A round-up of news stories from Community Care
Working with professionals from other countries and establishing
practice guidelines are crucial to combating child pornography on
the internet, experts agreed, writes Lauren
Anders Persson, a detective inspector with the Swedish police in
Stockholm, told delegates at Community Care Live that the internet
had increased the spreading and collecting of child pornographic
material, but had also been a useful tool in the detection of child
“In Sweden, we have been able to stop several cases of abuse
which we would not have been able to without the internet,” Persson
Independent sexual crime consultant Ray Wyre said child
pornography on the internet had also raised new problems for social
work practitioners. “The local authorities, because of the
internet, are having to deal with incredibly difficult problems,”
Wyre said. “What do you do if the person has children? Do you get
social services in to examine the children? We do not know
Persson said there were also a whole range of important issues
about how to deal with the victims of abuse once they had been
identified from a photo. He said research had shown that victims
often found it harder to cope with the knowledge that their image
would be around for ever and could be seen by anyone, than to cope
with the actual incident.
Wyre identified specific problems in the assessment of those
caught sending or downloading child pornography. “There is no
history of assessment in these areas, and we are often dealing with
a very different client group,” he said. Professionals involved in
assessment also need extra training in internet technology and
processes, he said.
Wyre also called for more research into the link between people
downloading child pornography and going on to commit abuse.
The UK arrests and imprisons more young people than other
European countries, according to Brian Munday, senior policy
lecturer, at the European Institute of Social Services,
writes Natalie Valios.
A higher proportion of young people for every category of crime
except rape and murder are arrested in this country, he said during
the youth justice debate. The institute, based at the University of
Kent, has recently carried out a survey on youth justice projects
across Europe on behalf of the Youth Justice Board, with the aim of
examining what might be adapted for use in the UK.
“All countries struggle to hold the balance between child
welfare and the victim’s need for justice,” he said. “Most
other countries put more emphasis on welfare than punishing young
This is borne out by 1999 figures from the Council of Europe
Committee on Crime Prevention: England’s and Wales’
position on the minimum age of criminal responsibility for a child
– at 10 years old – was the second lowest of the 15 European
Union countries. Ireland was the lowest (seven years old), while
Belgium and Portugal had the highest at 16.
Joyce Moseley, member of the Youth Justice Board, outlined the
board’s key achievements so far:
* 154 youth offending teams set up by April 2000 and second year
* £80 million committed to over 400 community programmes in
* 70 youth inclusion and 100 summer schemes; and
* national standards set.
For the future, Moseley hopes the board will achieve a reduction
in youth crime, fewer children in custody, community punishments
bringing positive life chances, and greater involvement of
communities, parents and victims.
“These are aspirations and dreams, but I think we are going to
get there,” said Moseley.
The government is likely to introduce legislation on
disciplining children by the end of the year, according to Peter
Newell, chairperson of End Physical Punishment of Children
(EPPOCH), writes Jonathan Pearce.
The government agreed to legislate on the matter following a
ruling from the European Convention on Human Rights that said the
legal defence of “reasonable chastisement” breached
children’s human rights.
Newell said that campaigners had been pressing the department of
health to publish an analysis of the responses to last year’s
consultation paper on child discipline and smacking. Ministers have
now said the analysis would be ready by the end of the summer,
ahead of proposed legislation, according to Newell.
However, Newell was not confident there would be an outright ban
on smacking, given one of the questions in the consultation paper
had asked “whether violence to children can ever be described as
reasonable if it causes injury to the head”. The paper had
specifically ruled out a zero tolerance policy, he added.
“I can’t see a human rights-based policy from the
government at the moment,” said Newell. “It is disrespectful to
children and undermines the effort of all of us trying to move
society on. We need to demonstrate there is a professional
consensus in banning smacking. We need to be impatient on behalf of
Kent social services director Peter Gilroy said his staff were
faced with enormous problems dealing with 20,000 asylum seekers,
including a thousand unaccompanied children, writes
He said Kent was now spending £50 million a year on
providing support services to asylum seekers compared to £1.2
million only three years ago.
Gilroy criticised other local authorities for failing to help
Kent provide housing for the overwhelming number of asylum seekers
arriving in the county through the Channel ports. He also said many
GPs were unwilling to treat asylum seekers.
