Letters and readers’ views for 14 August 2008

Hackney’s efforts should be backed

Steve Walker (letters, 31 July) suggests that the Hackney model is not new or radical. He then gazes into his crystal ball and tells us the experiment will fail.

I am sure he is wrong on the first point, I hope he is wrong on the second and I certainly think it would be wise to wait and see.

The central mistake Walker makes is to argue that the Hackney model simply amounts to a nice title and extra pay. That is not correct. The new role of consultant social worker is based on the medical idea of a consultant working with – and knowing – the people that she is responsible for. This is very different from the team managers we are used to.

Also the model focuses on using and delivering evidence-based approaches (a rarity in field social work), it brings together a multidisciplinary team to deliver services and it is committed to reducing bureaucracy.

Whether this vision for social work succeeds only time will tell, and Steve Walker quite rightly points to the high levels of social problems in Hackney that may make achieving this vision particularly difficult.

But in the meantime I think those of us who are interested in the future of social work should applaud such innovative schemes, rather than criticising them before they have even been tried. For at the heart of the Hackney experiment is an attempt to reprofessionalise – and debureaucratise – social work. Surely that is something all of us would support?

letter of the week from  Donald Forrester, Child Welfare Research Unit, Bedforshire University

Campus closure is a worthy victory

Community Care must be delighted with the news that Ivan Lewis has announced £96m of funding to support the resettlement in the community of people with learning disabilities from NHS campuses .

You have featured the plight of people with learning disabilities in campuses several times, and they had not being given the opportunity to take up their rightful place in the community. I do not think any other sector of the press took up their cause.

It is to be hoped that the local authorities who are given this money to fund the resettlement of their residents will be able to offer former patients a good standard of accommodation with appropriate support, and that people will have the choice and independence that has previously been denied to them.

Well done Community Care!

Ruth Cartwright, Professional Officer, England, British Association of Social Workers

Conference cost too great for clients

I’m a person with a mild learning disability and I’m always looking in magazines for articles about learning disabilities.

I recently came across an advertisement in your magazine for a conference which I’d love to go to called “Choice and Opportunity for People with Learning Disabilities”.

However, it’s far too expensive. It’s a great pity that people like me miss out on so many of these conferences because of the cost. You’d think there would be concessions for us.

I realise that conferences like this are often run by professionals for professionals who work in the field of learning disabilities. Having said that, I really do think they should provide a space for people like me who are interested (even if it’s just a few seats at the back).

It says under the Mencap logo on the advert: “The voice of learning disability”. What they should realise is that the voice of people with learning disabilities is just as important as the voice of the professionals who work with us. I’d be interested in hearing other people’s views and to at least have some feedback from the conference if I can not attend.

Katie Lord, Service user, Brighton and Hove Community Learning Disability Team

Editor’s response: We do like to have service users and carers represented at our conferences and offer a limited number of free places on a first-come first-served basis. Call 020 7347 3573.

People with learning disabilities ignored in disability report?

As an organisation working with more than 1,500 people with learning disabilities or mental health needs across England and Wales, we very much welcome the recent publication of the Office for Disability Issues comprehensive survey into the experiences and expectations of disabled people .

The report provides important insights into people’s lives. But it is disappointing that the report provides so little information on people with learning disabilities. With a population of more than 800,000 adults with learning disabilities in England, it feels inadequate that interviews with only 36 were collated for the study – too few to enable separate analysis of their experiences, unlike other groups in the study.

There is a lack of information about people with learning disabilities, so organisations need to do more to ensure their experiences aren’t overlooked.

Su Sayer OBE, Chief executive, United Response

New Vision for Mental Health needs input from service users

It is no point the New Vision for Mental Health Coalition getting indignant with me for focusing on their longing for a Whitehall well-being champion . Their own launch media release leads with that very demand. I merely contrasted their elitist priorities with service users’ more practical aspirations. Are they so sensitive about any challenge to their hegemony?

However, I am delighted to hear of the coalition’s professed commitment to the centrality of those who have experienced mental distress in the planning and control of services.

I just wonder how genuine this is when many in the coalition lack any service user leadership. In addition, if users are so central to the coalition’s vision why is it that no independent national user organisation is part of the grand alliance?

The coalition brings together providers and, erm, mental health trusts. Users are little seen or heard in the great leap forward. Again it is being done for them and not with them.

When users are integral to the thinking and delivery of the New Vision for Mental Health then the coalition’s powers-that-be can bang the top table and slap the back of their Whitehall wellbeing chum all they like. Until then I will pose the question: why do mental health service providers lack credibility with users? Answers please via the coalition’s website www.newvisionformentalhealth.org.uk/comments.aspx

Martin Ball, London

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