Arming advocacy

was pleasing to see the issue of young people and complaints gaining some
exposure (Editorial comment and News, page 5 and 12, 4 July). However, in
supporting the need for effective advocacy arrangements for young people, you
unfortunately missed an opportunity to address a greater concern, the question
of service user rights generally, and the uncertain future for complaints

reality is that after an inspired start, the profile and importance of
complaints has regrettably slipped from the agenda. With the outcome of the
Listening to People consultation paper still awaited after almost two years,
and complaints services across the country struggling to meet increasingly
litigious demand with very limited resources, advocacy for young people
represents just one of many factors in the effective complaints handling

Waterhouse, councils have appointed children’s complaints officers, children’s
rights officers, and any number of other regional variations. The recent
consultation document on advocacy standards issued by the Department of Health
represents a further positive step down the road towards a more professional
and available advocacy service for young people.

improved advocacy services alone will not bring about the change in culture
required to make complaints systems truly effective.

right to access all stages of a complaints procedure, the independent
consideration of a complaint where requested, and that the procedure should be
complainant rather than organisation-led, should be non-negotiable.

may sound self-evident, but as the collision of health and social care services
gathers momentum, there is considerable concern that some of these basic values
are under threat.

Chairperson of the National Complaints Officer Group (social care)

the experts

intention to imprison those with personality disorders is indeed very
disturbing (Editorial comment, 4 July).

are promised "safeguards", but what can these possibly consist of? If
the criminal justice system gets it wrong in deciding if people have committed
a crime or not there will surely be more miscarriages of justice in deciding
what people might do.

supposed safeguards will immediately be attacked by the tabloid press as the
new "loopholes" that free dangerous monsters.

psychiatrists will not co-operate, so who will? There is no such thing as an
expert opinion in deciding what someone might do. Those who pretend to this
expertise, will be joining a sinister and evil tradition of pretended expertise
including "racial experts" and witchfinders.


Racism and councils

engaging in a personalised attack on me, John Williams (Letters, 11 July) has
side-stepped the issues raised in my Viewpoint column about structural racism
in councils. My article was about the fact that many councils have chosen to
flout the law by failing to meet deadlines set by the Race Relations Amendment
Act 2000.

comments stem from personal experience and the experiences of people from
ethnic minorities known to me. Here are three examples that will suffice.

a number of years I worked in the race relations field. Someone employed by us,
from an ethnic minority group, was a qualified social worker. She had been
qualified for several years (not months or weeks) but had never been accepted
for a social work post by any of the many social services departments to which
she had made numerous applications. She was a highly skilled and able person
and a pleasure to work with. She had so much to offer but was turned down again
and again. This was not only a loss to the social services departments
themselves but it was a loss to the service users as well as to her.

applied for a post in a community project but was turned down. I asked the
reason why. I was told that it was because my experience was with "people
from ethnic minorities and not white people". I was being told that the
service users with whom I had been working and the work I had been doing with
them were irrelevant. I was appalled that black people and their needs could be
devalued in such a way.

few years later I was working for a council that established a working group on
race. I volunteered to go on it but was turned down on the basis that the group
was for managers only. When it had been running for a while someone from the
voluntary sector asked whether I would join it. I explained to her the reasons
for why I was originally turned down. She was amazed that my employer had
actually turned down my offer purely on grounds of hierarchy.

British Association of Social Workers’ new code of ethics offers some hope in
all this. If all those working in social work, and in its management, sign up
to it then they will be required to direct their loyalties to the service
users, to good employment practice, and to improving the services they are
involved in providing, over and above being loyal to employers who set a bad
example to their staff by failing even to comply with the law.

Freelance trainer and writer

Segregation – no way

Duncan Smith says that children with learning difficulties are being
"forced out" of special schools, into ones that are
"ill-equipped to understand or respond to their needs" (News, page 9,
11 July).

the Conservative leader would like all children with learning difficulties to
be segregated in "special" institutions, where it is known that many
children do not fulfil their potential. If mainstream schools are not equipped
to help those with special education needs, then surely we should ensure that
they are in future? The right of all children to receive a decent education at
their local state school must be paramount.


More from Community Care

Comments are closed.