Letters to Community Care 8 October 2009

The emphasis shouldn’t only be on the social work degree

We need to consider the range of opportunities offered to those joining the profession (news, p7, 1 October). The undergraduate route is an important pathway for those joining the profession.

However, we know that not everyone is fully prepared for the demands and rigours of their first post, and this needs to change. One way forward is to consider whether we have the right balance between the number of places offered through the undergraduate degree, and the number of places available through the MA. We also need entry routes which are more flexible and tailored to the needs of those wanting to join the profession.

This is not about reducing opportunities – it is about developing a full range of options; and to do this we need to look at which routes result in more high-quality candidates. It is now time to consider whether those on the undergraduate, or MA, are more likely to gain employment in a social work role.

Another area to consider is how we celebrate the successes of the “grow your own” scheme. We also need to look at how to ensure we have enough well-trained social workers to take up the vacancies in frontline roles. The recent national campaign to recruit social workers, the newly available “return to social work” courses, and the graduate recruitment scheme can all help address vacancy issues.

However, they need to be underpinned by high quality professional training which prepares candidates for employment. If this means opening a debate on how best to allocate scarce resources between different training routes, then this needs to happen.

Without doubt, social workers are among the unsung heroes of our society. They deserve, and can expect, the highest quality training and support we are able to offer – both during their initial training and throughout their subsequent professional development.

With new challenges ahead, the debate over how we train the next generation of professional social worker is one we cannot ignore.

Keith Brumfitt, strategy director, Children’s Workforce Development Council

Ed Balls’ welcome words on SEN

We warmly welcome Ed Balls’ recent statement on special educational needs (‘news in brief, p11, 1 October’).

While much progress has been made, students with special educational needs (SEN) and disabilities deserve better care and support in the wider community. The independent review into the supply of teachers trained to meet the needs of children with severe learning difficulties will help to improve standards and ensure best practice is shared across schools.

But, just as importantly, Balls has recognised that the student assessment process needs to be clearer and more transparent. Without a proper assessment of their individual needs, students with complex needs can be left floundering, with parents and teachers unable to provide effective support despite their best efforts.

Part of the onus lies with local authorities, who need to test existing systems and consider new assessment techniques. In that vein, we have received a very positive early response from councils, schools and colleges to the launch of our new mobile assessment service, Treloar’s Direct Trailblazer.

As the first mobile assessment of its kind in the UK, the Trailblazer provides state-of-the-art assistive technologies and other learning equipment, as well as occupational therapists and technology experts.

Tony Reid, chief executive, Treloar Trust

Dementia staff skills need upgrading

We agree with Adam McCulloch’s view on the services available to those caring for people with dementia (“There’s dementia and there’s dementia”) and suggest that investments in the training of workers would make a real difference.

McCulloch notes that dementia has a spectrum of symptoms that many workers across the sector simply aren’t trained to spot. This shows the need for accessible training packages for all those involved in care of the elderly.

He also highlights the “silence of services” when confronted with the decision on where to place a patient. It’s true that if more NHS and care home staff had dementia training, greater confidence among staff would lead to more productive decisions being made.

A comprehensive dementia training package has been available for some time – you can visit our learning section at elderworld.com for this.

Lack of training cannot be blamed for all shortcomings in dementia care, but as Nelson Mandela says: “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world”.

Suzanne Donald, ElderWorld

More from Community Care

Comments are closed.