Letters to Community Care 22 October 2009

Child neglect awareness

We at Family Action welcome Action for Children’s efforts to raise awareness of child neglect in the UK. Neglect is a form of child abuse that can be difficult to detect and which can have very serious long-term consequences for the children involved.

We note that increased reporting of neglect is taking place at a time of heightened sensitivity towards issues of child safeguarding and child protection. Family courts are dealing with a big increase in care proceedings in the wake of the Peter Connelly case.

If more cases of neglect are being picked up on and dealt with that is a very good thing. However, it would be of great concern if all reports of neglect culminate in children being taken into care. Family Action’s experience is that home-based family support can be effective in turning around the situation of families in crisis where there is concern for children. As the report points out, changing circumstances such as recession and redundancy are having an impact on the incidence of neglect. It is important that parents who are under pressure get the support they need, and that their support workers feel confident in providing that help.

It is a major concern that a fifth of the professionals questioned for the Action for Children survey said they had received no training to deal with the signs of neglect, and this is something that must be addressed. Even more effective – as Action for Children has pointed out – will be to channel resources into preventative early intervention work which supports safe, effective parenting from birth, helping to avoid complex problems later on.

Helen Dent, chief executive, Family Action

Social work needs consultants

The proposal for consultant social workers (news, page 7, 8 October, www.communitycare.co.uk/112789) would have a positive effect on social workers, giving the most talented and capable professionals the option of continuing to work on the frontline without having to forego reward for their hard work.

Management roles are not always appealing to skilled professionals and, often, by moving someone into such a role the skills are being taken from where they are needed most.

By introducing a consultant status we could ensure that some of the best people we have working in social care are able to continue doing an excellent job and stay within the sector.

Retention of talent is vital given the prevailing shortages of workers. It is important that the Social Work Task Force really gets to grips with how this will work best for social workers and considers where support is most needed.

Paul Marriott, managing director, Hays Social Care

No compassion from Border Agency

David Wood, of the UK Border Agency made misleading claims, (‘Children’s Society says study proves detention harms children”, www.communitycare.co.uk/112851) when he said: “Treating children with care and compassion is a priority for the UK Border Agency.” Locking up innocent children in conditions known to harm their mental health is neither caring nor compassionate.

Wood dismissed as “limited” and “three years old” expert paediatric research that found children in detention suffered from confusion, fear, sleep problems, headaches, abdominal pain, and severe emotional and behavioural problems.

We support families in detention and fresh out of Yarl’s Wood and can confirm that the research findings are bang up to date.

Appalled by the damage done to children we know, we’ve started a citizens’ campaign to End Child Detention Now. We urge readers to sign our petition at http://petitions.number10.gov.uk/NoChildDetention and ask MPs to sign Chris Mullin and Peter Bottomley’s Early Day Motion calling on the government to stop detaining asylum-seeking children.

Clare Sambrook and Mary McCormack, co-ordinators, End Child Detention Now

Adult care is not only for the elderly

As the party political conferences draw to their close, it is clear that adult social care will be one of the battlegrounds on which the next election is fought.

Whether we fund it with insurance-type premiums or by other means, the public have told us it’s no longer fair that families who manage their finances well have to sell off their homes while others do not have to pay.

We are already offering all Hampshire residents at risk of hospital admission or discharge with urgent care needs, a range of services, free of charge for up to six weeks.

As we encourage the NHS to go forward with us – uniting our hearts, minds and wallets – the government also needs to remember that this is not just about older people. It is about millions of others who have disabilities or mental health needs too.

Ken Thornber, leader of Hampshire County Council

Of digging and holes

Some free advice for Barnardo’s chief executive Martin Narey (letters, 15 October, www.communitycare.co.uk/112831)- when you are in a hole, stop digging!

Paul Fallon, children’s services consultant

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