Letters to Community Care 3 September 2009

Valuing Employment Now: government must redouble its efforts

It’s disheartening that the latest Department of Health statistics on the number of people with learning disabilities in paid work (www.communitycare.co.uk/112372, 17 August) shows that fewer are in employment than previously thought, just 7.5% compared with 10%. But the truth is that even 10% would be far too low a figure, when as many as 70% of people with learning disabilities do want to work, and can prove such a valuable part of the workforce, given support.

We know first-hand the profound difference having a job can make to someone’s life. One woman we support told us that having a job means that she can now hold her head up high, and she and many others like her make model employees, as valuable to an organisation as any other member of staff.

The government needs to redouble its efforts to achieve its own Valuing Employment Now targets. Supported employment – where a job coach provides a little support to employer and employee – has been proven to work to the benefit of both parties. But it needs more backing, as provision is patchy. At the same time, we in social care need to be speaking to employers, proving to them that people with learning disabilities make good employees.

Many of the benefits of work – including increased independence and mental well-being – can lead to savings to the public purse, such as spending on health and social care.

Su Sayer, chief executive, United Response

Families Need Fathers guidance

As the two academics who “slammed” the Families Need Fathers guidance on shared parenting (www.communitycare.co.uk/112283, 7 August) we wish to challenge the account given in this article, which is not supported by the evidence.

First, the claim that the guidance was only a draft. It is only since concerns have been voiced that it has acquired this status and been relabelled “Draft for discussion July 2009”.

Second, the Cafcass statement that the guidance had not been distributed to staff. In fact it was placed, by Cafcass, on its staff intranet, accompanied by a supporting quotation from the chief executive, who is also reported, (www.communitycare.co.uk/111879, 19 June), as saying “Cafcass has greatly valued the chance to work closely with FNF on the development of shared parenting guidance. We are sharing this guidance with our staff which draws on this work.”

Craig Pickering dismisses our concerns about a presumption of equal parenting time, pointing to a sentence saying shared parenting is not the same as 50:50. However, he conveniently omits the second part of the sentence, “though that is an option which should always be considered as a starting point – by Cafcass officers as well as the parents themselves – unless there is good reason to advise otherwise”.

The Cafcass spokesperson speaks of a revised version, taking into account the concerns expressed, to be used by Cafcass practitioners.

If practitioners need such guidance, should not Cafcass be responsible for developing it, consulting with a wide range of stakeholders, including its own practitioners, not just a single pressure group representing non-resident parents?

Joan Hunt, senior research fellow, Oxford Centre for Family Law, University of Oxford

Dr Liz Trinder, reader in family studies, Newcastle University

Vote of confidence in Ofsted inspections

I was pleased to read (www.communitycare.co.uk/112325, 10 August) that Staffordshire and Devon Councils have been rated adequate or above, by Ofsted, for their work on safeguarding and looked-after children.

Ofsted’s announced inspections will help councils to ensure they are delivering the highest possible standards of child protection. Unannounced inspections would have been counterproductive and could have forced councils to focus more on processes rather than on the delivery of their safeguarding services.

This move by Ofsted will hopefully reinstate confidence in the regulator and help build a stronger partnership that encourages good practice.

Nick Richards, director, Me Learning

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