No excuses on education

    The first national statistics confirming the scandalously low
    levels of educational achievement of looked-after children and
    their impact on employment, health and criminality were rightly
    highlighted in Community Care (News, page 9, 21 June). How
    disheartening to read the response of the Association of Directors
    of Social Services in the same article, including an appeal for
    realism as “many children are in care or looked-after because of
    their offending or poor school attendance”.

    The facts are, we might have thought, beyond dispute. Only
    around 2 per cent of children and young people enter the public
    care system with previous criminal convictions. Additionally, the
    difficulties many children in care experience with their education
    are extreme even in comparison with other children from similarly
    disadvantaged backgrounds. The lessons from research and practice
    of the past two decades have consistently demonstrated the failure
    of the care system itself to ensure children in care are provided
    with the same educational opportunities that the overwhelming
    majority of the general school population take for granted.

    It is taken as read too that individual parental attitudes,
    expectations and the manner in which we support the education of
    our own children are the most critical factors in achieving
    success. The “corporate parent” is no different, but regrettably
    has rooted deep within its culture, structures and services a
    fundamental belief that somehow these children are very different
    from our own and that their individual circumstances militate
    against a real parity with other children in educational

    Raising standards for these children is not a straightforward
    matter. However, our aspiration that looked-after children and
    young people achieve results in line with all other children within
    our communities will be realised a great deal earlier when we
    finally recognise and accept the extent to which we, the adults,
    have created the problem, rather than looked-after children

    Tim Walker
    Chief executive
    The National Teaching and Advisory Service

    Brian injury requires
    appropriate services

    There is a desperate need for understanding on the part of
    social services departments of the impact of acquired brain injury
    (The Risk Factor, 14 June).

    Your article also demonstrates the consequences of failure to
    access post-acute rehabilitation that takes account of the
    timescale required for appropriate strategies to be learned and is
    used to address cognitive, communication, physical,
    social-behavioural and emotional needs.

    The report of the commons select committee on health (Head
    Injury: Rehabilitation
    , April 2001) recommended that every
    head-injured person admitted to hospital should leave with a care
    plan mapped out. We would add that this should outline a number of
    stages and be long-term, rather than merely looking at the
    placement on discharge.

    Acquired brain injury is to this decade what learning
    difficulties were to the 1960s – here to stay and demanding
    of appropriate services, not merely domiciliary containment at the
    expense of clients and families.

    Judith Oliver
    Manager, Brain Injury Centre
    Queen Elizabeth’s Foundation
    Banstead, Surrey

    Attitudes that put off social work students

    In September, I will start studying for the Diploma in Social
    Work and I was appalled by Bill Stone’s attitude towards
    potential students (Viewpoint, 21 June).

    I am not “anyone” with good intentions. I am a person with two
    years’ experience in the adults with learning difficulties
    field, three years in mental health and one year running a play
    group. I have also completed two Open University courses. All the
    while bringing up two children alone.

    At my interview for the DipSW, all the applicants were amazed by
    how difficult it is to get on the course. The DipSW is very
    different from the training of 20 years ago and had I displayed the
    same judgmental and patronising attitudes as Bill Stone I would not
    have been accepted as a student.

    Perhaps Mr Stone should spend some time on “prescriptive
    policies and procedures” and try being a reflective practitioner,
    thereby changing his views to something more in line with
    today’s working environment.

    Name and address withheld

    The future of care

    The recent publication of the King’s Fund report Future
    (News, page 4, 14 June) is a timely clarion call to
    all providers of social care to seriously examine the viability of
    future provision. The recruitment and retention of staff in social
    care presents real threats and can no longer be dismissed as a spin
    off of a vibrant economy (as one politician explained to me earlier
    this year).

    Another ticking bomb, which may fuel the tension between cost
    and quality, is the implementation of national care standards from
    2002. The standards have been long fought for and their arrival
    through the Care Standards Act 2000 was cheered loudly. With no
    sign of transitional funds from the government, the costs of
    implementation and new revenue costs pose threats to many
    providers’ survival.

    At a time when the shape of Britain’s public services is being
    hotly debated, let’s ensure social care is high up on the agenda.
    the King’s Fund has started this process. We must now work closely
    with the new ministerial team at the Department of Health to ensure
    that people who use social care services get quality, choice and

    John Knight
    Head of external policy
    Leonard Cheshire

    A voice for staff

    We agree with Linda Goldsmith (Letters, 21 June) that there is a
    need for “a campaign to ensure that care staff are justly valued,
    supported and rewarded”.

    The King’s Fund report Future Imperfect (News, page 4,
    14 June) states that “a radical change is needed in the value that
    is attached to care work”. It adds that “improved pay and
    conditions must be at the heart of the approach, and other ways of
    raising the status of care workers will be key”.

    The delivery of consistently high quality personal care services
    will not be achievable until care staff are well trained, receive
    proper supervision, and are adequately rewarded for the challenging
    work that they do. We believe that all stakeholders must work
    together to achieve this goal.

    At present care workers in the independent sector do not have
    effective representation. A new campaign group is being launched to
    meet this need and ensure that care workers’ concerns are placed
    firmly on the agenda.

    We invite support from all who share our view that professional
    care workers are entitled to a decent standard of living and secure
    conditions of employment in return for their contribution to the
    Name and address withheld

    What Art thou?

    It is arts therapists not art therapists (“Where the art is”, 10
    May) who are state registered with the Council for Professions
    Supplementary to Medicine. “Arts therapist” is an umbrella term for
    three professions that have separate training and separate
    professional bodies. These are art therapy, dramatherapy and music
    therapy. There are also many dance movement therapists, regulated
    by the Association for Dance Movement Therapy (UK), who are working
    towards state registration at present.

    It is, in fact, arts therapists (not art therapists) who use
    “traditional art, drama and music to help a broad range of people”.
    Practitioners generally work mainly in their own medium, although
    there may be crossovers with particular clients.

    The arts therapies are used in very clear situations, which are
    similar to psychotherapy and counselling. The arts in health cover
    a wide range of approaches and initiatives, as was well illustrated
    in your article. Although much of this work has a therapeutic
    benefit, it is not all art, music, drama or dance movement

    Rachel Matthews
    State registered arts therapist (drama)
    Whitland, Pembrokeshire

    Champion of social work will be missed

    Robin Huws Jones, who died recently (News, page 5, 28 June) was
    one of the founders of modern social work. Although, like Dame
    Eileen Younghusband, he was not a social worker, he championed the
    profession in the 1960s and 70s, serving on a number of important
    bodies, including the Seebohm committee which led to the creation
    of social services departments.

    He is remembered for his forthright views, his tenacity in
    pursuing government ministers and the way in which he advanced the
    careers of young social workers he thought would one day play
    leading roles in the development of social services.

    He also had a sparkling sense of fun. I, and my colleagues from
    that time, will forever be grateful to him.

    W Harbert
    Frome, Somerset



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