Cafcass cares for children

    The Children Act 1989 was hailed as the charter for children.
    Although there have been some significant developments for children
    as a result of this legislation, there have also been some
    unfortunate outcomes, delays in completing family proceedings being
    one. In light of this, one may be forgiven for observing that on
    occasions it has been less of a charter for children, and more of
    an open cheque book for a number of solicitors and so called
    “children’s guardians”. It was with some relief that I read (News,
    pages 4-5, 12 July) that the Children and Family Court Advisory and
    Support Service was again attempting to take back some control by
    requiring guardians to work to timescales, time constraints and
    budget limitations.

    What is it exactly that guardians believe should permit them to
    work in a manner, or assume a position, that deflects
    accountability to management and ignores the necessary limitations
    and safeguards relating to the public purse? If only we all had
    those freedoms.

    And why (Comment, same issue) would anyone want to boycott

    No doubt Cafcass has done its homework. I suspect they know
    exactly what the score is, exactly what is needed and what will
    best meet the needs of children and their families. I suspect they
    also know that there are many extremely competent and keen
    professionals more than willing to fill the gap if the guardians
    decide not to participate in the new regime.

    It seems to me that it is turkeys voting for an early Christmas.
    Roll on New Year!

    Anthony Williams

    Williams Ross Consultants



    Dream or nightmare

    I had a dream, and in it the secretary of state was revealing a
    new way forward for the social work profession. The Department of
    Health released a press statement that was widely reported in the
    press and on radio and TV.

    Launching the report, Mr Milburn said:

    “Local authorities are full of good social workers, not bad
    ones. Together, social workers, local authority staff and the
    government are leading a quiet revolution to raise standards of
    care in social services.

    “Social work is not a perfect science. Even the best social
    workers can make the worst mistakes. Reducing errors and improving
    care means changing how local authorities work to minimise risks
    for service users.

    “It also means ending the blame culture. Of course the small
    minority of bad social workers should be dealt with promptly and
    fairly. But local authorities need to be more open when things go
    wrong so that they can learn to put them right. They need to
    support good social workers, not penalise them.

    “There is a shared determination in the social work profession
    and the government to make this happen.”

    The document sets out a seven-point pledge that the government,
    the social work profession and local authorities have signed up

    – To continue to show a commitment from the top to implementing
    the programme of quality assurance and quality improvement.

    – To take every opportunity to involve service users and their
    representatives in decisions about their own care and in the
    planning and design of services.

    – To work towards providing valid, reliable, up-to-date
    information on the quality of social services.

    – To work together in determining priorities.

    – To create a culture within local authorities that is open and
    participative, where learning and evaluation are prominent and
    which recognises safety and the needs of service users as

    – To recognise that in a service as large and complex as social
    services things will sometimes go wrong. Without lessening
    commitment to safety and public accountability of services, to
    recognise that honest failure should not be responded to primarily
    by blame and retribution, but by learning and by a drive to reduce
    risk for future service users.

    – To recognise that the professions, the government and the
    public share a common interest and commitment to improving the
    quality of services for service users. Minor disagreements on
    points of detail must not be allowed to obscure this common

    On, no. That was doctors, wasn’t it.

    Peter Kempster



    Don’t co-operate with government

    I am not sure I can accept that social workers are to blame for
    their lack of engagement with the social exclusion and community
    renewal debate (Comment, 5 July). Social work as a term is no
    longer in the New Labour lexicon.

    New Labour has sought to implement these strategies through the
    creation of a raft of new bureaucracies, which enforce, not
    negotiate, community regeneration. There is no question of any
    organic, bottom-up work with the real experts – the deprived and
    marginalised. There is only enforcement by consultants, distant
    academics and quangos.

    Social work is indeed at “breaking point”. Its best policy now
    would be to stop co-operating with the government’s phoney and
    vapid pronouncements and projects, and turn instead to an alliance
    with service users, faith groups, trade unions and the third
    sector, to preserve and extend social protection provision before
    it is too late. Maybe your previous editorial inviting us to vote
    Labour was part of the problem?

    Martin Wall

    Malvern Link



    Double jeopardy spells double trouble

    I have discovered the dangers of double jeopardy when trying to
    find help for my husband who is suffering from mental health
    problems and is “easing the pain” of the problems by drinking.

    The GP and the mental health services say that until he stops
    drinking they can do nothing. But alcohol services and agencies say
    that until he makes the first move and contacts them directly there
    is nothing they can do.

    But what if the depression and other mental health problems mean
    he cannot make that first step?

    Sorry, comes the reply, there are no easy answers.

    I am not looking for easy answers – I am simply looking for
    someone who will help us out of this vicious cycle before his
    behaviour, which is steadily getting worse, becomes totally

    I am in the profession myself so at least I should understand
    the argument, but as someone looking for help it has been and still
    is the most frustrating experience.

    Nor can I get any advice. I have contacted all the services I
    can think of.Can anyone think of anything else I should be

    People are offering me support which is wonderful and much
    needed but I also need practical advice.

    Name and address withheld

    Time to recognise that ritual abuse is real

    Sara Scott is to be applauded for her suggestion that “we owe
    survivors serious attention to their individual stories rather than
    the collective dismissal they have frequently encountered”.

    Children disclosing their involvement in ritual and organised
    abuse should be able to expect protection but in order to protect
    these children workers have needed to deny the very existence of

    To talk of organised and ritual abuse immediately discredits
    both victim and worker. Social workers have learned that any
    suggestion of its existence could place children at major risk. It
    is time to reopen the debate, allow survivors to tell their story
    without fear of incredulity and confront the suggestion that it is
    “all imagination”. But survivors of organised and ritual abuse risk
    not being believed or not telling of their ordeals because of the
    fear of disbelief. Can the consistent stories that have been heard
    be imagined by both victims and workers? I think not.

    Is it not time that we confronted the denial surrounding the
    subject and stopped colluding with perpetrators of such abuse?

    Is it not time that survivors were able to disclose the torment
    they have suffered and expect help and support without the fear of

    Pauline Flavin


    Montford Bridge


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