Readers’ letters 17 September 2009

Blame the courts, not practice

Who’d be a social worker? Now it seems they are to blame for failing to prevent the appalling attack in Edlington because they are just not ‘brave’ enough. Clearly this is abject rubbish!

Having repeatedly been accused (by John Hemming MP) of ‘snatching new born babies from good, stable, loving homes’ to meet adoption targets, they now it seems, lack the courage to recognise that some families can not be ‘fixed’ and, having identified these families with their laser like precision, arranging the children’s adoption. This helpful observation of course emanates from the same source who, only 3 years ago, was pontificating about the abject failure of the care system.

Wouldn’t it be nice if the world was as simple as this. If only we could spot the ‘wrong uns’ and intervene decisively without recourse to the courts. It’s not of course.

It would be good if someone (The ADCS, Ed Balls, Barnardos perhaps) would point out that the law would have to be changed to make this approach possible. As it stands the courts (with the encouragement of Cafcass) simply cannot permit local authorities/social workers to remove children from dysfunctional parents in time to make adoption viable.

The issue is not about social work practice – it’s about public policy.

Paul Fallon, children’s services consultant


Uncomfortable taskforce questions

In response to your article (“In need of a skills upgrade” ,, I am concerned that key issues have been overlooked in the current debate about social work training. As an independent social worker and part-time university lecturer, I have been able to view the situation from both sides.

With no children and family social work practitioner or service user representation on the Social Work Taskforce, its conclusions will inevitably be narrow in focus. Ultimately, reports reflect the beliefs and attitudes of those writing them, so the taskforce will focus on managerial and organisational issues, rather than structural considerations ( poverty, social exclusion, unemployment, community breakdown etc.) or social work practice difficulties. With no practising social work lecturers or practice supervisors represented, the discussion of placement issues or relevance of teaching to practice, will be similarly limited.

I would question whether the introduction of the social work degree in 2003 “has undoubtedly raised the status of the profession.” I think it has caused confusion between the employers need for social workers who are fit for practice and the universities need for students who can meet the rigorous requirements of academic learning.

I am concerned that when introducing the 200 day practice placement requirement no thought was given to how to ensure placements in statutory agencies. The best model I have seen in local authorities is the student unit, which bridged the gap between employers and universities, and related teaching to practice.

Why do social workers spend their valuable time carrying out admin tasks for which they are not trained? Why do we continue with an adversarial legal system that perpetuates delay and leads to escalating costs, when there are effective working alternatives in Europe? Whoever thought the Public Law Outline would improve outcomes for children rather than create further delay and increase risk?

I wonder if there is an investment in not giving full representation to service users and professionals as the questions may be uncomfortable and the solutions unpalatable in our management – led social work profession.

Peter Stevens, independent social worker


Salisbury’s books as good as Laurie Lee’s

It isn’t only social workers who have written novels.

So have social services administrators.

May I put in a plug for the works of Ray Salisbury, who was chief admin offier for Greenwich Social Services in the late 1980s? His novels of childhood, Sweet Thursday, Close the door behind you, When the boys come out to play and Birds of the air were, rightly, compared to Laurie Lee. I believe they are now out of print but can probably be obtained through Library Interlending or the wonders of Abebooks. Trust me, they’re good.

Roger Backhouse, Ilford, Essex


These letters are published in the 17 September 2009 edition on Community Care

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