Racism still a problem….

agree wholeheartedly with Wendy Pitcairn (Letters, 8 November), who argues that
"form-filling undermines the capacity of social workers to think for
themselves". This perception will be shared by many social workers and yet
managers seem to find it difficult to accept. Through the "ticking
boxes" culture taken to extremes, clients have been made to feel
dehumanised by the service.

I take issue with Neil Leighton (Letters, same issue) on the matter of race.
Much has been done to improve this, but it stubbornly remains true that black
people are over-represented as service users, particularly in areas such as
psychiatry and child protection, which can be seen as containing a stronger "policing"
element. The white middle class parents in the A&E department, whom he
cites, may feel stressed but they are not likely to feel immediately that the
professionals do not speak the same language or share the same assumptions
(this can occur even when the professionals are black). Black parents are still
more likely to feel oppressed, misunderstood and powerless – with good reason
considering that black children have a higher risk of entering the care system.

work is still, despite all our professional and service aspirations, primarily
about dealing with relative poverty, its repercussions and its causes. Black
people are still more likely to be poor than white, essentially because of
racism. A service giving disproportionate importance to uniform form-filling is
at risk of losing sight of what it is trying to achieve – high standards of

still exists in the public services and wider society. It is rooted in the
messy, disreputable, unappealing aspects of human nature, which need a more
creative approach than just ticking ethnicity boxes on forms.

professionalism will also go a long way to answering the points of yet another
letter in the same issue – headlined "Time to value staff"!


…and an issue in inquiry

Alibhai-Brown (Perspectives, 25 October), states her concern that the inquiry
into the tragic death of Victoria Climbie has deliberately omitted race from
its remit and is unwilling to tackle the possibility that it played a central
role in the failure of state agencies to prevent the little girl’s murder.

race – in relation to the health service, social workers and the police – was
defined as one of the key issues for the investigation when Lord Laming, the
inquiry chairperson, published his "list of issues".

during his opening statement, Neil Garnham QC urged the inquiry "not just
to keep an open mind on the subject [of race] but to keep its antennae attuned
to the possible significance of race". He then went on to outline the ways
in which race may indeed have played a part in the case. Not only has the
inquiry not omitted the question of race from its remit, but it is actively
trying to seek it out wherever it is relevant.

Press Officer, Victoria Climbie Inquiry

Excluding the causes

Roche’s defence of the social exclusion unit ("Making progress", 1
November) actually exposes its weaknesses. She urges social workers to continue
their efforts to reduce poverty and deprivation but she has nothing new to say
about how this will be achieved. Social workers cannot be expected to come up
with solutions until the underlying causes are addressed.

use of the term "social exclusion" disguises the extent of poverty
and avoids any analysis of the class divisions in society that give rise to,
and perpetuate, inequalities of income and wealth.

also question her statement that we must "do even more to drive down rates
of social exclusion". This way of thinking reflects a middle class view
that the socially excluded are a problem and simply need to be brought into
line. The social work profession seeks to avoid such a patronising approach.
Social work is essentially concerned with negotiating between the moral
majority and the "deviant" minority, in a non-oppressive way.

work of the SEU seems increasingly irrelevant to those of us who are committed
to tackling poverty and social injustice. What is needed is for the profession
to reclaim its radical tradition and re-assert poverty as the big issue.


The wrong adoptions

family-oriented voluntary organisations still have major concerns with the
Adoption and Children Bill (News, page 8, 1 November). One is that it is wrong
to view attachment disorders in adopted children as involving only children who
have come from abusive parents ("The long goodbye", 25 October).

Fourth World meets parents whose children were taken into care and put up for
adoption, not because of abuse, but because of poverty. This is irrefutable.
Time and time again, families living in poverty are judged by social care
professionals as being neglectful parents owing to a misunderstanding of their
situation that is born out of an inability to work in partnership with them.

hope that incoming president of the Association of Directors of Social Services
Mike Leadbetter will make the participation of service users experiencing
poverty a priority. Abusive parents exist across the social spectrum. But let
us work together so that fewer children from poor families are adopted as a
result of a lack of understanding, and their children do not have to suffer the
trauma of attachment disorder.

National co-ordinator, ATD Fourth World


social workers referred to at the Victoria Climbie inquiry, who stopped
attending meetings because they felt ignored by health colleagues worked for
Enfield Council, not Haringey Council as stated in our editorial comment last
week (15 November).

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