He warned that with more countries joining the European Union
the number of people escaping from poorer eastern European
countries such as Hungary will increase during the next few
Gilroy called on the government to fill the “policy vacuum” on
asylum seekers, and scrap the controversial vouchers scheme.
“I have become more and more frustrated with the European Union
and the way it is handled,” he said.
He revealed some shocking facts about the plight of asylum
seekers who are used by professional traffickers to make money.
Some children are abused while they are travelling to this
country, and then when they arrive here by people who claim to be
Bob Kerry, project co-ordinator for asylum support at
Cambridgeshire Council, said some asylum seekers have had their
application to stay in the United Kingdom turned down because of
inconsistencies in the language used by the interpreter.
He also revealed that vouchers are changing hands for cash in
Abused children who abuse should not be labelled as offenders,
delegates at CC Live were told, writes Jonathan
“We have been victim-oriented to the detriment of children,”
said Ray Wyre, an international expert in the field of sex crime.
“(Child protection workers) need to understand the different types
of offenders, understand the profiles and the different
In a session on working with abused children who become abusers,
Wyre also called for research into how and why the majority of
abused children do not become abusers.
In addition, he said not enough was done about the effects of
secrecy of child abuse on children’s lives. This leads to the
social exclusion of the child, according to Wyre.
“Some children have as much investment holding onto the secret
as the offender does,” he said. “Prolonged secrecy is incredibly
damaging. The only way we know the secret world is through the
behaviour of the child we don’t understand.”
The high cost of local authority child care costs in London
looked like “an ideal candidate” for an inquiry by the Greater
London Assembly, Trevor Phillips, chairperson of the assembly told
delegates, writes Clare Jerrom.
The remark came in response to a social worker from Haringey
Council who said her local authority child care costs were eating
into one third of her salary, having a huge impact on her quality
of life in London. This has led to her to considering moving back
to the Midlands.
Another delegate blamed the soaring house prices in London for
forcing public service workers out of the capital, in search of
Phillips admitted it was an impossible situation when the
average income was slightly under £40,000 per household, but
the average family home cost £200,000.
He added that economic policy and social policy in the capital
were linked and it was necessary to recognise diversity, reduce
economic variations and ensure the unheard have a voice,
particularly children and asylum seekers.
As the first chairperson of the assembly, he said local
government must finds ways of giving people ownership of public
services, but he admitted that currently the GLA was alienated from
the people it served.
Wales will put “children first”, according to the new
children’s commissioner for Wales, writes
Commissioner Peter Clarke told delegates at CC Live about plans
to involve children in all aspects of life in Wales.
“Every school and every youth club will have a
(children’s) school council,” said Clarke. Children will be
involved at board level in schools and will help with the staff
recruitment, he added. All local authorities will have to develop a
“youth forum” which should give children access to the chief
executive and councillors, he said.
Clarke warned that such developments should not exclude the less
articulate, and that changing adult perceptions was just as
important as involving children at all levels of
“We haven’t got a lot of models we can use and don’t
have much experience of involving children,” he added.
“‘Children First’ (the Welsh version of Quality
Protects) is part of this broader determination that we’re
actually going to change things,” he said.
Leading adoption experts have called for inter-country adoption
procedures to be cleaned up, with better regulation in countries of
origin and receiving countries, writes Ruth
Romania was specifically targeted for criticism by Carolyn
Hamilton of the Children’s Legal Centre. She said that over the
past decade “children have been flooding out of the country” with
“little compliance with the concept of inter-country adoption being
used as a last resort”.
She said that one of the big issues in Romania was of improper
financial gain, with large sums of money being paid to agencies,
often based in the USA, which were unaccountable and
Hamilton also said that a “points system” introduced by the
country in an attempt to reduce the flow of children to other
countries, and to ensure adequate resources for local preventive
and child welfare services, had backfired. As a result, the 1057
children adopted in 1995 had grown to 2,500 in 2000.
While agencies were attempting to introduce more stringent
controls in an attempt to take out the financial incentives,
Romania was also unlikely to be able to lose the estimated $125
million dollars that inter-country adoption brought in every
Hamilton also admitted she had “real doubts about the Hague
“I think there are questions about whether the convention makes
something socially acceptable when it really isn’t.”
