Beware Cafcass rhetoric

Anthony Williams’ tendentious attack on guardians ad litem
(Letters, 19 July) is riddled with unsubstantiated assumptions. He
suggests Cafcass “has done it’s homework”, but Anthony Hewson
(chairperson of Cafcass) has freely and publicly admitted he had no
idea of the scale and scope of guardian’s responsibilities when the
new contracts were first proposed.

Williams’ comment that Cafcass is “attempting to take back some
control by requiring guardians to work to timescales, time
constraints and budgetary limitations”, gives a clue to the
priorities of those who so obviously briefed him.

The amount of time spent on a guardian’s investigation – ordered
by the court, not Cafcass – is dictated by the needs of the child,
not the needs of accountants.

Where are the complaints from judges and magistrates that the
previous system was failing? Most delays for final hearings come as
a result of overburdened courts and the failure of local
authorities to produce adequate care plans. Guardians demonstrably
expedite, not impede this process.

At the root of Williams’ letter lies the fear that managers have
of professionals. Unable to understand the commitment and skill
that underpin guardians’ work they cynically seek to justify their
own existence (and the money spent on new offices and tiers of
administration) with narrow, quantitative measures of worth.

He says there are many competent and keen professionals more
than willing to fill the gap, if existing guardians leave. But that
is the case only if you think three years’ experience is an
improvement on the average of 20 which most current guardians

Ultimately, Williams confuses change with progress, falling into
the classic New Labour trap of believing rhetoric alone to be
enough. Neither he nor Cafcass appear to give a damn about
providing a professional service to vulnerable children.

Dave Young


Children’s welfare will suffer in new

Let’s see if Anthony Williams’ support for Cafcass (Letters, 19
July) will stand the test of time.

As a children’s guardian, I see Cafcass as a tragedy for
children who need to have their wishes represented impartially by
people who are not afraid to speak out against inadequacies in our
child care system. Williams is right – many guardians are looking
for other work opportunities, but not for the greedy reasons he
suggests. The sad reality for many of us is that, having had the
experience of working in a genuinely child-centred way,
preservation of one’s professional integrity and credibility make
it very difficult to choose to be part of Cafcass.

If Williams doubts my analysis, perhaps some hard facts might
help him reconsider.

In mid-June, I informed a Cafcass employee that I was seeking
other work and wished to talk about how case transition could

During an informal chat with a potential employer prior to even
submitting an application, my professional dilemmas were discussed
regarding the transition of child care cases. The potential
employer sympathised immediately with my dilemma and agreed to
leave of absence to allow the children’s best interests to be

With a clear conscience as to how matters could remain
child-centred, I approached Cafcass to enquire about its policies
and procedures about transition. Nothing had been devised to date,
I was told. I suggested that the absence of policies needed to be
addressed urgently. No more information was forthcoming. I
therefore pressed hard for a response at the beginning of July.

I was then told that transfer of work was Cafcass’s problem, not
mine. There was nothing more to be said on the matter.

Do Cafcass employees believe that achievement of organisational
objectives may be more important than promoting any individual
child’s future?

If so, how will the courts respond when organisational
objectives are in direct conflict with a child’s welfare?

How many more millions are going to be wasted trying to undo the
damage when children can no longer depend on their guardians?

Pauline Lawrence
Children’s guardian

Prevention is the cure for rough sleeping

Safe in the City is delighted that government thinking is now
recognising prevention as the most effective way to end rough
sleeping (In Focus, page 12, 12 July).

Local authorities can start making a real difference through
prevention strategies. But there is a danger that by starting from
scratch and embarking on lengthy research and strategy-building
procedures, councils will lose opportunities to help young people

Much of the information, background research and teething
problems have already been experienced and examples of best
practice and inspiration are out there to help others who are about
to take a first step.

Safe in the City has been researching and tackling the causes of
youth homelessness for the past three years, working with 9,000
young people in eight London boroughs.

Our work has brought together local authorities, voluntary
organisations, social services, education and health workers to
provide the best possible outcomes for young people. Fighting for
truly joined-up services is a challenge everyone faces in
delivering services. I urge them to look at how others have
achieved it, share practice, and enable more young people to

Julia Fawcett
Safe in the City

Threats lead to more anxiety for residents

You reported (posted on, 10 July) that
a spokesperson for Scottish Care, the organisation representing
private nursing home owners in Scotland, was disappointed at the
deferral of talks with the Scottish executive and the Convention of
Scottish Local Authorities over the funding of nursing home places.
Elsewhere it was reported that, according to Scottish Care, this
would bring “further anxiety to old folk throughout Scotland”.

Can I suggest to Scottish Care that one way of removing this
anxiety would be for them to withdraw their threats to refuse
taking council-funded residents in Grampian, as well as their
intention to evict thousands of older people from their homes in

To many older people, the prospect of being denied a nursing
home place or, even worse, the thought of being thrown out of a
home through no fault of their own is a real worry at the moment.
Tactics like this are causing real heartache to some of the most
vulnerable people in our communities.

Many of us with responsibilities for looking after older people
did have a lot of sympathy with the problems facing private nursing
home owners. In Edinburgh we raised our pricing policy for nursing
and residential care last October. However, much of this sympathy
disappeared when we were faced with the threats.

Local authorities are committed to finding a workable solution
to the current problems facing nursing homes, but finding extra
cash mid-year is very difficult. Paying more to home owners would
mean less would be available for home helps and other essential
services needed to help keep older people longer in their own
homes. That is why Cosla recently agreed to approach the Scottish
executive to discuss the possibility of some top-up funding for
this year, rather than dismiss Scottish Care’s demands.

The current problems need to be debated maturely, and not in
ways that cause unnecessary anxieties and concerns to older people.
We would welcome organisations like Scottish Care to these
discussions, but the debate on the long-term care of older people
will go ahead with or without them.

Of course it is important how we pay for long-term care, and how
we implement the Sutherland recommendations, including the
provision of free personal care in Scotland.

Also, partnerships need to be developed with housing
associations, health authorities, and yes, private home owners.
Instead of using threats, let’s work together to make a real
difference to how older people live.

Councillor Kingsley Thomas
Executive member for social work
Edinburgh Council

Listen to practitioners and service users

It was good to see a feature focusing on hearing the voice of
social care practitioners (“A knowing silence”, 12 July). But sad
to see that almost all the people spoken to weren’t practitioners,
but academics and managers.

At the recent Community Care Live event, a major
session brought together social care practitioners and service
users highlighting how they together would reshape future social
care practice. This session, organised by the user-controlled
project Shaping Our Lives and the social work practitioner
initiative Social Work 2000, demonstrated that we as practitioners
are well able to speak for ourselves – given the chance, which we
are too often denied. Keep up the good work Community Care
and keep helping to make this possible.

Suzy Croft
Social Work 2000

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