Need for decent pay

It is all very well the
government spending large amounts of money on expensive advertising campaigns
to recruit new people to the social work profession (News, page 10, 16 May). As
many have said before, the real issue is the very poor levels of pay for the
job done.

New social workers
have to start at the bottom of already low pay scales. After a while, many of
these newly qualified professionals may well realise that they can get more pay
and a lot less stress elsewhere. This must be particularly so for graduate
social workers – it was in my own case.

I am a qualified
social worker who moved to work in an education department about six years
ago.  Although I would happily return to
social work, I am prevented from doing so because the poor pay makes it
impossible with a family to support and a relatively high cost of housing.

I currently hold a
relatively junior post within a local authority department, but nevertheless it
would involve a considerable cut in pay to return to social work.

I am sure that I
cannot be the only qualified social worker no longer working in social work
(although I believe that I do in fact bring many social work values and
practices to my job). It is particularly galling that I did not even have to
move to the private sector!

Rather than just
trying to recruit new students to social work courses, the Department of Health
and local authorities should also be trying to get qualified staff to return to
the profession. Decent pay and conditions, support and professional development
are at the core of this, together with raising the profile of social work in
general, as advocated by Yvonne Roberts (“How social work can win over the
public”, 23 May).

Jim James

is too

Jacqui Smith MP,
minister of state at the Department of Health, told Community Care LIVE:
“Social work is a very practical job. It is about protecting people and
changing their lives, not about being able to give a fluent and theoretical
explanation of why they got into difficulties in the first place. New degree
courses must ensure that theory and research directly informs and supports
practice” (News, page 8, 30 May).

I wonder what she
would have thought of this year’s end examination question for the Diploma in
Social Work – “Examine family violence from a Marxist feminist and
functionalist perspective.”

oriented, heavily theory-laden and utterly failing to ask crucial questions
about the student’s understanding of what she or he might actually do in a case
of family violence, or what legal considerations are relevant, it encapsulates
for me all that is so wrong with the training social workers get and how their
competence is judged (or not).

No wonder directors
of social services complain that the product from Dip SW courses is so often
not “fit for purpose”.

With questions like
this, you wonder what the point of it all really is?

James Churchill
Association for Residential Care

Say cheese, not lemon

You would not wish
people with dementia to be further confused by being told that the cheese grater
pictured in your news pages (news, page 11, 23 May) is a lemon squeezer, would

Judith Kent
Hertfordshire NCSC Area Office

Difficulties in education

Your article on the extension
of the Connexions service to disabled people and people with learning
difficulties up to the age of 25 quoted Ivan Lewis, minister for young people
and learning, as saying: “We are very much aware that many young people with
learning disabilities experience difficulties or delays in their education as a
result of their condition” (news, page 12, 16 May).

May I suggest that
this minister has also experienced difficulties and delays in his education
regarding the experience of disability?

The comment is
entrenched in the medical model, positioning the problem in the individual’s
“condition”, and fails to acknowledge the difficulties and barriers still
imposed by the educational establishment.

Ruth Chamberlain
North Yorkshire

Help for care survivors

There are many
similarities between the needs of adopted adults and those who have grown up in
care, but much less recognition of the needs of the latter (“Origin unknown”,
23 May).

Few services exist to
help those who try to make sense of a lifetime in care, particularly if they
are seeking to trace their families. Additionally, such people may be reluctant
to approach their former “placing agency” – should they even know where to
start. And when they do get in touch with social services they can meet with

One 40-year-old man
with whom I am working is now in possession of all that was available about his
14-year-long care career – one typed A4 sheet that is mostly a record of the
homes he had been in.

We are often
approached by people who have been in care in the hope that we can use the
expertise we have gained in searching for birth relatives and adopted people.

As a result of these
approaches we have extended our search and mediation services to include not
only adopted adults and their birth relatives, but also the “second class
citizens” whose situation was discussed in your article.

There is a case to be
made for services for adults who have grown up in care and for such help to be
put on an official footing (funded and publicised). Just as adoption contact
registers exist, perhaps similar arrangements could be established for care
survivors and their families of origin?

Gary Clapton

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