Letters to Community Care 16 April 2009

BASW wants social workers at forefront of personalisation

John Dixon, president of the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services accuses the British Association of Social Workers of scaremongering over the possible severe erosion of social work in adult settings (news, p5, 26 March, https://www.communitycare.co.uk/111088).

BASW has expressed concerns to care secretary Phil Hope that local authorities are reducing or not increasing the numbers of qualified social workers in adult services, perceive them as “too expensive” in the area of self-directed care, and do not recognise their potential contribution to the implementation of Putting People First and the personalisation agenda.

We have done so because our members are gravely concerned about the impact of such measures on vulnerable individuals. Some of the current assessment paperwork that has been drawn to our attention has no scope for the worker to record that an assessment of need and the development of a care plan have been reached in a professional and empathic manner with the service user at the centre.

Social workers do not have a monopoly on these skills and values, but they fear that such an approach leads to a tick-box operation that may dispense with their expertise, especially when combined with quantitative targets around speed and numbers of assessments.

Personalisation is not yet the watchword everywhere, despite the issuing of Putting People First and transformation funding. Social workers have a very important role as navigators or brokers, explaining procedures to people, determining the best action and mobilising the services required, and also in other areas of work with adults in need.

We were reassured that Phil Hope said on World Social Work Day that social workers are not too expensive and have an important function to perform.

BASW would like to ask Community Care readers about their experiences. Are you given the opportunity to carry out a full holistic assessment of need with the service user, taking account of the strengths as well as the difficulties in their situation? Are you able to use your social work skills to the full? When you are presenting a case for funding, is your professional judgement taken into account? Were 58% of you mistaken in your view in a Community Care survey that there would be fewer adults social workers in post by 2011? Please let us know e-mail england@basw.co.uk.

Ruth Cartwright, BASW professional officer, England

More proactive autism help needed

Your article on the way that parents have to fill the gaps certainly echoes my experience as a grandfather of an Asperger’s child in Cheshire (“Finding help with autism”, 2 April, https://www.communitycare.co.uk/111131).

But what motivates me to write is the emphasis in your article, and in much of our contact with services, on helping parents to cope and managing the child’s behaviour. Heaven knows parents need it, having seen my family struggle to come to terms with the diagnosis and their exhaustion, exacerbated by the work involved navigating the system. But surely it is not the end of the story.

I have been struck, when trying to speak to child and adolescent mental health specialists, for example, about how the child may be encouraged to understand and change his behaviour there comes a shrug of the shoulders and the repeated comment. “Well, he has got Asperger’s, you know. What do you expect?” This implies an acceptance rather than a professional challenge.

Is that it? Is our aim simply for the world to understand and make allowances for autism or are there researched strategies or treatments that might help the child himself to manage his condition. I shall be enquiring further myself but look forward to seeing further articles in Community Care reviewing treatment and training options.

Name and address withheld

Counselling would not be appropriate

I was pleased to see a case study highlighting domestic violence (Practice Panel, 2 April, https://www.communitycare.co.uk,111143). It was correctly pointed out that it would have taken great courage for the children to disclose, but the suggestion of counselling for the parents is certainly not something any domestic violence agency would advise.

The contact with the mother should be “open and friendly and non-judgemental” of course, but it should be clear that the abuser’s behaviour should not be tolerated. If professionals are concerned for the children’s safety, then child protection procedures should be put in place, not respite care.

We have just written a toolkit for all practitioners working with children, in any capacity, where domestic violence is an issue which sets out what to do. It is due to be launched in May.

Jo Sharpen, Development officer, Greater London Domestic Violence Project

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