Yesterday, I was sent an email by someone associated with Age UK to draw attention to the information on their website for carers. I get a number of requests from various sources every week but having checked out the information, it is definitely worth sharing and I will be adding the site to my ‘resource list’ both on this site and at work – and on that note, I’ll be trying to update the links on the ‘more links’ tab so am happy to take suggestions of sites that people have found useful.
Next week is the Community Care Live event at the Business Design Centre in Islington. It’s a conference over two days every Spring that us aimed quite specifically at people who are involved and work in social care and social work. I’ve been attending this event most years since I started studying social work and am a great fan.
As a free event, it is pretty much unparalleled in terms of access to useful and interesting debates, workshops and networking opportunities for social workers and social work students.
I’m only able to attend on one day but I hope to feedback some of the information gathered about the sessions I attend and will be following closely those sessions that I’m not able to attend. I expect there to be great coverage over at Community Care.
Finally, because I haven’t done it for a while – one of my favourite things about writing a blog is seeing some of the terms people use to find my site – some intentional (I think I’ve seen every possible spelling of Munro possible) , some with familiar difficulties and some just.. well, who knows!
Here are a few from the last couple of weeks (spelling retained as original)
‘is it possible to feel good about my being a social worker and imbarassed at the same time’
‘explain why i cant login to my nhs computer via a council network’ (oh, I feel your pain)
‘hairy arm pitted women’ (?!?)
‘who benfited from the nhs 1990 community care act’ (Southern Cross)
‘wonder drug for alzhimers’ (would be nice)
‘are hampster dagerus’ (no, they are wonderful!)
‘sex monsters’ (I usually get at least one of these per week – I love the internet, some things are so predictable!)
My most popular search terms after the usual ones of the blog name and people searching for ‘social work blog’ or ‘british social worker blog’ or other ‘expected’ ones are ‘no roads in the city of London’ or ‘which city has no roads’ or variations on ‘gifts for social workers’.
Just to end, I noticed as I was looking through the search terms that yesterday I passed 200,000 unique ‘hits’ on my blog.
Wow. Thank you to everyone who pops by and visits. I really do appreciate the support!
A blogpost by Vern Pitt on the Community Care website alerted me to a very quiet consultation that started this week.
According to the post
There are a good proportion of these duties which fall into the lap of both adults and children’s social services departments. This is a part of the DCLG process of ‘decentralising’. The central government wants to remove some of these ‘duties’.
Yes, the website does say that essential duties will be protected but there is no indication of what the government thinking is that these essential duties will be. It worries and frightens me though. Not that I’m a fan of bureaucracy but I am greatly in favour of statutory rights and publicly provided rights of citizens who require support to receive it.
Perhaps I’m reading too much into it. Perhaps I have understood. Perhaps I’m just becoming paranoid in relation to the government agenda but it made me gasp audibly when I read through the all the duties of local government that are being put ‘on the table’. I know the document states that it is not a matter of removing these duties but the consultation puts a lot of ways we have been working and are working into the spotlight in an uncomfortable manner.
The framing of the context of this review seems rather sinister and follows the line of central government directives as being the ‘enemy of enterprise’ as the DCLG website states
Local authorities are most effective when they have freedom to innovate and respond to what local people want. We want to reduce radically the demands, burdens and restrictions placed on local authorities by central government.
Some of these demands, burdens and restrictions provide a safety net and a protection to those who aren’t able to engage as fully in the political process as Pickles might like us to.
Just have a look at the duties that are under consultation on the DCLG website. There are two relevant documents but the one I was more interested in was the ‘Review of Statutory Duties – other government departments’ document at the bottom of the page (it is an Excel document – hence my inability to link here).
It covers duties too numerous to list under the Department of Education in relation to Children’s Services and under the Department of Health in relation to Adult Social Care and Mental Health services – though a lot of the duties under Adult Social Care are being considered by a Law Commission which is reviewing Adult Social Care Law in general.
I can see some of these being removed from local authorities so that private companies can step into the gap. The government want to strip local authorities bare and have already taken many steps in that direction.
We need our voices to be heard in this consultation.
We need to protect public delivery of public services.
Another reason I’m going to be marching in London on March 26th.
- The government’s misleading claims about the scale of local government cuts (leftfootforward.org)
Yesterday, Community Care reported that as a response to the consultation on changes to the ‘No Secrets’ guidance on Safeguarding Adults published in 2000, Safeguarding Adults Boards will be mandatory for all English local authorities and an inter-ministerial board will be created between the Department of Health, Department of Justice and Home Office.
