Categorising won’t work

As a mental health social worker your article
on adult survivors of sexual abuse (“Is abuse ignored?”, 22
November) accords very much with my experience.

However, I would add a couple of riders to the
points made in the article. Survivors may welcome “unskilled”
interventions by untrained staff, but untrained staff may find it
hard to cope with the fluctuations of mood that develop when
counselling is undertaken. I myself was nervous of working with
survivors even though I was fully qualified.

There is also, I’m afraid, a strong tendency
to see people who have been abused as nuisances, because they are
sometimes so withdrawn or inaccessible to normal approaches.

There is a culture in the training social
workers now receive to fit clients into neat categories that can be
fed into computers to provide data for managers. This culture does
not encourage workers to undertake careful assessments of clients
who may need time to be assessed correctly. Clients who suffer
trauma need a different set of priorities.

Name and address withheld

Walk first, run second

Your editorial comment on the General Social
Care Council’s draft codes of conduct and practice calls for
“detailed guidance” (10 January). But let’s not run before we can
walk. This is the first time ever that a set of values has been set
down for the profession. In time this will be underpinned by
precisely the guidance you suggest. Nurses have their values
encapsulated on something the size of a credit card which they can
carry in their pockets, backed up by volumes of supplementary
advice and guidance. We’d like the social care profession to have
that too.

But first things first. These codes are
statements of values and standards. They are not at this stage
intended to be a step-by-step guide through social care.

Lynne Berry
Chief executive,
General Social Care Council

All charities need help

Your article on children’s charities asks:
“Are the difficulties faced by charities working with children
systematic of the serious financial problems in the sector as a
whole?” (“Charities in need?”, 13 December). Too right, they are!
Children’s charities, along with charities supporting pets, have
always been able to attract donations from the public at a far
greater rate than those of us who work with older people.

The growing funding crisis and pressures on
local authority services must have an impact on grants and core
funding for voluntary organisations.

Another pressure that local voluntary
organisations suffer is the lack of volunteers. Successive
governments keep waving the “be a volunteer flag” but where are
those who can make a regular commitment of two to three hours per
week? Volunteer days have their place but they are of little use to
those of us who need ongoing support. No volunteers means paid
staff, which in turn means rising costs.

The voluntary sector now has to fund the costs
of the Care Standards Commission regulation. While we welcome the
opportunity to prove ourselves, there must be more funds available
to train staff up to standard.

The government may have pots of money to
tackle social exclusion with children and young adults, but what
about the large number of socially isolated older people?

Central government must recognise the work
done by all organisations and fund local authorities adequately in
order that they may support groups, providing a service in

Cynthia Spice
Chief officer,
Age Concern Gillingham

Why so anti-advocacy?

I spent eight years working for a health
authority as part of the learning difficulties team. I always felt
there was something missing within the service, but felt my hands
were always tied.

I presently work for the voluntary sector,
providing independent advocacy to people with learning
difficulties. You would not believe the negative response I receive
from social services the minute I announce I am working on a

I have been verbally abused, told I’m
interfering, given incomplete information or not given any at all.
I am questioned about my knowledge of learning difficulties, my
experience and my qualifications. Eighty per cent of my cases are
because of the shortfall in services provided by social services
and social workers’ attitudes.

I have explained advocacy to social work
teams, given presentations, distributed our information and offered
to answer any queries

It is a shame that advocacy involvement is
given so little respect, when advocacy is said to be of great
importance in the learning difficulties white paper and in social
services policies.

Of course, there are some social and health
workers who have been supportive, informative and respectful. I
would like to thank those who are in this category, but you are
very few and far between in my experience.

Heidi Gough

Residential procedures

I work as a psychological service social
worker in Norfolk and we have procedures to consider residential
placements for children and to review placements (“Is boarding the
only option?” 13 December).

Where social services are not involved we
visit the family before a decision about residential placement is
made and discuss the implications with both the young people and
their parents.

If they are placed in a residential school we
review the placement once a year, again consulting with children
and their parents, and we try and address issues that arise out of
these discussions.

Although the system is not perfect it
addresses most of the issues raised in the article.

Bianca Finger-Berry
North Walsham,

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