Letters to 30 October 2008 Community Care

letter of the week: Forgottten carers in very old age

Will very elderly carers ever be recognised, or will they continue to be taken for granted? Because they are pensioners themselves, they are ineligible for the carers’ allowance, however meagre an amount that is for a 24-hours per day, seven day a week job.

Caring for someone, or several people, is physically and emotionally draining, especially over long periods of time. One loses one’s identity.

It is a Catch 22 situation: one cannot commit suicide when there is no one else to take over the caring, but one is driven to the extreme edge of thoughts about suicide because of the day-to-day strain of having to care for loved ones.

This particularly applies to very elderly carers who have been caring for many years and feel worn-out. Unlike younger carers they can see no end in sight.

The thought of death providing the longed-for rest does not help. That is because there is the knowledge that the loved ones – disabled sons or daughters, infirm spouse or siblings – will be left behind with no one available to take over the nurturing role.

Barbara MacArthur, an 82-year-old carer, Cardiff

Positive joined-up working abounds

I would like to add an important clarification to your excellent feature on the findings of the integrated workforce strategy project (“United Front”, 16 October, www.communitycare.co.uk/109681).

In all of our study areas there were many examples of positive integrated or joined-up working. Many of the study areas were also taking joint or integrated action to support workforce development, such as joint skill development programmes. Several had agreed and were implementing integrated workforce strategies.

What we found was that, rather than starting by agreeing and implementing an over-ambitious comprehensive integrated workforce strategy, it seems to work best to take a pragmatic, step-by-step approach, increasing joint activities over time, driven by leaders and built on growing relationships and trust.

Joan Munro
National Advisor Workforce Strategy,
Improvement and Development Agency for local government

Salaries need to reflect our value

I wholeheartedly agree that there needs to be some sort of review of social work salaries (“Time to reform our bad pay structure”, 16 October, www.communitycare.co.uk/109686).

My own local authority has recently undergone job evaluation leaving social workers at risk of losing thousands of pounds from their salaries. The methodology used is unsuitable for the jobs that we do, which are diverse, challenging and put us at risk of harm from service users and of illness through stress.

My personal situation saw my salary increase slightly but only due to the minimum level being increased (the upper was decreased at the same time). This left me on the same salary as a newly qualified worker despite having several years’ experience and working with high risk child protection cases.

It raises the question of why there is no national salary scheme for social workers, which would be more equitable.

Colleagues in neighbouring counties have higher rates of pay which only serves to weaken morale even more. Recruitment and retention remains problematic within the county with about 30 child care social work vacancies at the current time.

Time and time again social workers are omitted from discussions of professional services such as police and nurses, despite the improved training and GSCC registration. We perform a valid and necessary function in our society. This needs to be recognised and valued by the government and reflected in our salaries.

Name and address supplied

Anxious managers seeking counselling as recession deepens

Rethink has warned that the credit crunch could result in a rise in mental health problems (news in brief, p11, 16 October). I also read with interest your articles about the impending recession’s effect on social care (news, p10-11, 16 October).

We are seeing more and more businesses in trouble each day. The banking industry’s problems are causing massive public anxiety and even the toughest company executives are crumbling under the pressure.

Here at The Tuke Centre in York (www.thetukecentre.org.uk) we are seeing more managers and employers turning to us than ever before. Employers sometimes do not know who to turn to when the pressure gets too much. They don’t want to appear weak by asking for support and certainly don’t want their staff to sense that they aren’t coping.

Chris Powell
Head of The Tuke Centre

Too little time for my PQ award

Am I the only one? I work in a busy looked-after children team, and have just written to my post qualification manager to ask for a deferment for the second time. The workload, due mainly to staff shortages, has made it impossible for me to complete my PQ in the allotted time.

Do we not need a better format for the completion of the PQ for social workers like me who are finding it difficult to make even more time for work related activities?

Duncan Lyon
Northern Ireland

Grass roots debate on personalisation

I was pleased by Community Care’s extensive and much-needed coverage of personalisation (23 October issue).

While the concepts might be familiar to those at the top of social care, there is a strong need to address this subject on a more practical level.

Front-line workers need to be involved in discussions locally about how these changes might be implemented and what impact they will have on the workforce. Until we know exactly how this process might work, it is difficult to judge how successful it will be.

Name and address supplied


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