Code is hypocritical

Liz Timms and Nushra Mapstone of the British
Association of Social Workers say (Viewpoint, 11 July): “The new
BASW code of ethics clearly identifies the five basic values that
are core to social work: human dignity and worth, social justice,
service to humanity, integrity, and competence.”

What price then an ethical code such as this
when BASW itself can apparently disregard and dismiss each of these
core values in the way that it treats its own members of staff?

Perhaps uniquely among employers who find
themselves concerned about the cost of maintaining final salary
pension schemes, BASW has closed its own scheme even to existing
members. With no effort made to protect the level of benefits
already accrued, long-term contributors are faced with savage cuts
of projected pension entitlement.

As far as one can see, the attention of the
national press has so far focused on companies that have closed
their schemes to new entrants, with much adverse comment on the
doubtful morality of such decisions. How much more unacceptable
then to remove benefits that have already been contributed to, and
earned, with seeming disregard for those pushed then into pensioner

How will BASW ever justify its future
campaigning stance on behalf of those suffering the effects of
poverty when, in part, the association will have contributed
directly to the problem itself?

The irony, of course, is that the majority of
BASW’s council, responsible for this appalling decision, rest
comfortably in the security of their local authority-guaranteed
benefits pension schemes. Any attempt to interfere with those would
probably bring them and their social worker colleagues on to the
streets in droves.

Clearly BASW can be professionally indignant
when it suits – and hypocritical the rest of the time.

Darren Oakley

No guides for euthanasia

Neil Thompson’s view of euthanasia,
bereavement and loss came at a poignant time for me (Research into
Practice, 11 July). On 9 July my father died. He was 80 years old
and had lived a good, fulfilling life.

As an atheist and lifelong humanist, he had
hoped just to drop down dead and my mother of 82 felt the same.
When it came to his last few days they were awful, much too
gruesome to describe here, but enough to make me think about
joining the Euthanasia Society. But then that is one experience of
death and each death is as different as the people in the

I, of course, have no knowledge of either Neil
Thompson’s experiences of death, grief or loss, or Leichtentritt’s,
but what I certainly wouldn’t support is professional guidelines.
You cannot be PC about euthanasia, grief or loss. All you can do is
not be condemning. I cannot imagine what stance a curriculum would
have. What is really needed is to make the survivors feel important
in whatever way they want to express that importance. Why should
social workers take on this role anyhow? What is more important
surely is that if social workers come across someone in this
situation is that they ask the person what is best for them.

So I don’t believe that this topic can ever
really be theorised because by doing so one is trying to categorise
individual experiences. What I believe social workers need to do is
heighten their communication and empathy skills to enable them to
know when they are wanted for support and when they shouldn’t

My mother chose to dedicate 24 hours a day to
my father for the last two weeks of his life. She could have been
persuaded that she couldn’t cope, but she did. As family members
and professionals (district nurses and GPs), all we could do was to
be there for and be guided by her and all the people we work

In social work we are dissuaded from giving
hugs to services users but perhaps that is what they most want and

So please leave this alone and don’t produce
the guidelines.

Rachel Mulcahy

Training in loss and grief

I agree with Neil Thompson (Research into
Practice, 11 July). Social work training, in my experience, offers
very little teaching in the areas of loss, grief and bereavement.
These appear to me to be fundamental to the whole basis of social
work, whatever the setting.

Those of us who work within the hospice
movement and specialist palliative care provide training on these
subjects and see this knowledge as vital to our work in providing
psychological support to patients and carers.

Judith Williamson
Principal social worker
Marie Curie Centre

Schools left out of loop

I was dismayed to note (“Scrambled messages”,
27 June) that the innovative “virtual teams” computer system that
is being constructed in Bradford aims to link medical staff in
various settings, the police child protection unit and the social
services child protection unit. The education system seems to have
been left out of the loop.

Although the education system did not figure
large in the Victoria Climbie case, since Victoria was never
registered at a school, it is important to note that for most
children, schools can offer the most significant day-to-day
monitoring of their care and physical presentation because teachers
and other workers are in direct contact with children for up to six
hours a day.

If schools and education service workers are
not even considered when IT systems are set up to exchange
information, this in itself could lead to the failure of important
information about a child’s care (or lack of it) to be shared.

The government is about to introduce an
element into the new Education Act to compel teachers to take
personal responsibility to report cases of child abuse. This is no
time for schools to be excluded from information-sharing

Mary Palazzo
Head of the education child protection service
Cambridgeshire Council

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