Letters to Community Care 9 April 2009

Human beings first, social workers second

Like many social workers I have my share of sleepless nights and distracted days worrying about poor decisions I might have made during my 18 years of practice. Jane Naik’s article (Workplace, 5 March) highlights the importance of reflecting on these, and those decisions which prove beneficial to people.

I was amazed that the file on the client had been closed without any apparent discussion with her. I feel very strongly that despite our constant and unrelenting work pressures and the demands of the job, our first and primary duty is as human beings, one to another.

I firmly believe it is not necessary to have a social work qualification or a comprehensive understanding of work-related theory and practice to treat other human beings with respect.

I don’t envy the experience Jane subsequently had in the outpatient’s clinic and I’m sure the incident still haunts her. It was heartening to read her concluding comment on ending work with a service user where uses the term “involvement in their lives”.

We cannot predict or own the impact of our involvement on the life of people using our services. We can be sure though, that as social workers we are involved to one degree or another in the life of every single person we work with. How we end that involvement reflects our respect for the other person and our pride in the profession.

Carol Higgins, social worker, disability service, Derbyshire

Time to recognise Cafcass failings

You report yet another critical Ofsted report of Cafcass (news in brief, p7, 26 March).

The last two chief executives have been honoured by the Queen. And children’s secretary Ed Balls, so quick to criticise councils, has remained silent about Cafcass’s failures, and has awarded it a funding increase.

In the past eight years Cafcass has presided over a deterioration in the service offered to children subject of public law proceedings – ask any experienced child care solicitor – and is now using the “post-baby P spike” as an excuse for not allocating many children a guardian when they need one.

Michael Griffith-Jones, London

Healthcare must be equal for everybody

The recent report by the NHS ombudsman and local government ombudsman (news, p7, 26 March 2009) into the healthcare received by people with learning disabilities is the latest in a series which have confirmed that many of them do not receive the same treatment as non-disabled people in the NHS.

It is now two years since Mencap released Death By Indifference, its shocking report into the deaths of people with learning disabilities as a result of poor healthcare. Now we need to see more action.

We welcome the plans set out by the government in December in Valuing People Now to tackle the problem. Many of these can be rolled out immediately, including the extension of annual health checks and the greater involvement of people with learning disabilities and their carers in the planning of services. We also welcome the planned training for NHS clinical staff.

It is essential that all of us – people with learning disabilities, their families and their supporters – work with the NHS to make certain healthcare is equal for all.

Su Sayer, chief executive, United Response

Whingeing and personalisation

Bob Ferguson’s attack on providers as whingers (letters, 26 March) reveals a worrying attitude.

It is increasingly clear that personalisation will not happen for most people without transformation of mainstream, commissioned social care services.

What is also clear is that commissioned social care services will only be transformed through a strong partnership between providers and commissioners. Both providers and commissioners have to take responsibility for the failure of social care services to provide the sort of flexible services called for under personalisation, and also previously called for under the community care reforms.

The reasons are many and complex – not least the fact that independent providers have been expected to provide services at nearly 50% the unit cost councils in their provider role deliver the same services themselves.

Embarking on an era of a new partnership, designed to really transform the lives of large numbers of people, will not work if entered into with a blame mentality.

Colin Slasberg, independent consultant

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