Student travails…

Although the final year Diploma in Social Work
students selected for your feature (“Social care expects”, 18
April) refer to their difficult financial circumstances, at least
they have all benefited from a graduate bursary.

The average age of offer-holders on the
non-graduate DipSW programme for which I am admissions tutor is 34.
These applicants have domestic and financial responsibilities and
yet are expected to exist on the student support arrangements which
cause hardship to many young people who will still look to their
parents for help.

The government says its modest recruitment
campaign has been successful in raising the profile of social work
as a career, but unless it provides more funding for students, the
number of applicants for social work training will continue to

Clare Seymour
Admissions tutor for social work
Anglia Polytechnic University

… are a big disincentive

I am a third-year student coming to the end of
my (part-time) three-year training. I have enjoyed my training. But
would I have done it knowing what I know now? No, I would not.

I’m a self-funding student, like half of the
students on my course. Luckily, we did not have to pay for our
practice teachers, but we did have to pay for three years’ tuition
fees: £3,000 (£1,000 per year). We had to take three and
a half months off work (unpaid) to do our first placements. For me,
that meant losing 3.5 months’ pay – about £4,000.

How did I manage? With great difficulty. I had
already made a commitment to do voluntary work for one year for Age
Concern, one evening per week. I then worked two evenings plus one
day at the weekend in a children’s home to earn extra cash.

To top it off, if you’re a self-funding
student you don’t get “study-time”, so that left my two remaining
evenings and one day at the weekend to study. Not a great deal of
time for family life.

Why do they make social work training so
difficult to do? Has anyone thought that this is why it is so hard
to recruit people?

Claire Wootton

No care home market

Alison Taylor (Perspectives, 4 April) writes:
“the home owners claim to be losing money hand over fist.”

In fact, independent research confirms a huge
shortfall between local authority funding levels for care
placements and the true cost of providing care to the required

Most inspectors who have been involved in the
sector for some time recognise that higher standards cost money.
For years, local authorities have been content to promote slight
over-supply in the market in order to control prices for their own
benefit. Many admit that they have used this policy. Many
homeowners cite that as a barrier to improving quality of care as
they would wish. It can be no surprise therefore that when an exit
opportunity arrives, people take it. No fewer than 760 homes closed
during the 12 months to March 2001. Does Taylor suggest that all of
these were profiteering rogues who have no place in the care

She writes that the welfare of needy people is
being sacrificed to the marketplace. I speak almost daily to people
who are dismayed at the prospect of further “upsizing” within “care
homes” (I do not believe anything with 120 beds should be referred
to as a home). The single biggest cause of this is cost, not
profit. Smaller homes are closing in their droves. But many people
who have to enter care prefer this setting.

Councils set fee levels, not providers. There
is no negotiation. Therefore there is no “sacrifice to the
marketplace” – merely sacrifice to the whim of councils that decide
where the spending axe should fall.

Steve Bishops
Wellfield House Residential Care

Professional dangers

I am responsible for one of the services that
were the focus for the research into community support services in
Suffolk (“Professional dilemma”, 11 April). The debate about moves
to improve the status of community mental health support workers is
especially relevant at this time, when all social care workers will
be required to register with the General Social Care Council.

We need to be clear about what we mean by
professionalism. We don’t want community support workers to be
trained in skills that may enhance their knowledge of mental
ill-health, but not their ability to do the ordinary practical
tasks and to form an ordinary relationship with the person using
the support service. It is just this quality of ordinary humanity,
that is valued by the people receiving the service.

It would seem that holding a “professional”
qualification means that staff such as community psychiatric nurses
or social workers are not able to carry out those simple but
important tasks. In effect their role is to assess needs and to
provide a specialist service, not the flexible service that
community support workers provide.

We hope the General Social Care Council will
recognise that there needs to be a range of qualifications to meet
the different levels and ranges of competencies required in mental

Tina Graves
Housing services manager
East Suffolk Mind

Why Blunkett is wrong

I do not know whether David Blunkett (News,
page 8, 18 April) has thought about the languages in which he
proposes to educate refugee children in asylum centres.

In London, there are over 300 languages spoken
in primary schools. If David Blunkett proposes to provide education
in some of these languages and not others, his plans will be
discriminatory and possibly illegal.

If he proposes to treat them equally and
educate them in English, he might as well avoid increasing the need
for non-existent teachers by teaching them in the schools where
such teachers already are. He should at the very least consult
Estelle Morris before he takes a decision from which he cannot back

Earl Russell
House of Lords

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