Well, it’s a start, I suppose. In my own experience, procedures and support have been virtually toothless in safeguarding adults procedures – especially if there are additional areas of incapacity involved where the abused party is not able to make statements or complaints themselves.
I could share many stories of lack of action – mostly as the procedures which currently exist do not have much force to them.
We do our investigations and reach conclusions but personally, I can say that response from the police has been minimal if it exists at all – and then where do ou go with the information? The investigations can be paper exercises and the offending party is told to act in a specific way. Vulnerable adults don’t pluck on the same heartstrings as vulnerable children even though the act of abuse is no better or worse. Abuse of someone who is vulnerable is abuse, regardless of the age of those concerned.
This is currently one of the most frustrating issues about the work that I undertake. Hopefully these ‘boards’ will push for more action to be taken when there are cases brought to them.
The positives are that now there is a law against mistreatment of vulnerable adults (thanks to the Mental Capacity Act 2005) – in fact, we are dealing with an issue which might lead to prosecution at present, but the amounts of times things have had to be ‘let go’ due to lack of motivation to make changes or we are told that cases will not be brought to court because the victim is not a reliable witness, well, I wouldn’t like to say.
More focus on adult protection is, without doubt, a priority in my view. Hopefully, this places it as a priority.
So the Task Force report yesterday was pretty much as predicted. Personally, I think a lot of the contents are very welcome with the main concern being the lack of money to implement them – but I’m willing to engage positively with the process of change in the hope that some of the issues that we have been complaining about in social care will change – it’s that old chestnut – the triumph of hope over expectation but leave me in my ‘happy place’ however briefly!
I thought it was interesting to consider how some of the press reported on the publication of the Task Force report which in it’s full glory can be found here. I was about to print it out at work to read later when I realised it was 71 pages and thought that was a bit much - more trees saved.
The Independent focuses on the tagline of ‘better pay’ for social workers but no money to fund it – which is the crux of the problem really. Similarly, the Times also looks at the ‘elephant in the room’ – namely funding for the additional money that might be spent to implement the recommended changes. The comments though are a little disheartening. There seems to be a perception that anyone with a bit of ‘common sense’ and ‘life experience’ can be an effective social worker. I think there is so little understanding of the importance of training that it is almost frightening.
The Daily Mail meanwhile go for a whiny
‘Social Workers to be given pay RISES in the wake of the Baby P scandal’ which is a disgustingly ignorant headline. Their capitals by the way. It is a plain misrepresentation which panders to their insufferable readers. The comments are enough to make my stomach churn. I would love that reporter to come to my office to see the work we do on a day to day basis.
The Sun’s agony aunt, Deirdre Sanders who actually sat on the Taskforce tells her readers
She seems to put things in patronisingly simplistic terms but it gets the general message across although I think that relating all the changes to a single child’s tragic death is not entirely a fair explanation of the scope of the work done. There is a generalised thought lingering in my mind that there should be a wider understanding of what we do as social workers in adult and mental health services rather than the focus solely on child protection issues as the Task Force was to concentrate on social work as a profession rather than one aspect of it.
Meanwhile on the safer arms of the pages of the Guardian, there are a number of articles addressing different parts of the report. From the details of the report to opinions by Peter Beresford who discusses the long term commitment needed across the political board for the reform process to Ray Jones who writes in praise of the taskforce – although not without a well-aimed kick towards Ed Balls (and quite rightly in my opinion) who
followed through on the tabloid-generated victimisation of social work and social workers by himself vilifying those who gave their professional lives to protecting children. Not surprisingly there were then major problems in recruiting and retaining social workers, and the workloads for those who stayed increased. Who wants a job where, when a tragedy occurs and the going gets really tough, you and your family are hounded by the paparazzi and hung out to dry by politicians?
I was applauding in my chair as I read that!
Community Care, a magazine aimed specifically at those in the social care sector in the UK, unsurprisingly has a lot more in-depth coverage – from their own discussion of the main components to reactions from ADASS (Association of Directors of Adult Social Services) and ADCS (Association of Directors of Childrens Services) which understanding question where the money is going to come from to their own views (via the Group Editor, Bronagh Miskelly’s blog).
Personally, I think the issues around training and recruitment are far more important than the pay issue but I accept it’s because I’m not unhappy with my salary – although more is always good..
One of my favourite (and I mean that in an ironic way) quotes comes from the Independent piece where Tim Loughton, the Conservative shadow children’s minister says
“The task force makes some sensible suggestions for improving social work and child protection, many of which we proposed some time ago.
