Role of educators

Regan’s catalogue of problems inherent in the child
protection system (“When forms fail the reality test”,
25 October) raises questions about the role and contribution of
educators and academics. If the most important part of the system
of protection is the social worker, then those who shape the social
worker need to ask themselves some difficult questions about their
role in the causal chain that leads to system failure.

What is
needed is a reorganisation in the profession of social work
education. I do not mean a focus on its systems, or structure, but
on the effectiveness, ability and understanding of the educators
themselves. Are they providing new social workers with the training
required to describe, analyse and act within the context of a child
protection case?

Framework for the Assessment of Children in Need and their Families
is a belated response to the impoverished nature of both training
and tutoring of social work recruits. Its existence is an
indictment of the failure of academics to provide the new social
worker with the ability to function in a highly demanding field.
Recent experience has proved to me that too many new students are
not even aware of the document, let alone able to use it
effectively. If there is no time to educate staff about the new
framework while in the field, isn’t there an onus upon the
educators to plug the gap?

ownership of failure in the child protection system should be
spread more widely beyond the usual hapless suspects.

We must
accurately track the process of learning from classroom to case
conference. Let us firmly establish what skills are needed and what
practice is most effective. Students should be familiar with the
new framework and able to apply it.

Paul Lloyd

Smacking is not abuse

It is
highly disturbing that NSPCC chief executive Mary Marsh cannot see
the difference between loving physical correction and child abuse
(Viewpoint, 1 November).

To say
that a law against smacking “would help us all… to
challenge child abuse when we see it” is about as logical as
saying that a ban on parents showing physical affection to their
children would help to address sexual abuse. There is all the
difference in the world between moderate and reasonable physical
correction and child abuse, in terms of its nature, purpose,
motivation and effect.

suggesting that a law against smacking might have saved Lauren
Wright, Marsh appears to have overlooked the fact that legislation
against child abuse is already in place. We do not need tighter
laws, which would lead to unnecessary and counterproductive
intrusion in good, stable families. Rather, the tragic death of
Wright teaches us that in cases where there is clear, observable
evidence of abuse, decisive action must be taken for the protection
of the child and proper use made of the existing law.

A law
against reasonable physical correction and the resulting
“culture of reporting” would not help anyone –
children, parents or social workers. Court hearings, care
proceedings and case conferences involving loving parents would
inevitably follow such legislation and would be infinitely more
damaging to children and their families than a disciplinary smack.
Such misappropriation of already over-stretched child protection
resources would only serve to expose genuinely abused children,
like Wright, to increased risk of harm.

Norman Wells
Family Education Trust


Reduced dependency

I have
several points for Robert Whelan (Perspectives, 18 October), who
fails to balance his focus on increasing elderly dependency and
falling birth rates with mention of reduced juvenile dependency and
reduced benefit dependency in the working population.

First, we
don’t yet have full employment, so there is still some
surplus labour to be taken up. Second, falling birth rates mean
less cost to the state in terms of junior health and dental
treatment, education, child benefit, maternity benefits and
treatment (and less costs for maternity leave). Third, as we near
full employment, workers will have the leverage to demand better
pay and conditions, and increased wage levels will boost tax
revenues. Fourth, there will be less call on the benefits system
for such things as family tax credit and child income support
allowances, while with full employment there will be virtually no
claims for unemployment benefits. And fifth, higher standards of
living will ensure a healthier and less costly elderly population
in future.

Mark Best
West Yorkshire


New rules for sick leave

After 15
years of suffering from an extremely painful condition – atypical
myofascial neuralgia – I have finally acknowledged that I am
disabled. However, mine is an invisible disability. Yes, I can
walk, talk, see and hear, but I spend periods of time in agony. I
am a highly qualified and experienced social worker (now manager),
but I live in fear that, should I take “too much” sick
leave, I am at risk of losing my job (This Life, 1 November). 

partner is also disabled and was dismissed (due to his disability)
by the social services department for which he worked. With the
help of Unison he fought a three-year battle that he finally won.
The experience of the employment tribunal system was incredibly
stressful and, although it resulted in a landmark victory, he
received very little financial recompense.

the considerable difficulties in recruiting and retaining social
care staff, I feel that absence (or sickness) procedures must be
drastically revised by all local authorities and alternative
procedures should be implemented for disabled staff.

this happens, people who are disabled, but not obviously so, will
continue to go to work even when in agony and befuddled by
medication, rather than receiving the support and reasonable
adjustments that we need to enable us to continue to

Name and address withheld




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