Nick Thompson, ex social services director, gave delegates a
personal view as a parent of three adopted children. He said that,
while the financial elements of inter-country adoption made him
uneasy, life in a loving family in a different country would almost
always be preferable to institutional care.
Gill Haworth, director of the Overseas Adoption Helpline, said
the situation was changing as more countries of origin became
receiving countries. She highlighted the “vast” differences in
attitudes to overseas adoption in different countries.
She added: “There is a big issue for us in that there is a huge
gap in the service we provide prospective adopters and adopted
children. The UK still has a very ‘do-it-yourself culture’ where
people are expected to make their own arrangements, unsupported.
It’s little surprise that pickles happen. And it’s a stark contrast
to what’s going on internationally. We have a lot to learn from
The next government must develop long-term strategies if it is
serious about tackling the problems of drug misuse, a leading
consultant has urged, writes Anabel Unity
Mike Whitlam, a former chief executive of the Mentor Foundation,
said that trying to slow the process of young people moving into
drugs misuse was a long term problem which required a long term
He told delegates: “A government needs to have a vision that
covers 20 years and more. What government, at a time of a general
election, can think that far ahead? We are lucky they can think
ahead to the next parliament.”
He added: “I challenge who ever it is that forms the new
government to become a leader and show us that they really mean
what they have all said about tackling substance misuse. I
challenge them to take the lead and do something about this group.
They have the power, the resources and the ability to steer and
lead on this. This is the scale of intervention that we need.”
Whitlam said “a properly orchestrated, global strategy on
demand, supply and long term reduction” was the only long term
solution to tackling the drugs problem.
He also called for more research into what preventative
solutions were successful on a global level.
Also speaking at the same seminar, Drugscope director of policy
and practice Annette Dale-Perera said that drug prevention was not
the sole responsibilities of those working in the sector. She said:
“Drug prevention should not be a specialist activity, we all need
to develop competencies for this.”
She added: “There is no point in telling lies about drugs to
young people because they won’t listen. And that is hard for
me as a parent to hear, it is hard for the government and it is
hard for other professionals.”
Social workers and service users should work together to have
their voice heard at a strategic level, writes Lauren
Service users urged social workers to promote the social model
of care and be more confident in discussions with their managers
and with multi-disciplinary team members from other
They expressed concerns that, as whole areas of social care are
merged with health under new care trusts and partnership
arrangements – particularly in relation to adult care and
mental health – the user voice could become lost and a
medical model of care could take prevalence over the more holistic
“The medical model is rearing its head more I think,” said June
Sadd, a psychiatric survivor and assistant manager of the Wiltshire
and Swindon Users’ Network. “We would ask you [social
workers] to hold your head up high. We value your philosophy and
Palliative care social worker Suzy Croft urged fellow social
workers to form their own collective voice and identity in order to
protect the profession and what it stands for.
She said the 260-strong association of palliative care social
workers had used their strength in numbers to put pressure on
hospice managers to only recruit qualified social workers. “We need
to extend the lessons we in palliative social work have learnt more
generally in social care,” Croft said. “It is partly up to social
workers to do. We have to find alliances both with service users
and each other.”
Daphne Statham, director of the National Institute for Social
Work, said there was the potential for a strong alliance between
social workers and service users, calling for the involvement of
service users or former service users in service development to be
seen “as a strength not as a weakness”.
But service user and professor of social policy at Brunel
University Peter Beresford said that although service users had
done much to get involved in the training and education of social
workers in some areas, involvement was not happening “coherently,
systematically, strategically and equally across UK countries”.
“We know that user involvement in training is a vital way of
getting the practice that service users need,” Beresford said. “We
need it built into training from the beginning, across all aspects,
curriculum design and development, in managing courses, with
user-led placements, and users involved in student recruitment and
“We need training clearly based on social models of disability
and distress which don’t start with the assumption of the
deficiency and pathology of service users. This means service user
involvement centrally and strategically – and meaningfully
– in all the new structures set up to regulate and set
standards for social care.”
Stephen Townsend, who has many years experience working with
local authorities as an advocate for older people, said there had
never been a better time for older people to speak up for
themselves, writes Alison Miller.
