Letters to Community Care 12 February 2009

Forced into special schooling

In response to Richard Jackson’s letter on the illusion of parental choice of education provision for their disabled children (29 January), we do not know of any parents who actively desire special schooling for their children when they are born. Too often parents are forced into the special schooling route because of medical and education professionals who do not have a vision of an inclusive society whereby disabled and non-disabled people learn and work alongside each other. This is not surprising where a majority of such professionals have not themselves been educated with their disabled peers and where there practice follows the deficit model of disability.

We know of many examples where disabled children with profound learning difficulties and autistic labels are properly supported in mainstream schools such as those in Newham. It is totally unacceptable in 2009 where disabled children do not have an absolute unqualified right to access mainstream education.

We believe that the UN convention should be ratified without reservations and interpretive directives. We do not expect inclusive education will be a reality for all disabled students immediately, but Article 24 (Access to Education) at least ensures there is the government’s commitment to plan a mainstream education system where all will be welcomed and included. We are lobbying hard to ensure that the UK government will ratify the whole convention as a whole, alongside 41 other states.

Simone Aspis, policy and campaigns worker, Alliance for Inclusive Education

Don’t generalise over the private sector

You quote Andrew Cozens as saying that employing private sector agencies is not a sustainable model for improving the children’s social care sector. (news, p6, 22 January). The implication is that private agencies fail to plan, in the long term, areas “such as workforce development”.

In the same piece you mention the experience of a private agency (Serco) in Stoke on Trent Council. I have to tell you that Serco identified workforce development as a key component to driving up standards of practice in Stoke.

Serco has continued to place a high priority on developing the knowledge and skills of practitioners and managers alike which will result in unprecedented numbers of staff having the opportunity to gain a qualification (at all levels in the division) as well as have the opportunity to attend in-house and externally provided courses.

I hope this will assure readers that not all private companies in the sector can be “tarred with the same brush”.

Robert Vacher, workforce development manager, children and young people’s services, Stoke on Trent

Why did foster carers’ views vanish from your article?

I was, to say the least, disappointed by the article (“The Vanishing”, 29 January on children in care running away. Not only was there an absence of any acknowledgement of the role and perspective of foster carers “another factor that counts against children who have disappeared from care is that they don’t have parents fighting their corner”. But the outright blame for children running away was placed on us, by Will McMahon from the Care Leavers Association: “It’s not difficult to work out. If you have a nurturing environment, you’re less likely to run away, and if you do, you’re more likely to come back.”

As a foster carer I have experience of teenagers running away for varying periods of time. For some it has been as a way of registering their protest at being “in care” with social workers so involved in the intimate areas of their lives. For others it has been because they have been caught up in risky, self-destructive behaviour with groups of friends. It was not because the home I provided wasn’t supportive.

A growing number of children come into care at older ages, sometimes as adolescents, after much more troubled, disadvantaged and damaging childhoods. In order to heal, these children and young people often need more than the “nurturing environment” that we experienced foster carers provide, they need high quality social work, supportive and adaptable education provision, access to responsive and appropriate therapeutic care. Frequently they don’t get this.

Missing the foster carer perspective also meant that the experience of being caught between the differing views of social services and the police on how to deal with a missing young person, was also absent. There may well be protocols signed by heads of service, but on the ground, in the middle of the night when reporting that a young person has failed to return home, I have frequently been told, at the first stage, by social services to phone the police and get them to fill in a missing person report. Then I am informed by the police that social services are merely “back-covering” and to wait and see what happens.

Name and address withheld

The CSCI highlights worrying trends

Your editorial (“CSCI signs off with gusto,” 29 January) makes the mistake of following the theme that the Commission for Social Care Inspection highlights, namely, the progress on the longer term changes necessitated by the personalisation agenda. These changes affect a tiny minority of service users.

The real story from the CSCI report, surely, is the worrying pattern of local authority expenditure on services for their local service users that the CSCI has designated as either adequate or poor. For permanent admissions to care homes, 22% of placements fit into those categories. In the case of home care services, more than a third of the people funded by 21 councils were allocated to agencies similarly assessed as adequate or poor.

This really isn’t good enough – how many commissioners among Community Care’s readership would be prepared to check into a hotel that was considered adequate or poor?

Gillian Dalley, chief executive, Relatives and Residents Association

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