Overseas workers are not always the
I am also a South African social worker in the UK and have to
agree with Jane Britz (Letters, 14 June) that although there are
social worker posts in South Africa, you have to be willing to live
in squalor or have rich parents or a husband to support you
financially. Your standard caseload is well over 100, but we don’t
have the same statutory procedures as England which means it is
possible to have such a caseload.
The system here requires a knowledge of child protection
procedures and court processes, which for most South African social
workers who come to work in the UK is unfortunately non
In my first months in England I was proud of where I came from
and the social work education I received. However, in recent years
I am ashamed when I look at the amount of South African social
workers coming to England with promises from agencies of greener
pastures. They don’t stay long in jobs, because they don’t
understand the system. As a result permanent team members or
British workers have to carry them while they earn twice as much as
their colleagues. I have worked alongside more than 20 South
African social workers in the past few years in the UK, and I can
honestly say there are only about five who really understood the
job and didn’t moan every day about the culture.
I share the British resentment of South Africans who come as
agency workers, leave when they don’t like the job with a week’s
notice, and have no base knowledge or equivalent qualification (the
South African four-year degree is not sufficient for working in a
child protection team in the UK).
The few South Africans I have seen that were worth their salt
were offered permanent posts and took them at much lower salaries.
This is what I did as well.
If the UK continues to allow South Africans to work in child
protection teams I would suggest they look at a standard course to
ensure they understand the system.
People who keep changing jobs every few weeks are leaving teams
in the lurch just because they do not like the job. If you want to
work in England you have to do it for the right reasons and not to
exploit the market. You have to give a little back and not just
Name and address withheld
Community support helps families
Owen Gill confirms other studies by showing that neighbourhood
support helps vulnerable families (“Network News”, 5 July). With
the decline of statutory community social work, it is now, as Bill
Jordan explains, often locally-run community projects that provide
this service (Social Work and the Third Way, Sage, 2000). It is
unfortunate, therefore, that some local authorities seem to have
little regard for such projects.
I am associated with a project in Easterhouse that for 12 years
has provided a host of family services in one neighbourhood. The
local authority does not give one penny towards the salaries of its
Owen Gill also identifies the particular needs of families who
are continually on the move. Hopefully, as he says, local projects
can enable them to put down roots. But, if not, contact can still
be maintained. Where families have moved to nearby housing schemes,
our staff are prepared to transport children to our clubs and
Even when they are hundreds of miles away, links do not have to
be lost. I am in touch with a few families who have moved all over
Britain. By phone, letter and occasional visits we preserve some
friendship and some continuity. During the visits, children can be
shown where they lived, where they went to school and so on. The
past is important to the present. Staff in voluntary projects are
probably more able to do this than statutory social workers.
Safety and young people’s trips abroad
I agree with Kate Seeley of the National Children’s Bureau
(“Give them a break”, 5 July) that young people should be offered
every opportunity to broaden their experiences by going abroad.
However the staff accompanying them are “at work” and should be
paid accordingly. Many are expected to have no breaks and yet be
wholly responsible all the time. In the light of recent tragedies
it amazes me that workers want to take young people anywhere.
Employers need to look at their terms and conditions of
employment and what is expected of the worker before authorising
“holidays”. In my opinion, enthusiasm, although laudable in its own
right, is not enough to ensure our children are safe.
Stop hitting children
Does everyone with the same views as Norman Wells (letters 28
June), really believe that hitting (we must dispense with
euphemisms) children is an appropriate way to nurture and develop
their behaviour, morality and sense of right in the world? The
problem is, though, that they couch their advocacy of violence in a
way that suggests it is reasonable, moderate and necessary.
They must surely recognise the barrenness of their arguments
when they are unable to answer these questions.
At what (exact) age is it appropriate to start and stop hitting
children? Describe precisely, the difference between a tap, a
smack, a clout and a clip? How much pain (use whatever register you
feel fit) do you want to inflict? Why is it only children who can
be hit with impunity? Should children with learning difficulties be
Furthermore, the facile assertion that “it is surely important
that parents are free to choose a parenting style with which they
are comfortable” does not sit very easily with those charged with
protecting children from parents who have a style that places the
children at risk.
Hitting children is a crude, vulgar and primitive way of
providing guidance; surely only a boor would disagree?
You don’t give a platform to paedophiles, wife beaters or
rapists to proclaim the reasonableness of the abuse they inflict.
Responsible censorship is always necessary to protect the
vulnerable from the drivel expounded by those who would justify
The benefits of residential care
Peter White’s point (Perspectives, 5 July) is well made about
the persistent pursuit of fostering as a solution for most
The continuous re-presentation of the family solution for
adolescents is often unhelpful. While in many cases a foster
placement is appropriate for younger children, it is not so for
I believe Peter White is right that good small communities of
young people are highly beneficial in some situations and if we
continue to assert totally negative connotations to residential
child care, a much needed service could disappear.
Assistant chief executive
Social Care Association
Agency work is a more attractive option
I am writing in response to your excellent piece on improving
the holiday rights of agency workers (In Focus, page 12, 5-11
Five years ago, I left a full-time job with a London local
authority where I worked in a child protection team. It wasn’t so
much the stresses of the work itself that made me leave but the
internal politicking which interfered with my direct work with
clients, and, I believe, resulted in them receiving a poorer
I have worked for a couple of social care agencies and have been
treated well. I am slightly better paid; have more control over my
working life; and have more direct contact with clients.
As an agency worker, I do not receive some of the benefits of
permanent employees but I believe the gains outweigh the losses.
The fact that I will now receive paid holidays makes little or no
difference to me. I usually work for six month periods so I already
get paid leave.
However I feel this change will make agency work more attractive
for social care workers who are tempted to leave their permanent
jobs for the freedom of agency work.
But the real issue for me is that, as your piece states, this is
another reason for employers, and government ministers to tackle
the recruitment crisis. Why are staff leaving social care in droves
and more importantly, what will make them stay? As the working
conditions of agency staff improve, the need for an inventive
strategy becomes more urgent.