Readers’ letters, 16 July 2009

An improvement notice for Labour

At a recent briefing on yet another new Ofsted inspection framework, I learned that, to be judged better than inadequate, the local council must do several things.

These include: identify and respond to the safeguarding and protection needs of children in a timely way; show a record of good ­outcomes for children; ensure that children feel safe; show consistent improvement.

Absolutely right!

Consider for a moment, though, this ­government’s achievements for young people after 12 years in power.

● The number of children killed by their parents is increasing after years of sustained reduction.

● The number of children entering care is now increasing, again reversing an established downward trend.

● Our children are among the least happy in the world.

● The gap between high and low achievers at school is widening.

● Child poverty targets will be missed.

● Children still do not enjoy the same legal protection from assault as adults.

Perhaps Ofsted might like to consider an improvement notice.

Paul Fallon, children’s services consultant

Placement anxiety among students

As social work educators know and research has indicated, foundation-year master’s-level social work students have significant anxiety about beginning their field placements.

Although some of that can be a catalyst for learning and is a normal reaction to any new experience, too much anxiety can interfere with this process.

Anxiety in the context of learning has been identified as comprising two conceptually distinct components: worry and emotionality.

Worry is the cognitive component of anxiety, translating into concern about one’s performance and self-evaluation. The emotional aspects of anxiety lead to feelings of tension and nervousness. According to Eysenck’s theoretical framework, high anxiety affects processing effectiveness because “the task-irrelevant information involved in worry and cognitive self-concern competes with task-relevant information for space in the processing system”.

But because emotionality can lead to increased effort and enhance the quality of performance through increased attention capacity, anxiety can either facilitate or impair performance depending on the extent to which enhanced effort is used to compensate for reduced processing effectiveness.

Thus, the challenge for social work educators is to understand and harness students’ common, expectable anxiety in the service of growth.

Amanda Taylor, senior lecturer, school of social work, University of Central Lancashire

Why palliative care beats assisted dying

I am delighted that the House of Lords rejected Lord Falconer’s amendment to the Coroners and Justice Bill which would have lifted the threat of prosecution from a person who helps a terminally ill patient travel to a country where euthanasia is legal.

With the current downturn in the economy and the huge financial pressures on the NHS, all this talk of “euthanasia” is making many vulnerable and profoundly disabled people fear for their lives.

Baroness Jane Campbell, who was born with spinal muscular atrophy, told the House of Lords that she had been informed by doctors three years ago that her life was at an end – and said she could imagine that others would come under similar pressure from relatives.

She added: “If this amendment were to succeed, I believe it will place a new and invidious pressure on disabled and terminally ill people to think that they are closer to the end of their lives. Some will think that death is preferable to fighting for the support to live with dignity. It would be the cheapest, quickest, simplest option.

“Think of older people who are anxious not to cause their family distress.”

It is not “assisted dying” for the terminally ill that should be the government’s priority but well resourced “assisted living”, such as dignified palliative care.

Ken Mack, carer and voluntary campaigner for people with disabilities


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