Letters

    Management culture still lacking in social
    services

    Your article “A qualified success?” (10 May) raises, in my view,
    a core issue demanding serious professional consideration in social
    services. Have social services departments finally achieved a sound
    management culture? It was not until the early 1990s that this
    issue started to be addressed. In my own experience, spanning
    almost 30 years, higher social services management has often been
    viewed as elitist, remote, concerned with position and status.
    Effective communication has been badly lacking. While I have known
    and currently know a number of excellent individual managers, has
    sufficient progress been made?

    Over the past 10 years or so, social services departments have
    at least attempted to address issues around management and even to
    consider creating a management culture but is there any evidence
    this has become a reality? In my own experience, in-service
    management courses have figured prominently but we do not know how
    effective they have been. These courses were bought in by local
    authorities and management consultants or whoever would put on a
    one or two-day course. But were the organisations who contracted
    them clear about what they wanted staff to train for? Were the
    trainers really clear about what was expected of them? Is there any
    evidence these management courses have been successful? Was there
    any follow-up in the work situation?

    Many authorities have been seconding staff to management courses
    at university but are these courses an integral part of a
    continuous management development programme in the workplace? In my
    own experience I have to say a definite “no”. A sound management
    practice and culture is essential for an efficient output in social
    services. Towards achieving this, should local authorities
    seriously consider setting up management development units, jointly
    funded by all departments? Such units would actively address the
    needs of individual managers and aspiring managers by constructive
    feedback on development and performance which would then determine
    the next developmental stage.

    Gary Bigham
    Pontlottyn Bargoed

    Profiting from human misery.

    Your article on the postponement of the launch of the Criminal
    Records Bureau (News, page 4, 17 May) contains a sinister note in
    the last paragraph when it speaks of “a plan showing how the full
    cost of setting up and operating the service could be recouped
    within five years”. Presumably thereafter it would show a
    profit.

    Clearly, therefore, the government’s intention is to reap a
    financial dividend from human misery, discrimination and social
    exclusion.

    This will clearly be the effect of the jobseekers criminal
    certification plan. As many employers operate a blanket exclusion,
    it will close the labour market to ex-criminals, condemning them
    and their children to a life of crime. The public would be better
    protected if work remained an option for ex-criminals.

    No longer will it be possible for young offenders to find work,
    grow out of crime and then make restitution to society through
    parenthood supported by work. Exclusion will apply to the violent
    and sexual offenders who will be unemployable under certification.
    We want violent offenders at work, not wandering the streets. We
    want sex offenders at work, not wandering the parks.

    Perpetrators of (relatively) victimless crimes will also be
    excluded. For example, prostitution convictions will now trap women
    within prostitution. At present, attempts to get women and young
    people out of prostitution are moderately successful, relying on
    the fact that they do not carry a degrading and stigmatising
    “prostitute certificate” in later life.

    It is patently dishonest and hypocritical to oppose social
    exclusion while making money from a new form of discrimination.

    V Townley
    London

    Care model passed away long ago

    Polly Neate (Perspectives, 31 May) seems to think that the
    coming of care trusts may lead to the loss of the care model.
    Unfortunately, for both service users and staff alike, the model
    passed away when care agencies embraced managerialism in their
    desire to seem professional to successive government ministers.

    Having played the game according to New Labour rules and lost,
    it seems a bit fatuous to argue for social services to be brought
    centre stage without defining what this centre stage might be.

    Those of us ridiculed for bringing “politics” into social work
    may be marginalised; it’s not quite the image “social care
    professionals” seem to aspire to these days, but we are not wrong
    in wanting to debate whose interests our services are really
    for.

    There are plenty of practitioners who embrace contract culture
    on the spurious ground that it offers “user choice”. If there is a
    decline in support for New Labour among them, it seems it is
    because they are disappointed New Labour policies haven’t been
    “good” for their “clients”. They might want to ask themselves what
    perpetuating welfare dependency actually means.

    What does social work having a “central role in community based
    programmes” mean when a sham policy like social exclusion is seen
    as a “brave” attempt to redress disadvantage and poverty?

    When governments and commentators talk about reform without
    challenging vested financial interests, it is a certainty that the
    poor will continue in hardship and professionals will justify
    shameful compromises in their name.

    When I trained there was a commitment to the right to
    self-determination and the eradication of poverty and
    discrimination as fundamental aims of social work.

    Statements like “an ambitious programme of public sector reform”
    remind me how far we have gone away from that. The cynical
    collusion in manipulating language to appear empowering, “Best
    Value”, “Quality Protects”, when our aspirations don’t go beyond
    service delivery within pre-determined budgets and the avoidance of
    being seen to “fail”, is proof enough.

    Making New Labour listen to these “social care values” will not
    make a jot of difference because these values accept privatisation
    and management systems as inevitable realities in the so-called
    “mixed economy of care”.

    My end of term report to the government would be to value people
    more than profits, but then I am one of those boring political
    ones, so I probably don’t understand the “real world”.

    Nihat Erol
    London


    Focus on health rather than illness

    I would like to hope that mental health promotion can be
    achieved (“Promotion drive”, 3 May).It requires staff from
    community mental health teams, primary care teams, and other
    agencies to stand back and reflect on what they are doing, and what
    else can be done. We need to focus on health rather than an illness
    model.

    Alwyn D’Costa
    Community psychiatric nurse
    Springfield Hospital, London

     

    More than a place to come and die

    I applaud the work of the team featured in your article on a
    children’s hospice (Ideas in Practice, 24 May).

    However, as a social worker in a hospice providing palliative
    care for adults, I would take exception to the final paragraph
    which states that “adults enter a hospice to die”.

    This is simply not the case. As a cohesive multi-disciplinary
    team we have worked long and hard to change this false but commonly
    held view of the hospice.

    Although of course some people do come here to die (as their
    choice of place to end their lives), many of our patients attend
    the hospice for day care, medical consultation, alternative
    therapies, or as in-patients for symptom control or respite
    care.

    Our philosophy matches Veronica Phillips’s own words, quoted in
    your article: “Patients have a lot of life to live before they
    die.” It is our aim to maximise that time for them and their carers
    and families.

    Jenny Watmore-Eve
    Social work team leader
    Farleigh Hospice
    Essex

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