Letters to Community Care 29 January 2009

Don’t damn parents of Daniel James

Jane Campbell is quoted as saying that, by not prosecuting Daniel James’s parents “it sends out a dangerous signal” (“Time to lay down the law?”). How exactly?

Here we have a severely disabled young man who made three attempts to kill himself and she believes his parents should be prosecuted because they helped him achieve his goal.

Surely they should be lauded for their ability to help their son die, which is clearly what he wanted to do. Only somebody who’s been in that position could understand how difficult this must have been for them.

I fail to understand why anybody wants to prosecute people who assist those who are unable to commit suicide unaided.

Is it not ironic that disabled people who often rightly complain about the lack of facilities and assistance to help them lead full and independent lives do not wish to have that help extended to those who wish to die but are unable to carry it out themselves?

The message is clear: only able-bodied people are allowed to or can commit suicide. If it concerned any other kind of assistance, there would be a hue and cry about discrimination.

I Collingridge, Exeter

Parental choice in UK education

We have to question what is referred to as an “opt-out” of government reservations which, for many families in respect of the UN Convention Article 24 Education, is an “opt-in” to secure parental choice from the UK general education system (“MPs attack government over delay in ratifying UN disability charter”).

We consider that the reservations are essential in meeting the needs of children and young people with learning disabilities, autism and other complex needs.

It is to the government’s credit that it has the foresight to have protected the right of parents to choose.

Run by families for families whose children have learning disabilities or autism, Rescare supports choice in education, including mainstream, special day and residential schools.

If readers recognise the need for the government reservations relevant to the convention, they can give their support by adding their names to our petition at http://petitions.number10.gov.uk/Respecialschools

Richard S Jackson, honorary chairman, Rescare

Private concerns

Council bosses are right to warn against the widespread use of private companies to turn round failing children’s services (“Council chiefs shun use of firms to boost standards”).

Privatisation has a sorry record in public service delivery. The most common results are cuts in staff pay, reductions in service and healthy profits for the company involved – one only has to look at outsourcing of hospital cleaning contracts.

In an age when public funds are used to bail out the largest private financial institutions it is time to accept that the private sector is not always best and some services need to be delivered by the state in the interests of the community at large.

Name and address withheld

More pressing issues than office comforts

I think dingy social work offices are a thing of the past, an outdated social work stereotype that ought to be consigned to the rubbish bin of history alongside tie-dye T-shirts and sandals (“Buildings fit for social workers?”).

Most local authority offices have been updated and renovated over the past few years and offer a perfectly acceptable working environment.

Instead of focusing on the physical environment, what is more important for social workers is the nature of their job, the support and supervision they receive and the level of their caseload.

Governments and central agencies have long focused on buildings, technology and infrastructure ahead of the day-to-day working issues that would make a difference to social ­workers and the clients they work with. For some reason it is easier for them to spend money on ­buildings than on people but it is not a trait we should be encouraging.

Name and address withheld

Let’s prove social work’s worth

Of course the Social Work Taskforce must engage with the whole profession across adults’ and children’s services but this must go far beyond recruiting the odd director to sit at their table (“Adult directors’ chief lobbies for seat on social work review”).

If any one organisation should be represented at such a fundamental inquiry it should be BASW.

Above all, it is vital that every social worker in the land takes the opportunity provided by the consultation on the 2020 children and young people’s workforce strategy to have our say on the status and standing of social work.

Social workers from adult services are not precluded from responding to a Department for Children, Schools and Families document and the consultation, which is open until 10 March, is widely enough drawn to allow for discussion of social work issues across the board.

I used to urge Tony Blair to consider social work as part of the solution rather than part of the problem and regard it as tragic that so many initiatives suffer from a failure to appreciate that the values and principles of social work have so much to contribute to inspirational change.

Hopefully spurred on by Community Care, this could be the chance to provide evidence of all that social work can bring to high-quality, empowering, integrated services.

You never know: flooding the consultation with positive images of the real day-to-day business of social workers might just persuade government that this is something to be valued with the sort of pay, conditions and opportunities normally afforded to respected professionals.

Then we might be able to stop worrying so much about those issues of recruitment, retention, training, standards and leadership.

Hilton Dawson, Northumberland

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