He said that the older people were drawn from a broad church
from the “well-heeled Saga holiday makers” through to pensioners
living in poverty without many of life’s basics.
Social services could go a long way to meeting older
people’s needs by simply listening to their wishes and
concerns, he said, and cited several examples of cases where older
people had been badly let down, and social services resources
wasted, simply because social and health services had not listened
to older clients or their advocates.
The growing number of older people combined with the shrinking
workforce will mean that there will not be the resources to fully
fund the services needed. “This will mean there will be an
increased role for volunteers. They are not always used properly
and are often seen as a threat by the mainstream workforce. That
has to change,” Townsend said.
“It is time for central government to recognise and reward the
work of the volunteer workforce,” Townsend said.
He stressed that there was a real need for more young volunteers
to counter the “culture clash” that exists today between young and
old people. “I can remember when the milk was delivered by
horse-drawn carts, hardly anybody had a wireless and aeroplanes
flew overhead at about five miles an hour,” he said. Young people
are perfectly placed to help older people keep up with the pace of
life in the twenty first century.
Agencies should form procedures to support workers who have
dealt with unexpected or dangerous situations, conference was told,
writes Gideon Burrows.
Kent substance misuse worker Simon Southworth, who was held for
two hours by a client with a bayonet, criticised the ‘macho
culture’ in social care that says workers should always be
Speaking at a Risk Factor session, Southworth said:
“Organisations need longer term support for very traumatic
experience which could have long term effects for you and the way
you work into the future.”
“Procedures are there to help us when these things happen and we
shouldn’t reject it as mumbo-jumbo. If you run procedures
properly you don’t have to be strong,” he added.
Southworth praised his management for the positive feedback and
debriefing he received, which helped him deal with what had
happened to him.
He also said contributing to a Community Care ‘Risk
Factor’ article about his experience helped him put it to
South Africa is desperately short of both social workers and
nurses yet it is being “robbed” of its talent by employers in this
country attempting to solve the care sector recruitment crisis
here, writes Janet Snell.
Dr Zola Skweyiya, South Africa’s minister for social
development, who gave the keynote address at CC Live, said it was
“regrettable” that his country was losing key personnel and he
urged those working in health and social care in the UK to resist
the temptation to see South Africa as a recruitment pool.
“It would be better for these people to remain at home to serve
our communities. One way and another we are being robbed of our
talent and their caring skills. We want the British government to
discourage this trend as much as possible,” he said.
Asked whether South Africa would welcome UK social care staff
going to work there he replied that it would help ease the
situation, but it must be done with the co-operation of the
Psychologist Beverley Drakes was highly critical of the mental
assessments of black children in the UK, writes Adam
She said that there was too much emphasis on psychotic disorders
when assessing black children, and a under-diagnosis of depression
and anxiety-related disorders stemming from their experience as an
Too often, said Drakes, teachers and psychologists in the UK
overlooked emotional problems caused by cultural dislocation.
She said black people in the UK were constantly having to
“justify their existence”, to prove themselves, whereas in the
Caribbean nations – Drakes now practises in her place of
birth, Barbados – nobody has preconceptions about your
occupation, interests and character.
Drakes’ presentation drew on the groundbreaking work of
black psychologist Bernard Cord, who challenged white assumptions
about black people’s mental health in the UK 30 years ago.
His research revealed that white psychologists totally ignored
traumatic stress and emotional disturbance when diagnosing mental
health problems in black children. These problems were caused by
removal from Caribbean culture.
Such conditions were viewed in the UK as permanent not temporary
because the trauma of immigration to a hostile culture was
overlooked. Drakes, who is black, referred to her own experience as
a 10-year-old attending school for the first time in London.
“I was called a monkey and told to go back home,” she said.
“Nobody said ‘good morning’ to you when you went in
shops or talked to you as they would in the Caribbean”, she
Drakes also said that teachers in the UK were not aware of
cultural differences. “In the Caribbean schoolchildren do not talk
back to teachers, and downcast eyes are a sign of respect. In the
UK these are misinterpreted as dullness or lack of respect,” she
Drakes worked until recently as a psychologist for the ministry
of education in Barbados. She used to work in the UK for Wandsworth
and Lambeth education authorities.
