Letters to Community Care 27 August 2009

Local Home-Starts’ demise will not benefit anybody

I was pleased to read Kim Bromley-Derry’s response to Home-Start Newham’s letter in your “issue of the week” (letters, 13 August). Home-Start Newham will now be in contact locally to clarify the situation about the opportunity to tender. I remain concerned about the imminent closure of the charity, and how the families will be helped should this go ahead, but we are exploring all ways to get alternative funding.

More broadly, I would like to point out how well Home-Start and other local services are adjusting to the new tendering process. So far, 40 local Home-Starts have successfully bid for children’s services contracts.

In those areas we are really pleased that we can still support families and maintain our strong relationship with the other children’s and family support agencies.

Life is not all a bed of roses though. Seventeen local Home-Starts have lost statutory funding through the process. A small number of these have had to close, each losing up to 20 years’ experience supporting families in the area. The Tupe legal process can’t transfer our volunteers to the new service providers, only our staff. So, in these few cases, much long-term community investment has simply been lost.

These situations are new and tricky for both the children’s services commissioners and the organisations moving from grants to tendering. What we all want is the best for the families we support and for no one to fall through the net as we transfer from one system to another. I’m sure that we can work together across the UK to make this a success and to give children and families everywhere the best possible start.

Kay Bews, chief executive, Home-Start UK

Police working hard to boost protection

Beatrix Campbell wrote an article which appeared in The Independent recently under the title “Now we can hope to halt the tragedies of the future” (12 August). In it she made a completely false claim that Lord Laming feels “the police should only get involved (in child protection) if there is a crime”. This type of spurious comment about the police withdrawing from the working together and joint training concept has been doing the rounds for some time, yet it is completely wrong.

Lord Laming has never made a comment which would encourage a fracturing of joint working – indeed, in the Victoria Climbié Report he stressed how important it was that all agencies worked closely together in preventing child abuse. The police, at that time (2003), certainly needed to get better at their core business of investigating criminal child abuse, but not at the expense of detaching themselves from social workers and joint working arrangements.

Despite many competing priorities such as counter-terrorism, there has been a huge investment in most police forces in child protection during the past five years. Now the training is better than it has ever been, and the officers carrying out that difficult task are some of the best detectives available. All over the UK there are wonderful examples of close integrated working between police officers and social workers.

The police play a vital part in helping to assess whether a child may be at risk, and they continue to work with, and share information with, colleagues from social care, education and health. This is the case whether or not a criminal offence has been committed. Lord Laming has always firmly encouraged this close working relationship and those suggesting otherwise should take the trouble to read his reports.

John Fox, former detective superintendent and police adviser to the Victoria Climbié Inquiry

Why not help people with cash problems?

Jill Manthorpe’s comments about the Social Work Task Force’s description of social work (news, 6 August p7) reflect a very narrow and restrictive view of what the possibilities of social work once were and surely should be.

Most people enter social work to make a difference to the lives of the most poor and marginalised people in society. To imply that helping people with money or housing problems is not part of social work goes a long way to explaining why so many become so disillusioned with the job. The current form/computer exemplar-filling culture may mean dealing with such issues is that much harder, but to merely to fob people off to welfare rights or housing officers is surely not the answer.

The fact that child poverty remains a huge issue and that many pensioners live in poverty, means surely social workers should attempt to address such issues if they are genuinely going to support people.

Dr Steve Rogowski, social worker

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