no problem with Christians, Muslims or any people who follow a religious creed. I actually regularly see a pastor in our trust, for guidance that I don’t mind being referred to as spiritual.

But returning to the point of respect. If I go and see a client who structures her life rigorously around her horoscopes and another on the teaching of the Qur’an or the Bible should I give equal respect to both of these belief systems?

If both of them truly believe that their life is ordered that way and they are not harming themselves or others in the process I will certainly tolerate that.

But I find it difficult to hold the views of the religious person above those of the horoscope reader. Furthermore I can’t help but feel that asking me to respect their beliefs is a little much.

What do others think?

themightypierre, submitted via CareSpace

Marriage can’t stop social breakdown

David Cameron has delivered an impassioned defence of the Tories’ promise to recognise marriage in the tax system, saying marriage was not “something we should say quietly, but something we should say loudly and proudly”.

Last week the Conservative leader insisted that the Doncaster torture case was not an “isolated incident of evil” and he warned that the “truly awful” incident meant people must ask “deep questions” about social breakdown and that the incident shows what is wrong with society.

Yet I see that the parents of the brothers are a married couple with seven sons.

Barbara MacArthur, Cardiff

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