More quality placements

As a student social worker about to qualify, I
have been watching the developments in the new social work degree
with interest (News Analysis, 13 June).

The degree has two major flaws. The first is
the lack of placements. I was lucky with my two-year DipSW in that
I was able to get one voluntary and one statutory placement, both
positive learning experiences.

However, many people on my course and other
courses waited for long periods to start placements or have had
very poor placements.

It is quite evident that there is a severe
shortage of quality placements so increasing the number by 70 will
further reduce the quality and safety of placements or the number
of social work students.

The second flaw is the funding. If the
government wants to increase the numbers of mature students the
value of bursaries needs to be at least doubled. Many students on
my course had full-time jobs as well. With a three-year course I
would not have been able to afford to qualify.

Cris Evans

Child safety network

Your article on child protection in schools
(“Off the curriculum”, 30 May) did not refer to the recently
established network of child protection co-ordinators within the
education system.

Twenty-six posts have been funded by the
Department for Education and Skills and their remit is threefold:
to work with local education authorities throughout England to
bring about improvements in staff training to enable them to
recognise and deal with abuse; to improve policies and practice in
this sensitive area; and to search for improvements in how
allegations against education staff are dealt with.

Work has started in all regions of the country
and recommendations about policies and practice are emerging.
Training is being scrutinised and an audit about allegations has
begun. In addition, work is being undertaken on how to define
thresholds and provide clear definitions for staff referring child
protection matters.

All this will take time but it is encouraging
that the DfES have taken this initiative. In time it will enhance
the response of the education sector by increasing child protection
awareness, and by recommending improvements in training, to ensure
that staff understand their roles and responsibilities in respect
of the care and welfare of children and young people.

Margaret Hurrell
On behalf of the National Investigation and Referral Support
Co-ordinator Network

Cynics’ diary does harm

Members of the government or general public
who read Community Care‘s weekly diary will not feel
sympathetic to any claims for improvements in our pay or
conditions. Do your diarists represent a true picture of the
day-to-day life of those working responsibly and with integrity in
social care?

If so, we need to be concerned about the
disappearance of our core values. We are accountable for the well
being of those who use our services. Who could have a shred of
respect for someone unable to remember where they should be (6

Being able to mock oneself and subvert
grandiosity is one thing. Undermining the standards and working
practices many of us are aspiring to achieve by portraying us as a
bunch of incompetent cynics is quite another.

Name and address withheld

Men’s health warning

Community Care covered National
Carers Week very well indeed (Specialist articles, 13 June). But
did you know that 10-14 June was men’s health week?.

Being an Australian social worker, I am amazed
at the apparent lack of interest or activity surrounding men’s
health issues in England. Back home, a national men’s health
promotion strategy and men’s health centres have already been

Here are some worrying statistics.

– The average British man can expect to be
seriously or chronically ill for 15 years of his life.

– Depression is a widespread but
under-recognised problem in men. At least one in five men suffer
clinical depression at some stage in their lives.

– Forty-five per cent of men are overweight.
Another 17 per cent are obese.

– Twenty-seven per cent of men regularly drink
more than the recommended limits. Thirty-six per cent of young men
(16-24) drink excessively.

– The average male smoker smokes 111
cigarettes a week and 28 per cent of men smoke.

– The incidence of testicular cancer has
doubled in the past 20 years.

– Nearly 22,000 men in the UK are newly
diagnosed with prostate cancer each year and about 9,500 die. This
number is expected to treble over the next 20 years.

Don Mackenzie
Service development co-ordinator
Physical Impairment Day Services

Mistakes are in the past

Last week an ombudsman’s report was released
that criticised the way Birmingham social services department
handled a series of complaints from a Birmingham father (News, page
14, 13 June).

The ombudsman was right to highlight the
errors. However, the complaints date back seven years and there
have been many improvements over the past two years in the way the
department is run.

In this particular case we carried out an
independent investigation in 2000 and then implemented its

The additional funding allocated to children’s
social workers in 2000 has enabled us to take steps to improve our
assessment of any child who may be at risk of abuse and we have
also improved the case management process that follows such

Susanna McCorry
Cabinet member for social services and health
Birmingham Council

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