Letters to Community Care 22 July 2010

We at the Open University welcome the General Social Care Council's call for higher standards in social work education, (news, 7 July), but as well as recruitment, the focus also needs to be on retention. What can we do to improve this in social work?

Let’s focus on retention as well as training

We at the Open University welcome the General Social Care Council’s call for higher standards in social work education, (news, 7 July), but as well as recruitment, the focus also needs to be on retention. What can we do to improve this in social work?

At the Open University, employers tell us that “growing their own” staff improves motivation and retention.

The OU provides workplace-based education to staff already working in social services settings which means that not only can employers keep staff in the workplace while training, but they have a vested interest in securing good placement opportunities.

The OU and employers know this model of learning works, a fact which has just been confirmed by the five-year review by the GSCC in which OU social work courses were re-approved with no conditions.

As a profession, we need to address shortages not only by reviewing training but by looking at why many choose to leave social work. The GSCC holds a register of social work students and a separate database of registered social workers. Looking more closely at the correlation between students’ training and backgrounds and the length of time they stay in social work could give us more information about what can be done about retention.

Our employers tell us that many newly qualified social workers who are not in-house sponsored students only last a year or two in their jobs before leaving social work altogether.

We need to break this demoralising recruitment and retention cycle for the sake of the social work profession. This will help us all to seriously address the shortage of such a vital and undervalued workforce.

Monica Dowling, head of social work, Open University

Scie’s funding is not about to be cut

Your report on the new social care aspect to National Institute of Clinical Excellence’s role needs clarification. The government is not stopping its funding of the Social Care Institute for Excellence (news, 15 July).

The White Paper does refer to Nice’s role regarding social care and quality standards but it is important to remember that developing quality standards is only one element of the work carried out by Nice and supported by Scie. Our role is much wider than this. As an independent charity we explore innovative approaches to deep-rooted challenges facing social care.

Scie is encouraging the social care sector to participate in the consultation on the White Paper. We will work closely with Department of Health, the Department for Education, and social care organisations to ensure that the personal care and support needs of individuals are supported by the reforms within the White Paper. We have the contacts and knowledge needed to ensure this happens.

Allan Bowman, chair, Social Care Institute for Excellence

Is GSCC confused over failure?

Penny Thompson, chief executive of the GSCC says in relation to improving social work degree courses: “these reports will help drive up standards by compelling failing institutions to act and encouraging others to learn from best practice” (news, 7 July).

But Graham Ixer, head of social work education at the GSCC complained in a letter to Community Care about the use of the word “fail” in relation to requirements that had not been met (letters 6 May).   

Is this a failure in communication or just confused thinking from the GSCC?

Terry McClatchey, Talgarth, Powys

Please don’t say ‘wheelchair-bound’

I would like to draw your attention to some inappropriate language used in the when referring to Anne Begg MP (“Meet the first MP with cerebral palsy,” 8 July).

She was referred to as being “wheelchair-bound”. It is recognised that this term is both inaccurate (I have an image of Ms Begg being tied to her wheelchair and even sleeping in it), and can cause offence to disabled people. A more appropriate term would be “wheelchair user”.

It is a shame that this use of language detracted somewhat from a very good article.

Alan Harmer, Independent social work student practice teacher/assessor and NQSW supervisor (adults), Essex

Gaza flotilla the least of our issues

Dr Iain Ferguson and Dr Michael Lavalette (letters, 1 July) condemn Israel’s handling of the Gaza flotilla and state that the International Association of Schools of Social Work has a proud record of speaking out on a wide range of humanitarian issues.

Although I do not read every issue of Community Care I cannot remember reading about their stands on other issues.

While the complex and long-lasting situation in the Middle East demands our attention, there are many other causes which seem to generate less widespread interest.

Carolyn Minkes, received by e-mail

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