Mind the capacity gap

    Mind the capacity gap

    Primary care trusts have problems. That much is clear from this
    week’s National Tracker Survey.

    Their problems sound all too familiar. National targets
    threaten to overwhelm local priorities. The demands of change
    management divert attention and resources from their core
    functions. And they are simply underfunded. There is an alarming
    gap between expectations and capacity.

    The government made the creation of PCTs compulsory, the
    pressure mounted, and frontline services may suffer as a result.
    Let that be a stark lesson as the government considers – as it will
    – whether to pile on the pressure to form care trusts.

    For social services, as we know all too well, are struggling
    with the same problems as PCTs. Ironically, social services
    managers are sometimes heard to yearn for some imaginary haven of
    plenty within the NHS.

    Imaginary indeed. It’s a cause for serious concern when the
    much vaunted “stronger partner” in an enterprise is actually
    struggling. And it’s even more worrying that primary care trusts
    and groups don’t see social care as a priority, and are allowing
    social services representatives only limited influence.

    There are two main fears. First, that structural change will
    continue apace regardless, at the government’s behest, without the
    cultural change required if social care is to be more than an
    afterthought in some areas.

    And second, it is by now a proven fact that two sides who are
    both short of money will never reach an agreement that benefits
    service users.

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    Boycott time

    The possibility of hundreds of children’s guardians walking out
    on the service should engender fear among social workers.

    Cafcass, the new body to run the court welfare service, is
    threatening self-employed guardians, who make up the bulk of the
    service, that unless they accept reduced conditions as salaried
    employees, they will have to leave the service.

    And at the same time as forcing guardians out, Cafcass has the
    audacity to launch a recruitment campaign.

    Those running the new body appear to have no idea that
    providing a sensitive service for children involved in care
    proceedings is a complex and difficult task. That’s why children’s
    guardians have traditionally been experienced social workers who
    have chosen to continue working directly with clients. However,
    those running Cafcass seem to believe the task can be carried out
    by lawyers or new recruits.

    Social workers must boycott these contracts and refuse to work
    for Cafcass. Only then it appears will it recognise the need for
    experienced social workers to run this essential service.




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