Letters to Community Care 16 September 2010

Readers' views on costs of hiring agency staff, mental health strategy and OT vacancy rates

Experienced agency staff are essential

I was surprised that the article on the £70m extra cost of hiring agency social workers compared experienced agency staff with newly qualified permanent ­workers (news, 2 September).

Has this included the investment in resources to develop a newly qualified social worker to the required standard? An experienced temporary worker could hit the ground running.

This is before one considers the additional costs associated with permanent staff, including sick pay and pensions.

Yes, the ratio of agency workers to permanent staff needs to be managed, and it is important to have the stability of a permanent workforce.

But the existence of a significant temporary workforce is a symptom of the issues in the sector, rather than a cause.

With chronic understaffing, unmanageable caseloads and high staff turnover across the country, it’s impossible to ignore the value of specialised and experienced practitioners.

Jonathan Coxon, director, Liquid Personnel

Involve children in mental health plans

Paul Burstow’s plans to make mental health as important as physical health are welcome (news, 9 September).

But it’s not enough to consider children’s services as he suggests – children, teenagers and young adults must be involved too.

When young people are invited to give their input they are more engaged with their treatment and in getting the help when they need it. In the long term, young people’s problems will be tackled earlier, ensuring they don’t become more serious.

Sarah Brennan, chief executive, YoungMinds

OT vacancy rates

Community Care (news, 26 August) quoted the vacancy rate for occupational therapists as 1.1%, which is correct for those who work in the NHS. But it does not take into account those in social care, which I believe in the last survey was 10.3%, which gives a different picture. Although occupational therapists make up 2% of the workforce in social care we deal with 40% of the referrals.

Julia Skelton, director, professional operations, College of Occupational Therapists

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