A matter of perception

joint working to be a success, health and social services
professionals need to understand each other’s work culture. Ratna
Dutt offers pointers on how training can help with regards to race
and culture.

is stressing the need to break down the health and social care
divide. In response, we are considering developing
inter-professional training. How should we go about developing
this, paying particular attention to issues of race and

national health service is a crucial partner in almost all social
services work. The government has made it one of its top priorities
since coming to office to bring down the Berlin Wall that can
divide health and social services.

I have
recently been involved in some work that has highlighted the
inherent differences in perception that seem to exist between
health and social services regarding child protection work. When I
was practising social work in the late 1980s, health staff’s view
of social work was that social services consistently under-reacted
to child protection concerns. Social services’ view was that health
professionals always over-reacted to child protection concerns.

It would
appear that this difference in perception still exists in 2001. I
mention this, because I do not believe that we will be able to
start breaking the Berlin Wall until we begin to acknowledge some
of the inherent, but not insurmountable, differences that exist
between health and social services.

regard to inter-professional training, I will use the example of
child protection to illustrate points for consideration.

starting point is that training cannot be seen as the answer to all
concerns regarding inter-agency working. Training has to be seen as
part of a wider solution to problems. For instance there is a need
for all area child protection committees to make an institutional
response to race equality issues, by developing an all-agency
strategy covering issues of protection and prevention of abuse of
black and minority ethnic children.

first stage should be to collate information on current practice
with black and minority ethnic children. The training strategy will
need to be located in the context of the wider strategy to ensure
maximum impact on practice.

Continuing on this theme of a training strategy, the second point
is that each agency needs to evaluate its own strategy against
practice outcomes for black children. There is absolutely no point
in providing training if this is not linked to practice

The next
stage would be to identify areas of joint concerns regarding child
protection work with black and minority ethnic children and
families. Any inter-professional training that is organised should
be able to work on those concerns.

We need
to look at the reasons for the differences in perception in order
to identify the focus of the training. I believe differences occur
as a result of a difference in institutional, professional and
personal values. Assuming that this is so, the training must
address values and beliefs of individuals as well each profession
and each institution.

the over and under-reaction to child protection concerns could be
used as a focus to look at the assumptions of each professional
group. For instance, the assumption that health services or
agencies over-react as a result of professional negative
stereotypes of black people, and social services under-react in
order not to appear racist may be one of the assumptions held. And
this assumption may indeed be partly true, but other reasons could
also be valid.

health and social services are to move forward together
constructively then an honest appraisal of all issues must be
addressed in training.

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