Jill Manthorpe looks at the reasons for an rise in guardianship
orders for older people in Scotland while Sue Dumbleton examines
how distance learning can help care workers.

A Scottish study of the use of guardianship orders
among older people

This research explores the rise in guardianship for older people
living in Scotland.

Such orders appear to have tripled since the implementation of
the Community Care Act 1990. The researchers took records from the
four years either side of the implementation of the reforms: 22
orders were made in the two years prior to the act and 63 in the
two years after.

Orders were generally made in respect of older women, for those
with a diagnosis of dementia and were short-term. Half of those
made were in respect of older people in hospital. Many people then
moved to a residential or nursing home. The authors comment that
this appears to be similar to England.

This research showed that guardianship is not generally used to
help support older people living in their own homes, but appears
part of a process of moving them from hospital to care. The authors
suggest that the formalisation of social work’s role under
the act has helped professionals to consider this measure.

Their work makes the important point that this does not
necessarily permit older people to be supported at home, but to
justify their move to nursing or residential care. They note that
this may be contrary to earlier practice, which appeared to enable
people to remain in their own homes.

Barber and Crean remain undecided about whether guardianship is
a positive way of formalising inevitable and justified moves, which
may not be fully understood by particular older people, or whether
it could be replaced by good practice with individual older people
and effective interprofessional working.

Whatever their country, readers will find this useful research
at a time when revisions to the Mental Health Act are underway.

J Barber and J Crean, “Guardianship in the elderly and
the Community Care Act: more of the same?”, Health
, 60(6), 2000.

Jill Manthorpe is a senior lecturer in community care at the
University of Hull.


A qualitative study into the extent of attitude change and
increased knowledge resulting from a course of study on sexual
abuse of adults with learning difficulties

Social care workers, with their irregular shift patterns, often
find attendance at college impossible to arrange.

One way to overcome this difficulty is through distance
learning. This study evaluates the knowledge gains and changes in
attitude resulting from a distance learning course. It also begins
to look at effective student support.

The study demonstrates that those students who completed the
course showed both increased knowledge and appropriately changed

For people providing distance learning opportunities for social
care staff this conclusion is reassuring. Care workers will find
the discussion of the issues in relation to the sexual abuse of
vulnerable adults and the sources to which the authors refer both
compelling and comprehensive. They are a good advertisement for
what appears to be an interesting course.

For teachers and trainers, however, there are some gaps. Despite
a student attrition rate of 50 per cent, the question of effective
support on the course is less rigorously pursued, with few
references to the literature on adult learning. The high drop-out
rate is attributed to circumstances unrelated to study such as
illness. However, other studies have shown that the reasons
students give for dropping out are often those they feel will be
acceptable to or even unchallengeable by their tutors. Deeper
investigation often reveals study-related difficulties which could
be overcome with support.

In looking at support, the researchers focused on mentoring and
attempted to gain an impression of its importance. They concluded
that further work is needed in the area of student support, which
is a welcome conclusion.

As the study implies, distance learning should be a three-way
exercise involving student, tutor and the sponsoring agency.

J Hogg, M Campbell, C Cullen, and W Hudson, “Evaluation
of the effect of an open learning course on staff knowledge and
attitudes towards the sexual abuse of adults with learning
disabilities”, Journal of Applied Research in Intellectual
2001, 14, 12-29

Sue Dumbleton is course co-ordinator for the HNC in
Social Care by Distance Learning at the Stirling Centre for Further



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