“Ultimately the success of these proposals must be judged on whether they improve conditions on the front line. This Government has strangled social work with 12 years of bureaucracy – it is important that it now acts to improve the situation.”
Sorry, but a Conservative shadow minister saying the government has strangled social work with bureaucracy? Shows very little understanding of the last Conservative administration… and the one before that, and the one before that.
I am no fan of the government and couldn’t despite Balls any more than I do at the moment but the Conservatives are hardly speaking from a position of authority after seeing what they did with and to the profession.
But in general, I am left with a warm buzz of excitement that changes might be implemented to benefit the profession and most importantly those who use the services provided by social workers in the future.
Tags: community care, deirdre sanders, Ed Balls, peter beresford, politics, Ray Jones, social care, social work, social work task force, social work taskforce, social work taskforce final report, the guardian, uk
In some unsurprising but still welcome news, Community Care reports that the Social Work Taskforce is proposing a ‘qualifying year’ post degree and pre-registration to all social workers coming into the workforce from university.
It makes perfect sense and it’s amazing that it was not a check that was brought in with the new degrees which placed less emphasis on pre-qualification experience in the social care sector.
It is a useful and necessary check that does not leave the universities as sole arbiters as to whether a student is ‘good enough’ to practice as a qualified social worker.
I will, of course, be interested to see details about how the application process works for these ‘qualifying years’ and how the local authorities engage with the it. Hopefully, it will offer newly trained social workers a chance and opportunity to learn and grow as practitioners in a safer environment than being thrown straight into practice. I know I’d definitely have benefited from it although I was lucky to move straight into a supportive and large team with other newly qualified workers including others from the same university course – perhaps that made it a lot easier to ask questions and learn from each other as we went. I think it might have been more challenging in an environment where asking questions and supervision was not given appropriate time and consideration.
Looking at the people I qualified with (those that I remained in touch with!) – those of us who had the more supportive first employment experiences have certainly stayed ‘in the field’ a lot longer than those who were ‘thrown into the deep end’ regardless of pre-qualification experience. Even without my very random personal experiences, it makes most sense that the better supported newly qualified staff are, the more effective the profession will become over the next few years.
In the meantime I’m looking forward to the publication of the final report from the Taskforce – due early December according to the same Community Care report.
Community Care reports in their Social Work Blog that the women’s magazine ‘Take a Break’ has taken up the cause of positive social work stories with a headline of ‘Thank God for Social Workers’ which started with this week’s magazine. This follows on directly from Community Care’s own campaign Stand Up Now for Social Work!.
In the interests of research, of course, I bought a copy of Take a Break. The article is a couple of pages spread about what good work social workers do and how unappreciated they are.
It makes a change to see something positive to be honest. I sometimes envy our nursing colleagues and the overall angelic perceptions that they attract. Don’t get me wrong though, I could never do the job they do and have the utmost admiration for them – I do feel a bit grumbly at times though that the attention attracted by social workers is usually negative.
It was good to see a major national magazine take up the issue though as well, of course, as Community Care – which as a magazine directly for the Social Care sector, is an unsurprising supporter! The only pause for concern I had came at the bottom of the article when they invited readers to write in to the magazine with their own experiences of social workers ‘good or bad’. Now, many people call me a cynic and it wouldn’t be unfair to do so but I have a sinking feeling about some of those ‘bad’ experiences. I know I should be more optimistic though!
The way of the world is that we will always be constrained by issues of confidentiality when speaking out about individual situations or successes. Also, depending on the type of social work practiced, ‘success’ isn’t always easy to measure – especially over the short term. I’ve harped on about this before but genuinely feel that there is an element of wishing to sweep some of the every day issues that we work and deal with ‘under the carpet’ and that feeds into the overall dismissal of any kind of positive regard for social work.
I also think, in the UK at any rate, the profession hasn’t really helped herself. The GSCC (General Social Care Council) has presented some kind of mish-mash of post-qualification that has led to increasing specialisation. Is that any surprise as there is only two registered social workers on the ‘’Council’ of the General Social Care Council (both very distant from any kind of front line practice – one took the management and executive route and the other is an academic) – this is supposed to be the body that is responsible for overseeing the registration of all social workers and social work students – that upholds the codes of practice that we are obliged to work towards and, as they claim, it is their job to champion social care and to help give it the recognition it deserves.
And of course, as a government QUANGO, they are appointed and accountable to the government departments and the mealy-mouthed politicians who have no interest in promoting social work as a positive channel for change. So what do we pay them for? (because we pay a fee, of course, to be registered). We pay to hold our names on the lists of registration – but why isn’t the GSCC ‘speaking up for social work’ when one of it’s listed aims is to champion social care?
