Letters to Community Care 10 December 2009

Taskforce deserves cross-party support

The much anticipated report from the Social Work Task Force offers a new vision for social work in the UK (news, 3 December, www.communitycare.co.uk/113307). Most importantly it sets out how we can raise the profile, skills and effectiveness of social workers to deliver better care for some of the most vulnerable people in our communities.

The social work profession has taken a battering over the past year. It’s essential that this new sense of purpose set out in the report is matched by a sense of urgency across government to raise standards in the sector.

Here in Sutton, south London, we feel that we are already making progress to enhance the status of social workers and social work. Social work leadership is supported through a cross cutting professional leadership group, career pathways have been developed for social workers in both adults’, and children and families services. Their critical contribution is recognised through a very popular annual conference aimed at “valuing and inspiring social workers”. But we must do more.

The vulnerable adults and children in Sutton and elsewhere can’t wait months and years for change. While the social care profession cannot change overnight, it’s essential that action begins now.

Too often in the past central government has promised new dawns only for the sun to keep setting on the status quo.

It’s also essential that all of our political parties lend their support to the Social Work Task Force and its findings. We need to know that whatever happens in May, there will be cross-party support to drive these changes through.

People should be proud to be social workers, proud of the difference they make to people’s lives and regarded as top tier professionals in our society.

Dr Adi Cooper, adult services and housing director, Sutton Council

State support for the family is vital

As we have passed the 20th anniversary of the UNCRC on 20 November, it is time to address a widespread anxiety that the Convention advances children’s rights over those of adults, and that it may damage families or undermine parents.In fact, by ratifying the Convention, we as a nation explicitly committed ourselves to supporting parents in their most important role.

The cynicism surrounding the Convention seems to flow from the idea that it creates a premise for unfettered state intervention in private family affairs. While this is demonstrably not the case, there are certain family circumstances in which the state is obliged to intervene, in order to protect the rights, well-being or indeed the lives of particularly vulnerable children. The Convention places an enormous emphasis on the family structure as crucial to the well-being and positive development of children and maintains that only in exceptional circumstances, such as evidence of neglect or abuse, should a child not stay with his or her family.

As we celebrate the anniversary of this important addition to the international legislative framework and look forward to years ahead of advancing the rights of children and their parents, we must accept that state support of family life is necessary to ensure the best outcomes for all children and families, and embrace the UNCRC as a practical tool for achieving this.

Barbara Hearn, Deputy Chief Executive, NCB

Two birds with one stone

Along with the rest of the country I’ve been pondering the fraught issue of MPs remuneration. Frankly, that backbenchers could suggest that they merit pay parity with GPs (grossly overpaid as a result of yet another government cock up) and secondary heads, simply goes to show how remote they are!

It does however occur to me that, taking the most sympathetic view of the role of a backbencher, they have some things in common with social workers. It’s a vocation with a passion for making a difference who should be effective, non judgemental advocates. Setting aside the fact that constituency MPs clearly have far less responsibility and are much less accountable than the average child care social worker, my proposal is this.

We should tie MPs salaries to the average salary of an experienced, front line, children’s social worker in London, say £35k.

Obviously this would mean a substantial pay cut for MPs in the short term, however my guess is that it wouldn’t take long for social workers salaries to more properly reflect the onerous jobs they do.

Everyone wins! MPs gain credibility and maybe we’d recruit and retain enough social workers to get the job done.

Paul Fallon, Social Care Consultant

Praise for Home Office inspectors

Given the criticisms of Ofsted’s inspections, it is timely to recall the Home Office inspectors of children’s departments 1948-1971 (news, p5, 26 November, www.communitycare.co.uk/113222).

The inspectors, who usually had extensive experience in child care, were particularly concerned with practice. As a child care officer, the inspector accompanied me on visits to foster homes and vulnerable families. Afterwards she discussed my weak and strong points.

In the overall assessment of departments, inspectors were friendly critics. When they identified failings, they often suggested ways of overcoming them and might even suggest means of obtaining extra funds.

Bob Holman, Glasgow

CQC is a major improvement

As a carer responsible for two relatives, one in the north and one in the south, I have found my job made immeasurably easier since the Care Quality Commission took over the policing of both NHS and private facilities (www.communitycare.co.uk/113342).

The CQC involved themselves immediately and effectively in ways that didn’t exist previously. Cynthia Bower runs an organisation that I have found to be accessible and user-friendly. Having been a carer for more than three decades dealing with chronic mental health patients, I know that dealing with care providers can be a nightmare.

Now the CQC can be appealed to by phone and their assessors can act within hours if need be. While the public knows how the organisation can act effectively with unfit-for-purpose hospital trusts the CQC is equally good at sorting out the injustices care providers may be guilty of in individual cases.

Bower is doing for the NHS what Ann Owers does so well for the prison service.

Barry Tebb, Sutton, Surrey

Paying for registration

I was late to register with the General Social Care Council when it was set up in 2002 because Unison initially supported us refusing to register until our employer gave undertakings that they would pay all fees (news, p11, 26 November, www.communitycare/113217).

The branch withdrew their support on the basis that the initial fee was paid by our employer.

The same thing had happened to nurses and teachers.

Unison needs to ensure that employers pay the registration fees as no one should be forced to pay to go to work.

The benefits of this chaotic organisation, the GSCC, are largely illusory and social workers are being asked to pay for yet another quango that cannot perform its role effectively.

Chris Brazendale, Bingley, West Yorkshire

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