Community Care letters: 25 March

National austism strategy; Ofsted inspectors; database for deafblind people; reaction to Be The Difference social work recruitment campaign

Autism strategy a missed chance

The first national autism strategy represents a missed opportunity to promote a desperately needed multi-agency approach to delivering support for people living with autism and mental illnesses (News, 4 March).

One of the most vulnerable groups, children with autism and a mental illness who are about to move from Camhs to adult services, must wait until 2012 at the earliest before the Department of Health and the Department for Children, Schools and Families will even publish a joint report into transition services.

The transition from childhood to adulthood is a challenging time for us all. Young people living with autism must overcome even greater hurdles at this time and, as a result, they are more likely to suffer from mental health illnesses too. Although we work daily with young people with needs such as these, there is insufficient specialist provision nationally.

Providing support for young people with autism at transition should be a higher priority for government.

Additional funding for transitional services, perhaps through the existing national transition support team, would not only help to deliver this much-needed support, but save money in the longer term as a new generation of people with autism benefit from a better start to their adult lives. It is a shame that the new strategy does not seek to help children too.

Dr Jacquie Tweedie, chief executive, St Luke’s Healthcare, Essex


Inspectors always were social workers

It is untrue to say that Ofsted has “bowed to pressure” and introduced a new requirement for all its social care inspectors to hold a social work qualification (News, 18 March).

From the start of the programme, our inspections of frontline child protection and looked-after children services have only ever been undertaken by qualified and highly experienced social work professionals.

We are now planning a recruitment campaign for social care regulatory inspectors. Their work will cover inspections of care provision in boarding schools and in residential special schools as well as children’s homes and adoption and fostering services.

For these roles, we will recognise a range of professional qualifications in social care, as did the Commission for Social Care Inspection, and as do the new draft national minimum standards.

It is not true and never has been true that Ofsted uses inspectors with education backgrounds and no social care experience to inspect social care services for children. We have not been repeatedly criticised by social workers and directors of children’s services for so doing, because most of them know it’s not the case.

Ofsted’s priority, as it always has been, is to continue to ensure that our social care inspectors have the right qualifications and experience for the vital job that they do.

John Goldup, Development director for social care, Ofsted


Unique database for deafblind people

Mainstream online directories will not always meet the requirements for people with specialist needs (‘Technology trials’, 4 March).

National charity Sense developed the Deafblind Directory and launched it last September as a unique database of individuals and organisations who offer services to deafblind people and families who buy their own support.

Providers can create their own free profiles on the directory. Individuals looking for providers can follow the direct links to Sense’s factsheets on self-directed support which include advice on managing risk and engaging providerd.

Simon Shaw, Sense


My career break counted against me

I am pleased to see the government’s Be The Difference social work recruitment campaign but I can’t help but wish that more thought was given to bringing back people like myself, who are highly skilled and qualified but who took a career break to raise a family.

Despite my experience, skills and qualifications I was recently told that I was not even shortlisted for a post because of my six-year break.

I often hear about the shortages of skilled social workers. It seems nonsensical to put so much into recruiting trainees while failing to harness the skills of already qualified and experienced social workers like myself. It would also appear to be very discriminatory.

Caroline Skinner, Barnstaple, Devon

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