Social fund cop-out shames government

Since 1986, successive Labour opposition social security
spokespeople – including Robin Cook, Paul Flynn, Michael Meacher
and Donald Dewar – declared themselves committed to abolition or
radical reform of the social fund .

The government’s response to the select committee’s modest
proposals for reform represents a missed opportunity to do so and
to address one aspect of the inadequacy of social assistance

Despite the weasel words of the Department for Work and Pensions
about other forms of provision, the central truths about the
cash-limited, discretionary, loan-based fund remain – that most
people surviving on meagre benefits will not get help from the fund
and are forced either to do without or to turn to exploitative
lenders for cash.

And those getting help find their already paltry weekly incomes
reduced by 15 per cent or more.

This is inconsistent with the government’s declared aim of
abolishing child poverty. Given its views in opposition, its latest
refusal to contemplate radical reform of this blot on the social
security landscape is utterly shameful.

Gary Craig

Professor of Social Justice

University of Hull

Inadequate funding is the real problem

The article on prescribing to residents of residential and
nursing homes for older people (“The wrong prescription”, 9 August)
not only misrepresents the wider practice within this sector but
also gives the impression that the fault lies within these

Homes are not the prescribing authority in these instances. They
rely solely on the expert advice of GPs and community psychiatric
services. Reliance on their correct implementation of latest
guidelines is of course implicit within this relationship.

The reality is that many homes are also struggling to cope with
the fall-out from inadequate provision and funding within mental
health services on a nationwide basis. This leads to a situation
where homes are endeavouring to meet the care needs of residents
who are awaiting urgent reassessment or alternative placement. They
bear this cross in common with colleagues in social services and
share their concern at the developing crisis.

They are also dealing with real people who are in desperate need
of care, not simply statistics on a DoH report, and this fact
should not be lost.

This is a warning sign of a wider crisis. We have new rules,
expectations, demands and standards to live up to in the sector,
and rightly so if things are to improve . Sadly, we do not yet have
the funding to deliver. Arguments abound as to who is to blame for
this. Is it Westminster or is it the local authorities?

Who cares? The fact is that delivery of anything better is
remote or impossible without the resources to match, as I am sure
our colleagues within the NHS will gladly testify. Until this
connection is understood by those with their hands on the purse
strings, then symptoms such as those described in your article will
continue to mask the real disease.

Steve Bishop


WellFamily approach is to be welcomed

Thanks for your article on the WellFamily Service (“Mix and
Match”, 16 August).

How refreshing to read of a service that treats people as whole
people, rather than as a collection of medically or
socially-defined problems – each one needing a separate specialist
solution and tackled in isolation.

We have been urging mental health services to recognise the need
to reach people in the community where they are most likely to be,
and acknowledge that mental health problems do not happen in

If poor housing, unemployment and lack of daytime opportunities,
for example, are a contributor to severe depression, how can this
be “cured” by the simple application of a prescription drug.

All too often we hear from people with personal experience of
mental health problems who feel let down by GPs who simply reach
for the prescription pad.

Of course, medication plays an important part, but people also
want additional support, counselling or even just signposting to
other voluntary organisations who may be able to help with some of
the underlying issues.

Surely it is logical to provide support for people at an earlier
stage, and in a community setting. Not only will this help reduce
the need for more intensive specialist services, but it also helps
emphasise that mental health is a part of all of us – and something
of which all service providers should be aware, whatever their

Ruth Lesirge

Chief executive

The Mental Health Foundation

No Megan’s law here

Terry Thomas, in applauding Brass Eye for satirising media
coverage of paedophilia, is accurate in his comparison to the News
of the World’s witchhunt last year (Viewpoint, 16 August).

The media drums up support by what Thomas terms its “unhelpful
contribution” to the public debate on child sexual abuse.
Consequently, “those who understand sexual crimes against children
only within the parameters they’ve been given by the media and
their attempts to direct public debate” may wish us to ape

I ask everyone to access the official US state sexual offender
warning websites to see what has become of “Megan’s law” in the
USA. These sites publish entire sex offender registers. Most
offenders are low risk and have committed minor or relatively less
serious offences to begin with, and often have their children still
living with them at the stated address. The vigilantism this
incites has driven thousands of US sexual offenders into
unregistered flight. This deeply shames America. Let us heed people
like Terry Thomas – we don’t want Megan’s law here.

V Townley


More on concurrent care planning

We were pleased to read Natalie Valios’ article “Concurrent
Affairs” (August 16). It is encouraging to know that new innovative
projects such as the Goodman Team’s are now beginning to be taken
seriously as an alternative way forward for care planning for some
young children in the care system.

We would like to mention that the Goodman project is in fact one
of three established concurrent planning schemes at present in this
country, the other two being the Concurrent Planning Project based
at Coram Family in central London, and serving the London boroughs
of Islington and Camden; and the Brighton and Hove Concurrency
Team, established by Brighton and Hove Council.

We hope in time that concurrent planning will become an
established method of working nationwide, and welcome contact from
interested professionals in the field.

Gill Gray

Concurrent Planning Project

Sharon Donnelly

Concurrency Team

Time to change a system that is failing our

The infringement of children’s rights in the British detention
system comes as no surprise to anyone who has any knowledge of the

It is a reality for all the children held in prisons throughout
the UK. Children should not be in prisons full stop. Children are
either criminalised or victimised in this society, with politicians
either arguing about how long they can lock a child up, or trying
to look good by kissing babies during election campaigns.

The figures for youth detention, when broken down, are startling
too. Black and ethnic minority children are in higher proportions
in prisons that white children, when population statistics
specifically show that the reverse should be true. Children are
discriminated against and disempowered by a society that doesn’t
take them seriously.

Children’s rights must specifically be safeguarded for a very
good reason: children do not have the power themselves to stop
their rights from being infringed, so the society around them
should do this.

When will we recognise that children have a valid part to play
in society right now and allow them to empower themselves so that
they can have an impact on a society that largely forgets them
because they can’t vote?

Steve Allen



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