Letters to Community Care, 4 March 2010

Be realistic about interventions

We are told that the Association of Directors of Children’s Services is calling for examples of effective preventive projects for submission to the Department for Children, Schools and Families’ consultation on early intervention and prevention (news, 18 February, www.communitycare.co.uk/113773). Interesting timing don’t you think?

One might have thought it would have been wiser to define our terms and establish what works before we all dashed headlong into this on the basis of a touching belief in little more than “motherhood and apple pie”. Sure, “prevention is better than cure” but only if you are not sick already. As we know, there are still more children in need of a cure than there are resources to go round.

The forthcoming consultation we were assured some time ago would contain a section on the research foundation for the policy of early intervention. A few examples of good practice called for, once the policy position has been established, hardly constitute a solid research base.

Surely what we need, particularly when resources are set to reduce, is not this scatter-gun approach of prevention/early intervention which simply spreads the jam too thin to be of much use to anyone.

Insistence on the use of the term “early” carries with it the misleading implication that everything else is “late”. This is simply not the case.

Surely it’s time that we started talking in more modest but realistic terms of “timely interventions” targeted on those things that can be prevented while refocusing on the basics of child protection.

Paul Fallon, Consultant and independent safeguarding board chair


Brown refused to extend apology

I recently wrote to Gordon Brown to request the apology he made to child migrants sent to Australia and Canada from the 1920s to the 1960s be extended to children in care in this country at the time.

As one of those children in care at that time and now a consultant child psychologist I am personally and professionally aware of the decades of sexual, emotional and physical abuse.

The reply to my letter from his office made no such mention of an apology to what were the UK’s children, bereft of their own loving families. Rather, it only chanted the mantra of government safeguards today.

My disbelief, frustration and ruinous hope of gaining an apology has only been matched by Barnardo’s chief executive Martin Narey’s comment on Radio 4 that, as far as he and his organisation were concerned, to consider past abuse of our nation’s most vulnerable children is now idle concern.

He has failed to recognise, as other governments have recognised (witness Ireland and Australia), the impact an apology has in the healing and rebuilding so imperative in victims’ lives.

Dr Peter McParlin, consultant child psychologist


BASW out of focus on substance misuse

Given students say their social work training does not prepare them for practice, BASW should concentrate on improving social work education in its totality rather than call for more focus on substance misuse (http://www.communitycare.co.uk/basw-substance).

No amount of training will tackle problematic substance misuse given that services are geared towards harm reduction, in itself a tacit admission that priorities are about controlling problems associated with abuse.

Substance misuse services have a perverse incentive of keeping people on drugs and alcohol given that abstinence precludes accessing the myriad resources and interventions available in this sector.

Think through the implications of methadone treatment and “controlled” drinking and the effectiveness of rehabilitation if you are really concerned about getting people “clean”. Proper social work is about challenging people to confront and change the deficits in their lives, not reinforce them.

Nihat Erol, Submitted via CareSpace


Welcome criticism of NSPCC’s Full Stop

Andrew Flanagan, the new chief executive of the NSPCC, should be congratulated on his reported criticism of his organisation’s Full Stop campaign (News, 18 February, www.communitycare.co.uk/13811)

This campaign, while a successful fund-raiser, has contributed to a strand in social work that has unrealistically raised the expectations of the public for the scope of social care.

Lacking evidence for its claims, it has influenced government and must take some responsibility for the public’s jaundiced view of social work and the level of morale in the workforce.

It is interesting that, organisationally, the NSPCC is recognising that there are limitations to what it can realistically achieve.

Andy West, child care social worker


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