Readers’ Letters, 20 January 2011
College of Social Work should shift its focus
The Social Work Reform Board, the Munro Review and the College of Social Work together offer a once in lifetime opportunity. All political parties are committed to supporting social work in making a step change in the delivery in the quality and effectiveness of the service we give. We are being given the opportunity to provide our own leadership and to set our own professional standards for the service we should provide.
We are disturbed that the current proposals for the College of Social Work are too focussed on “member benefits” and not on developing the contribution of social workers in practice, practice education, research and leadership.
The decision to give £5m to the Social Care Institute for Excellence (Scie) to develop the College has had two pernicious consequences. Firstly this level of development funding has inadvertently encouraged a perception by Scie, the College Development Group and now the Board of the Shadow College that such revenue will or should be available for the long term running of any College.
For example in the first nine months, before the Shadow Board had been appointed, £682,311.92 had been spent, with planned expenditure on recruiting the Shadow Board of £85,000 and 10 initial “stakeholder” events costing a total of £435,000.
Secondly the model for the College currently offered by the Shadow Board is a member benefit organisation which includes a formal partnership with Unison for trade union services, with members being represented by board governance of a largely staff run organisation with a Chief Executive.
This is the wrong direction. The College needs to be based on the individual energies and expertise of social workers, offered at a realistic cost, and demonstrating greater authority with clear independence. The valued member services of Unison and the BASW Advice and Representation should be optional benefit options for social workers and not the core function of a College of Social Work.
Over half of the social workers in England do not consider they need trade union representation or membership of BASW. For them to join the College there needs to be a more ambitious and inclusive vision for the use of their energies and expertise which will radically reduce the costs, from the present estimate of £25 pa, the shadow board needs to shift from a vision replicating the managerialist model of member benefit organisations like Building Societies, the AA before demutualisation and the National Trust where the opportunity for members to directly lead and determine policy are very limited indeed.
The fact that the College has been developed by organisations, which may on occasions have their own vested interests, challenges the strength of our own social capital as a profession.
We urge the Interim Board of the College to think again about how best the profession can seize its once in a lifetime opportunity. It is not through a package of membership benefits.
Bill McKitterick, consultant and former social services director
Ray Jones, professor of social work at Kingston University and St George’s, University of London
Let’s offer some proper care
I am beginning to think care agencies may be ignoring an important factor when providing hourly, home care – the consideration of the individual’s home, the environment in which they live and the demoralising effect of small tasks not being done.
I am not talking about carrying out domestic tasks which have a time element of minutes but the little things that keep a person’s home as they used to keep it and wish to continue to live in.
Little tasks such as taking the dead flowers out of the vase, putting yesterdays newspaper and the frozen meal packet in the recycle bin or picking up the sweets spilt on the living room floor are not everyday tasks and are therefore not in care plans.
Speaking to an hourly care agency owner, her view was that years ago her staff would have done such things without thinking; now they don’t. Recently they had a care worker who often did bits of shopping for a client and recorded it accordingly. On inspection, they were told this was not in the care plan and should not have been done.
Retaining a person’s dignity is more than just asking them how they wished to be addressed and giving sensitive personal care. It is also about leaving them at the end of a care shift feeling better.
Angela Gifford, Able Community Care, Norwich
We must keep people at home
The impact of the spending cuts could have serious consequences not only for the UK’s ageing population but our already overloaded NHS, as short-term solutions which lead to bed blocking are given precedent.
Collectively, health and social care can offer a winning model for keeping people at home. It is essential that we lessen our reliance on our overburdened hospitals and focus on ensuring that where possible the individual can be cared for and supported at home. The independent sector also has a vital role to play. Not only does it make sound financial sense to keep a person from being admitted to hospital, but on a personal level it is in the best interests of both the individual and their family.
David Lyon, Chief executive, Carewatch Care Services