Readers’ letters for 20th November 2008

Letter of the week: Anger over Sharon Shoesmith’s statement on Baby P case  

I am a social worker and trainer of students. I was very distressed and angry after listening to Radio Four’s evening news on 11 November during which Sharon Shoesmith of Haringey Children’s Services spoke about the death of Baby P at the conclusion of his mother’s trial.

In this brief interview she did not acknowledge the horrendous circumstances of the child’s death and seemed only concerned to point out that no social worker was sackable as a result.

Social services, the police and health services all seem to have made serious misjudgements in this case. All need to acknowledge, take responsibility, apologise, and look seriously at the human failings involved.

Sharon Shoesmith only acknowledged failure to record information on an IT system.

An electronic file has not yet prevented a child’s death.

People observing, listening to and valuing children is what helps to keep them safe.

Social workers are not solely responsible, but the profession should be taking the lead role in changing its priorities from sitting with a computer to engaging and communicating with children of all ages, abilities and cultures and championing their rights to safety in their homes.

• Mary Evans, social worker, West Sussex

Concerns over cost cutting role of IBs

We should be concerned about how individual budgets are being sold as being a less costly option than the current system.

The evidence for believing costs will come down comes from the recent evaluation of the pilots, which said a 5% cut in weekly costs of care packages was likely (p30, 13 November,

But there are several flaws in the study. The sample did not include those service users who chose not to take part because their resource allocation would be lower than their allocation under the existing system.

The community care reforms of the 1990s were sold to politicians whose only real interest was that the reforms would cap spending levels. And it worked.

The most recent data (2007-8) shows unit costs in the independent sector to be lower than directly provided services. Home care unit costs are some 45% lower in the independent sector residential care for older people 40% lower. If all these services were still being provided by councils, the national bill would have been about £2.6bn higher, nearly 20% more.

Service users have suffered because independent sector providers have been required to do the best they can working within impossibly tight margins.

Individual budgets could improve service users’ lives. But, given the resource allocation processes, it also provides the same ability to cap spending to lower levels.

There should be no doubt in anyone’s mind that the consequences will be the same, and the reforms will fail.

Colin Slasberg, Independent social care consultant, Essex

Short breaks boost children’s well-being

Every Disabled Child Matters disagrees with the view that “short break schemes, funded as part of the government’s Aiming High for Disabled Children strategy, have a misguided focus and are more likely to benefit parents.” (“Disabled children lose out in short breaks muddle”,

The unprecedented investment in short breaks for disabled children and their families – some £370m over the next three years – will bring not only a financial transformation, but a cultural transformation too.

The government states in its implementation guidance that short breaks are provided to give “disabled children and young people enjoyable experiences away from their primary carers, thereby contributing to their personal and social development and reducing social isolation.” They also give “parents and families a necessary and valuable break from caring responsibilities.”

This is our opportunity to see the end of old fashioned respite, where disabled children are seen as passive recipients who have things done to them. Let’s grab that opportunity, not knock it.

Srabani Sen, Chief executive, Contact a Family, on behalf of Every Disabled Child Matters

Unacceptable delay in re-registration

It’s been months since I applied to re-register with the General Social Care Council. I am one of many thousands of social workers who were informed in 2004 that as part of their request to have their professional status improved they would have to register with the GSCC and pay an annual subscription to continue to practise.

I and my colleagues applied through the local authority in October of that year. Only in June 2005 did I receive my registration certificate. I was informed the reason for this lengthy delay was because the GSCC had teething problems and insufficient resources to deal with the flood of applications.

It’s now 2008 the time when all social workers who wish to continue to practise must re-register. Without this we can’t continue to call ourselves social workers and cannot continue to practise. Along with many others in the profession I have undertaken sufficient training, completed my application forms and sent off my annual subscription. This was done months ago. I’m now waiting for my certificate. My registration period expired last month and my employers are wondering what they should do with me.

I’ve contacted the GSCC for assistance but just received the standard reply saying they are having to deal with a large number of applications and there may be some delay.

I’m disappointed by their lack of urgency dealing with my application. The GSCC has had three years to plan for this. A couple of months delay would be acceptable. But six months? Surely this is incompetent?

We’ve had no statement from the chief executive about the reasons for the delay, or even an apology. I don’t expect this type of behaviour from the head of my own profession.

Paul Turner, social worker

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