Have your say

Community Care’s online discussion forum
Have your say gives people working in the
social care sector an opportunity to air their views on a
controversial subject.

This week’s hot topic is the issue of legal action and whether
it affects the way social care organisations operate.

Do you act in a more defensive way? Are the decisions you make
safe ones rather than the best ones for service users?

Have your say by clicking here

Last week’s subject was the proposal for unqualified staff to be
more involved in mental health services. It came from the
government’s workforce action team examining the mental health
national service framework –
click here
to read the news story.

These are the responses we received:

I am a community support manager for the
community support team in Hambleton and Richmondshire, where along
with other areas in North Yorkshire, we already have workers who
are not specifically trained in mental health or social work.
However, they have developed skills and abilities through
experience and training within other areas and as such I do not
view them as unqualified. Our team is made up of two tiers:

Community support officers who assist service users with all
aspects surrounding benefits, housing, employment and education.
This is not merely a signposting process! The community support
officers offer practical help and support and negotiate with
outside agencies. This requires a considerable amount of knowledge,
skill and experience, which are not an established part of social
work training. These people are specialist workers, but are
unfortunately seen within social services as unqualified.

And community support assistants who provide day to day
practical support for service users.

This two tier system clearly works effectively in this area and
provides valuable support for social workers in mental health.

I believe there is an important role for staff who are not
qualified in social work or mental health, but it is a
misconception to view them as unqualified. Any extension of these
services should not be seen as an erosion of a skilled workforce
more an extension of it.

Jane Beacher (Community Support Manager)

I hope that they would be sufficiently trained
in mental health issues and the level of discrimination that users
face for instance from relatives and friends, and in gaining any
kind of employment. Too many social services staff see users as
only being stupid or working class people. Also, it might help
people who start work, because currently, in my area, it doesn’t
matter what your diagnosis, if you start work, every piece of
support is whipped away from you, leaving you very

Catherine Harris

The proposed role of Support Team Recovery
Workers (STR’s) seems to present no challenge to the more formally
proscribed role of qualified workers (including ASW’s).

The concept of advising, befriending, assisting and supporting
is entirely positive, and given the stigma in respect of mental
health sufferers I feel that the greater contact that exists
between them and ‘ordinary’ people can only be beneficial –
professionals are all too often seen as looking for reasons to
intervene legally and can alienate people from seeking the help and
support they require.

Clearly STR’s would require in-service training and to be
assessed as knowing when to refer onwards for more specialist
discussion and advice.

This seems to present an overall potential improvement in the
provision of sensitive and supportive mental health services which
I, for one, welcome.

Philip J Measures,

Former ASW

In North Yorkshire we have an established
community support service along the lines described in the article.
It is well regarded by service users and staff alike and has been
demonstrated to be an effective part of community based

I would welcome an extension to this, as proposed, but it would
require adequate funding, training and a system whereby experienced
staff can progress in terms of their qualifications and careers.
Otherwise local authorities or trusts will “lose” them to other
agencies or to areas where these things are provided. They can’t be
seen as a solution to a lack of qualified staff, as in time they
too move on.

Conditions of service are also important. The more opportunities
there are in mental health, the more likely we are to have unfilled

Janet Cox

Service Manager

On last week’s issue of a new recruitment campaign for
social workers launched by the department of health:

It is all very well DoH campaigning for a more
positive image and increased recruitment. In practice frontline
practitioners and managers are constantly receiving blow after
blow, it is hardly surprising they are leaving in droves. Our local
authority have undergone a root and branch job re-evaluation
exercise which will result in 1/3rd of staff receiving salary cuts.
Of the new multi-agency YOT 13 out of 16 staff including the
manager stand to lose out. In one case a key staff member will lose
1/3rd of her salary.

The LA position is that 1/3rd of staff in this type of exercise
will receive a pay increase, in reality pay increases come about
when departments are reorganised or merged and staff are taking on
even more work and responsibilities. Even if we discount the simple
fact that everyone in employment lives by their income and
therefore their mortgages etc reflect this, what does this kind of
exercise say to staff about their professional ‘worth’. They
applied for and accepted a job at a given salary for particular

responsibilities. All our YOT staff have done everything asked
of them and more, often in very difficult circumstances. The LA is
in effect saying this is not good enough. In a multi-agency team
the implications for staff are even greater since not all staff
have had to be re-evaluated, their parent

agency being outside the remit of the scheme.

At a stroke it has undone 2 years of team building, the
celebration of diverse professional background and skills (and of
necessity pay and conditions). It is naive to believe that staff
will stay with the team (who in their right minds takes a salary
cut and thinks ‘oh well’) and in the case of YOTs 143 teams have
been fishing in the same small pool of talent for 2 years. We stand
to lose valuable staff with skills in working in a multi-agency
environment which other agencies will snap up and consequently face
the very real possibility of being unable to fulfil statutory
obligations. Campaigns for increased pay and better recruitment are
falling on stoney ground here, we just wonder whether we will have
a team at all in a few months time.

Independent Chair

YOT Board

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