Long waits for assessments, lack of awareness of the needs of
disabled people and disjointed services are serious problems,
according to Mencap campaigns officer Rosemary Frazer,
writes Adam McCulloch.
She said training was a crucial issue because social workers
report not having any disability awareness training.
She added there was a ‘one solution fits all’ ethos at large.
“Service providers often say ‘here is the solution,
what’s your problem?’” she said.
In Belfast, where Frazer used to live, it is easier to obtain
services because social services, housing and benefits agencies are
under one roof. “I’ve never felt so disabled as I do in
London,” she said.
The level of support differed too much between London boroughs
as eligibility criteria varied so much. Also staff moved around too
much for service users to build consistent relationship, she
Managers at council departments were often unaware of disabled
people’s needs because the very buildings they used were not
physically accessible to clients. This led to a lack of complaints
and user involvement and a false impression among some directors
that services were meeting most needs.
Frazer said that while direct payments were most welcome,
charges were causing serious problems for disabled people.
Referring to the lack of joined up thinking between charging
policy and access to work policies, she said: “What’s the
point of having access to the building where you work when you
can’t afford to get someone to help you get out of bed?”
However, the government has “genuinely tried to make a
difference and seek out the advice of service users”, although,
Frazer added: “it sometimes doesn’t seem to take any notice
of that advice”.
Treating older people with respect means being honest with them
about the service they can realistically expect to get, according
to Counsel and Care’s chief executive Martin Green,
writes Frances Rickford.
Older people say they are tired of people asking them what they
want and not giving them to me, he said, quoting one who has asked,
“Why didn’t you just tell me the service I wanted had been cut. You
don’t spare my feelings by not telling me – you spare them by not
cutting the service!”
Green compared the needs and experiences of two older women,
both disabled by arthritis and both named Matha – one in Lambeth,
south London, and the other in Kigali, Uganda, where he worked for
an aid agency.
Although in the UK there is a much more developed service
infrastructure, services are not necessarily easy or even possible
for an individual to find out about them or access them.
Aids and adaptations can make an enormous difference to a
person’s independence and quality of life, he said, but sometimes
the most useful aids can be the simple and cheap things. In
Lambeth, he said, “It’s important that we ask people what they need
rather than assuming they want the expensive, high technology
Lambeth’s Matha who had a range of adaptations, said the stick
she had for picking up papers was the most useful of all her
Kigali Matha had difficulty getting about her house, so someone
locally built her a simple platform with wheels which solved the
Green also compared equality of access to services in Uganda and
the UK. In the UK he said, Matha was bottom of a long list of
professionals who controlled aspects of her life. Matha in Kigali
had more control, although he said the aid agency which was funding
the programme of support, also had its own agenda.
The fragmentation of local communities in London – and the sheer
pace of life – was threatening the informal community based support
that older people relied on. In Kigali, access to support depended
on your relationship with the local community leader, but in the UK
too social class and local connections made a difference to the
service you received.
Government departments and organisations impacting on
children’s lives were told to “walk your talk” on
children’s rights, writes Natalie
Moira Rayner, director of the office of the London
children’s rights commissioner, told delegates that
children’s rights should be at the heart of corporate and
“The greatest wrong we can do is feel good about talking about
children’s rights rather than confronting the difficulties.
Our sin is failing to take the rights of children as seriously as
we take the rights of other excluded minorities,” said Rayner. “Why
do we have committees to look at children’s participation
which don’t involve children?”
Rayner is leading the drive to persuade the government to bring
in a powerful, independent children’s rights commissioner in
England. Her office is non-government funded, but London mayor Ken
Livingstone has brought her in to develop his child’s
Patmalar Ambikapathy, appointed as Tasmania’s first
commissioner for children in 1999, advised those fighting for a
children’s rights commissioner here: “Don’t let party
politics meddle in the rights of children, it’s far too
She emphasised the importance of having a totally independent
commissioner that has the authority to go into every area affecting
children. Her contract stipulated that she would follow government
policy: “I put a line through it and sent it back. Very early on I
said I wasn’t going to be controlled, the only people that
were going to control me were the children of Tasmania.”
The dilemma now, she said, is to ensure that children’s
rights are accepted, promoted, upheld and enforced. “We have the
right words, but are we actually doing it, is the system
delivering? Put the child first, let it not be rhetoric, let it be