I haven’t seen much evidence for it. I get more value from the 78p I pay for Take a Break to be honest.
So I’d urge anyone so inclined to go and grab a copy of Take a Break (and if you have the answer to the crossword on p48, I’d be grateful – I need to win that deluxe bedroom makeover!).
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Tags: community care, community care magazine, General Social Care Council, government, gscc., positive social work story, social care, social work, social workers, stand up for social work, take a break, thank god for social workers, uk
Community Care report on the case of Lynda Barnes, a social work team manager in a child protection team with Bath and North East Somerset Council who was involved in a case involving care proceedings last year. Not necessarily unusual so far.
She was found to have been lying under oath, fabricating evidence and asking a more junior social worker to lie in court and another social worker gave evidence stating that
people were “frightened” of Barnes, describing her as a “force to be reckoned with”
If staff did not agree with Barnes, they were told “life could be made very difficult,” she said. B also gave a number of instances where Barnes had lied to others.
All fairly conclusive in the quite appropriate censure. However the father of one of the children involved in the care proceedings, asked to see a copy of Barnes’ CRB (Criminal Record Bureau check) when it was revealed that she had a conviction for ‘conspiracy to murder’.
Allan Norman, a solicitor and social worker, writes in his blog at Community Care, that he feels it is right that the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act is interpreted in a way such that those who have served their sentences are able to move on and gain that rehabilitation in society.
While seeing his point that
Instead of being convinced, as we social workers should be, of the capacity of all people to change, and that a criminal conviction should not be a life sentence, I fear we are moving towards precisely that: a label is the end of a career.
I am not wholly convinced by the argument although I know I should be. I want to be but it doesn’t sit right in my gut, I suppose. I think it is the gravity of the offence as much as anything.
I am more than happy to work alongside those who have spent convictions and have done, however I had always thought that any conviction for a violent offence would automatically bar me from practising (as opposed to a fraud or non-payment of tax type conviction).
Norman’s argument that such a conviction should not automatically disbar Barnes from registration as a social worker sits a little uncomfortably with me. Possibly due to the GSCC’s lack of action but I think back that it is because of the nature of the conviction. Perhaps that makes me over judgemental. I suspect it does so will be pondering more on that over the next few days I imagine.
The GSCC confirm that
a criminal conviction was not a bar to registration.
And I absolutely support that without any question but I do think the nature of the conviction should be taken into account. Particularly, as The Independent notes, things may not have been as straightforward as they were presented
Mrs Barnes had disclosed her conviction to the council when she was first employed and despite this had successfully registered with the General Social Care Council in January 2006.
The council and the GSCC simply believed Mrs Barnes’ version of events of the crime, which Judge Paul Barclay said was a “highly sanitised version of events in which her role is minimised compared to what is revealed in the Crown Court papers”.
So perhaps the issue isn’t the spent conviction but more the lack of ‘checking process’ by the GSCC and the employing council who would have both had access to her CRB. I understand the GSCC did refer this case to a ‘committee’ and that, again, according to the Independent
the committee “considered the length of time since the offence, the sanction given by the court, the context behind the offence, that she had been working in child protection for six years prior to registration, had positive references and that her employer at the time endorsed the application and were aware of her conviction and she had been working for them before registration came into force.”
So while now, the employing council can say that
The council admitted it was a mistake to employ Mrs Barnes.
They were still happy to furnish a glowing reference to the GSCC – seemingly, according to the judge anyway, with knowledge of the ‘sanitised version of events’ which was supplied to them and taken on trust.
While I can understand that a spent conviction should not be a bar to a career for the rest of ones life, it should, at the very least and with such a serious offence, at least necessitate further investigate into the backgrounds by the GSCC and the employing council – after all, isn’t that what CRBs are for?
Regardless, she has, without doubt, brought the name of the profession into disrepute by her actions. As if it was needed.
Community Care are running a campaign ‘Stand up Now for Social Work’ which aims to highlight both the good and the bad in reporting of social work. It’s a fascinating campaign and a positive one and also, as we can see by recent news stories, one that is desperately needed.
Indeed, the magazine which is a mainstay for UK social workers, has set up a blog specifically to cover the campaign and media issues as they relate to social work called The Monitor.
A couple of posts there have caught my eye specifically over the past couple of days. Firstly a piece about social workers not being so wary of journalists and the importance cross-pollination of positive news stories relating to social work and social care as well as a need for a more realistic knowledge of social work by some sections of the media.
