The Simon Heng Column

Recent headline in The Guardian “Minister signals huge social
work overhaul.”

Recently in a conference speech, Dr Stephen Ladyman talked about
his vision of social carers working for one or more individuals, or
private agencies, rather than local authorities as a consequence of
the envisaged expansion of the direct payments scheme.

Care workers are also being encouraged to work towards NVQs.
This professionalisation of caring is no bad thing if it leads to
both better standards of care and higher levels of pay.

There are advantages to care provision in the community. For
example, a service user can expect staff employed by social
services to be up-to-date in their handling techniques, and in
their awareness of disability issues. They can expect that staff
will also be adequately supervised. If care staff do not do their
jobs to an acceptable standard, service users can take concerns to
the employers and expect an effective resolution. One can also
expect a degree of continuity of personnel, allowing relationships
and trust to be built.

This isn’t to say that this model of service provision has
been ideal; there has been a lack of flexibility about how and when
care has been delivered, and a lack of choice for the client.

I have concerns about the privatisation of care provision. For
people using care agencies, there are issues about consistency and
training. The care agency workforce has a high turnover. This means
that standards of training are difficult to maintain, and that
service users often find themselves cared for by a succession of

For those of us who are able to employ our own carers, I’m
concerned about training, professional development and supervision.
These are not taken into account when working out someone’s
direct payment budget, but would be if someone were employed by a
statutory agency.

I am certain that Ladyman does not envisage a drop in standards
of care, but flexibility and choice mean nothing without seeking to
improve standards. How does he mean to resolve this apparent



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