Letters to Community Care 8th July 2010

he media response to England footballers coming home was grimly predictable. We've had all the obvious words: terrible, disaster and worst ever. But...

Ah, the sixties, when England had a great football team and social work was on the up…

The media response to England footballers coming home was grimly predictable. We’ve had all the obvious words: terrible, disaster and worst ever.

But to see this dismal story as a problem of players or even managers is a big mistake. Given how ready our political leaders have been to attack the liberatory 1960s, it seems deeply significant that it was then, when struggles for women’s, gay and black people’s rights were breaking barriers, that England won the World Cup.

Those were days when social mobility and steps to equality were on the up rather than, as now, on the down.

Those were the days – dare I say it – when social work and welfare rights were in the ascendancy rather than facing a battering.

And now, as England’s professional football faces its most visible defeat for a generation, a strong case can be made that this is the outcome of a more deeply rooted malaise.

Here are the same problems that we have been seeing overlaying social work, social care, welfare reform and public policy more generally.

These are the problems that seem to follow from the current unqualified and unevidenced near religious belief in the merits of an untrammelled, deregulated market, bureaucratising managerialism and increasing inequality.

Peter Beresford, professor of social policy at Brunel University

See Peter Beresford’s blog in full

Sometimes, one body is enough

It’s correct, but a little simplistic to say that the College of Occupational Therapists does not have a formal trade union representative role for occupational therapists (news, 24 June, http://bit.ly/9KQNbm).

The British Association of Occupational Therapists and College of Occupational Therapists is the professional body for OTs and OT support staff in the UK. Formed in 1974, it became a registered trade union in 1978 and set up the COT to deal with the professional, educational and research business of the organisation.

The BAOT remains a registered trade union but contracts its trade union service out to Unison. Members joining BAOT have full Unison membership, although some OTs and support staff do choose to forego membership of the professional body and join only Unison.

Other organisations, such as the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy and the Society of Radiographers, act successfully as both professional body and trade union.

My experience of the BAOT-Unison agreement is that it works very well and OTs and OT support staff truly benefit from it. But it is not true to say that one body cannot be both professional organisation and trade union.

Kirsten Hey, Occupational therapist and Unison steward, Edinburgh

Taking children into care not the answer

We are deeply concerned by the argument made in the recent Demos report and supported by Martin Narey from Barnardo’s that taking more children into care is the answer to keeping children safe (news, 1 July, http://bit.ly/cz3yKl).

Even if, in theory, it was desirable to remove more children from their home, the reality is that the system can’t cope as it is, with a 30% increase in care applications.

We are hearing of too many cases of already-vulnerable children being removed from their family and then facing frequent changes of inappropriate placements, as cases become stuck in the court system.

Narey identifies part of the answer as residential care – but fails to address the reasons why residential homes were closed in the UK – including why Barnardo’s closed its own homes. Adoption is also put forward as the panacea, yet little recognition is given to the fact that most children in care will never be adopted and the consequence of adoption breakdown for a child is disastrous. Some 92% of children who enter care will eventually gravitate back to their family, in a planned or unplanned way.

The report fails to acknowledge that it is often wider family, such as grandparents who raise the alarm when things go wrong for a child and who can provide the love and stability if they can’t remain with their parents.

There is no single answer on how to protect all children. Our concern is that Narey is taking us to failed answers of the past.

Cathy Ashley, chief executive, Family Rights Group

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