Readers’ letters to Community Care 7 August 2008

Guardianship is a positive step

The article on special guardianship (“Not so special relationship,” 10 July,) gave a very negative account of foster carers applying for special guardianship orders. We offered Community Care one of our foster carers to give her positive experience and it is a pity that this was not taken up. It would have made for a more balanced picture. The article said very little about how children have experienced this change.

I have heard accounts of foster carers being put under pressure by authorities but the “growing evidence” of this is not actually set out in the article.

In fact, special guardianship has offered looked-after children in Sutton, as elsewhere, an excellent opportunity for legal stability with their previous foster families, with very good levels of financial support. The children have been extremely happy with the outcome.

There remain major resource issues for local authorities in managing support services for special guardians and their children. It was a shame that your article focused on a small number of unfortunate situations.

Ian Lewis, Service manager, Fostering and Adoption, London Borough of Sutton

Respect would go a long way at Cafcass

Not only is Cafcass “the biggest employer of social workers in England” (“Ups and downs of Cafcass,” 24 July, it also numbers among its staff some of the most experienced in the profession. While experience and expertise do not always coincide, nevertheless in managing such a workforce a respect for this experience and expertise would go a long way. Its absence is the single constant in Cafcass’ short but sorry history.

In the latest annual report the chief executive defines the latest priority as “to strengthen control and compliance culture…to provide assurance around systems compliance and data quality.” In other words this year’s lurch is from a commendable focus on outcomes towards meeting the Ofsted agenda despite NAPO expressing reservations about Ofsted’s understanding of our work.

For Cafcass to survive, and hopefully flourish, its senior management and policy setters should understand, then develop, the qualities needed by practitioners in exercising their unique role in family court-based social work.

As long as Cafcass regards its staff as uncompliant and unamenable to fitting into a management data system then its future (and relevance) will be in doubt.

Harold Mozley, York

Let’s not forget this child’s death

Roy Walker is incorrect when he states “no child has died in a secure children’s home – compared with 30 in young offenders institutions and secure training centres” (“Walker says closure of homes is politically driven,” 26 June,

A young person took his own life at Hillside Secure Children’s Home in 1998 while serving a section 53 custodial sentence placed by the Prison Service.

Joanna Dodson QC chaired the independent review into this tragic event. Its recommendations should not be lost, particularly as secure children’s homes are still able to lock children in “single separation” for extensive periods of time that would not be permitted under secure training centre rules. The length of time this person was placed in “single separation” was a contributory factor in his death.

Paul Cook, Northants

Devon: what we are doing is right and will be successful

My series of short articles on the transformation of care management in Devon has sparked an interesting response.

Your recent anonymous letter of the week claims that we do “not have an integrated health and social care staff”(“Devon: the insult and the injury,” 24 July, However, complex care teams (CCTs) are a fundamental aspect of the fully integrated health and social care service established in April of this year. The integrated health and social care service is real. It covers 6,000 staff and has a budget of £260m.

The transformation of traditional care management practice is an important part of this integrated service. We have deliberately chosen to roll out the new first contact teams and the rapid equipment service as the first stage. These services went live across the county in June. Change on this scale is complex, and takes time. There will be teething problems and we will have to make some adjustments in the light of experience.

Following the successful piloting of CCTs, which is all evidence-based, we have now appointed the managers for our 23 complex care teams. Social workers and occupational therapists will be appointed to the CCTs in July and September respectively. We are implementing a slow track rather than the big bang approach to staffing CCTs to ensure that the first contact services, who deal with 80% of the individual contacts with 45% of the workforce, will have begun to resolve the high volume, low complexity workload. CCTs have 55% of the social care workforce, and are responsible for 20% of the individuals on our caseload.

A range of PCT staff, such as community nurses, modern matrons, therapists and community pharmacists, will also come into these teams as they roll out across Devon.

All of these developments have been tested, monitored and measured. The reports are accessible on our website at

Our electronic care record was also questioned but it is an essential tool for transforming the way we work. A single care record for health and social care staff is essential for integrated teams. A partnership of local authorities and PCTs in the South West is at the forefront of implementing a single electronic care record for health and social care staff. We will be able to exchange information between health and social care by the end of this year with a seamless, single data entry care record by mid 2009.

I have been both humbled and enthused in seeing the creativity and commitment of staff in our pilot programmes on which this whole service transformation is based. This, alongside our hard evidence based on facts, gives me total confidence that what we are doing is right and will be very successful.

David Johnstone, executive director, Devon Council

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