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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