Perhaps it is easy to put the barriers up when you see some of the coverage that exists and some of the generalised hatred that seems to exist for the social work profession as a whole. I wonder if it is something that is relatively unique to Britain and the red-tops/Daily Mail style of reporting that seems to find anything connected to government somehow evil and controlling and fails to appreciate some of the actual day to day work that happens.
I have no wish to be ‘appreciated’ to be honest. Of course, on an individual level it is rather nice but as a profession it is wholly unrealistic.
As for speaking to journalists, apart from contractual restrictions, it is as much as matter of time!
Another post from the blog titled ‘Ten reasons why Social Workers must speak to the media’ provides exactly that.
Rather than re-listing all the points, I’d recommend reading the post as it provides some pertinent posts that almost made me want to go out and collar a journalist or two.
Until I considered that the new forms of the media are allowing us.. and me.. to have a distinct voice without the need for a conduit. I won’t have the readership of the Times or Telegraph but I do have the ownership.
Community Care reports that Behan, the ‘government’s social care chief’ (really? I’d never heard of him.. I didn’t know the government had one!) has called for
directors and social workers to stand up for themselves and stop “playing victims” in the face of public criticism.
and he goes on to say
“How much have you been doing to get stories into the Guardian and Community Care on adult care?” he asked delegates yesterday at the Association of Directors of Adult’s Social Services spring seminar .
But I humbly suggest he’s got things wrong. We don’t really need to target The Guardian and Community Care because those news sources are naturally sympathetic. We should be focussing on the Mail, the Sun and television news and drama as well.
Not least, now we are living in an age where anyone can publish a blog, record a podcast and build an audience, albeit a small, niche audience. It might not change the world today, but it’s the way we are moving and social work needs to embrace more fully the possibilities of web-publishing, social networking and moving away from a mainstream media if the mainstream media shows little interest.
The stories are there – we just need to promote them and through it a greater understanding what what ‘social work’ actually is and does.
Community Care published some research they carried out yesterday which found that there is a 10.9% vacancy rate for social workers in England – rising to 18.6% vacancy rate in London.
They also publish a breakdown of individual councils – at least those that responded. Of course I checked up on my own local authority and while it provided interesting thoughts, it would be quite easy to pick up on so I’ll pass on that one for the moment – except to say that it pretty much keeps up with the general average.
One of the more interesting statistics though that came out of the study is that the vacancy rate for adult social work posts is just about the same as that for children’s social work posts.
Although it doesn’t surprise me on an anecdotal level, I’m almost surprised anyone sees fit to notice. While social work remains a profession committed to work with some of the more disenfranchised sections of society at least children can pull on more emotive heartstrings than some of the users of adult services.
Of course, tragedy and failings should not, alone, inform policy and practice – although learning from mistakes is a key – but it does and a picture of a child will create much more national outrage than a photo of an older person who has been subject to no less horrific levels of abuse.
As is pointed out in Community Care
The similar vacancy rates for adults and children’s social workers follows massive investment in the children’s workforce that has not been replicated in adult care.
This particular story has immediate resonance for me currently. Our team is short of a couple of social workers. It has been short of a couple of social workers (as well as an OT and a nurse) for many months.
The real effect of this is that the workloads increase at an almost dangerous rate. Having had this conversation with a manager yesterday, the reasons for non-recruitment are not related to lack of resources, but rather to lack of suitable applicants.
This is perhaps another argument in itself. The department don’t feel that that can appoint someone who does not have experience because the level of work is currently operating at a high rate and they would rather have someone ‘slot in’ but – had they gone for someone who had little experience but a lot of potential, well, 6 months ago, that person would potentially be easily competent in the period that it might have taken to employ someone with more experience.
It is frustrating beyond belief at the moment. It seems like a very short-sighted and management-led way to problem-solve because there is no appreciation of the ground level work that needs to be done to maintain a safe level of practicing.
It reaches a stage where people are not able to take on new pieces of work or accept allocations and that is where we are beginning to feel the tension. Each time a worker tries to explain why we are not able to accept any more work, that is another individual, another family, who may be in desperate need of contact who are being left to wait.
Hopefully, the survey will promote some more attention onto vacancies across the sector and somehow the local authorities will actually see the need to take some kind of action. In fact, that is a point that is well made in The Social Work Blog which states
If councils really want to solve their recruitment problems, providing suitable placements for students or rethinking their approach to extra training for recent graduates. The current, defensive but understandable, stance of wanting to recruit only experienced staff requires a radical rethink because that supply is simply not there at present.
This is exactly the scenario we are seeing played out on a ground level.
Something does have to change but I have to say, I’m not holding my breath.