Advocacy needs friends

Advocacy has been described as a “good concept
now trivialised” (“Speaking up”, 10 January). I recently researched
two advocacy schemes covering 229 residents in 20 care homes, and
examined the opinions of advocates, those receiving services,
relatives, care providers, care managers and inspectors of care
homes. I found that advocacy is valued differently, depending on
which stake you hold.

Providers of care said they valued advocates
for their independence and objectivity as well as for providing
companionship and friendship to residents.

Service users said they could not be properly
represented by someone who was not a friend or companion. They gave
many examples when they felt only those who were befriending them
spoke up for them.

Inspectors said they rarely saw examples of
advocates representing the wishes and feelings of those living in
care homes, and that advocacy was being used to oil the wheels of
the welfare system.

The study highlighted the weakness of the
service users’ protective networks. Forty-four per cent of
residents were not visited at least once every four weeks by anyone
unpaid. About a third had no allocated care manager, and those who
did were visited less than once every three months. Twenty-one per
cent of residents were unable to communicate their needs and 25 per
cent had no relative able or willing to take a concerned interest
in their welfare.

Advocacy in residential care homes is best
viewed as the role of a “critical friend”, embracing companionship,
friendship, representation, support and protection. This is more
likely to gain acceptance from all stakeholders, not least those
who live in residential care homes.

Stuart Barnes
Principal inspector,
Berkshire Inspection Unit

Climbie evidence

Your report of Petra Kitchman’s evidence to
the Victoria Climbie inquiry (News, page 10, 13 December), and the
delay between the sending of a letter by paediatrician Mary
Rossiter and Petra Kitchman’s reply to the letter, omitted the fact
that for three weeks of the period concerned, Petra Kitchman was on
annual leave. It saddens me that this small but vital fact was left

Nick Sherlock

Codes are a good start…

It is indeed to be hoped that the General
Social Care Council’s codes of conduct will breed a sense of
confidence in the profession. The codes are a good start and a step
in the right direction. We will be incorporating the codes of
conduct into our own quality standard ISO 9000 currently being
introduced across Reed Social Care Personnel.

However, the codes of conduct on their own are
not enough – they must be supported by proof of commitment. The
real issue is the setting of and delivery to precise timescales for
the introduction of the social worker register. The social care
profession will then fall into line with other professions where
registered individuals can be “struck off” after failing to adhere
to their respective codes of conduct.

It is only when both the register and the
codes of conduct are in place that we can move forward and build
confidence and pride in our profession.

Lesley Healey
Reed Social Care Personnel

…but are obvious

In 29 years of generic social work for a local
authority, I have never met a social worker who would not claim to
have attempted to adhere to the six parts of the General Social
Care Council’s new code of conduct (News, page 9, and News
Analysis, 10 January). These codes are just another example, like
mission statements and protocols, of stating the obvious as if it
were some form of Damascene conversion.

Lynne Berry, chief executive of the GSCC, says
this is a very exciting time. She needs to get a life and the GSCC
needs to get a proper job.

This code will do nothing to rejuvenate me or
my colleagues. Neither will it increase our confidence in our
abilities. It will just be used as another stick to beat us

Ross Sutton

Sadly missed

I last saw David Brandon (Obituary, 13
December 2001) when he came to a conference on emergency duty
social work during his tenure as chairperson of the British
Association of Social Workers, and was the concluding speaker.

He will be sadly missed by all of us who had
the good fortune to know him and enjoyed conversations about social
work and how it should be practised. The knowledge that there was
someone like David out there continuing to influence the thinking
and development of future generations of social workers was a
source of great comfort to me.

Denys Graham
Chesham Bois,

Limits of participation

I accept Rita Stringfellow’s view that
encouraging local communities to participate and take ownership of
the decision-making process is the right way forward (Debate: Care
Trusts, 13 December). But community development is limited (I am a
community development worker).

Unfortunately, community decision-making can
only be a reality for many disabled people if “structural problems”
are dealt with first. Accessible buildings, public transport that
is inclusive, information that can be accessed by everyone, may be
beyond the scope of communities to resolve.

What disabled people have been campaigning for
is a recognition that for social and economic inclusion to be a
reality, governments and communities need to identify all the
barriers that exclude people and co-operate in their removal.

This is the essence of the social model of
disability, something that has been adopted in rhetoric by local
authorities but is still denied in practice.

Fred Postles
Derbyshire Coalition for Inclusive Living

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